I have a question about Project Runway All Stars

Having run out of seasons of Project Runway to watch (at least before I start re-watching them again), I moved on to Project Runway All Stars because, well, sewing, and episodes I hadn’t seen.

It’s pretty good. I don’t mind that the host has changed, or that there are different judges. I miss Tim Gunn, but then who wouldn’t? But the mentors they have on the show- both women- really know their stuff. Joanna Cole especially.

There’s one thing, though, that really really bugs me. And that’s the way that the judges are introduced.

“Designer and co-founder of Marchesa, the beautiful Georgina Chapman…one of the most famous names in fashion, designer Isaac Mizrahi”.

The guest judges and male judges are introduced championing their success and accomplishments.

So why is it so important to make a point of Georgina Chapman also being ‘beautiful’.

Being beautiful doesn’t qualify her as a judge for a fashion design show. Her work with Marchesa does. Marchesa is a pretty darned famous name in fashion. She’s hugely successful. She makes beautiful clothes. But what we’re being told, as viewers, makes her a great judge is that she’s also beautiful.

Why does it matter? There are plenty of successful fashion designers who don’t conform to stereotypes of beauty. And a lot of them have been judges on the show. In fact, their non-conformity and bold celebration of who they are AS they are, is why we love them.

Diana Vreeland was very conscious of her not being a conventional beauty, and was one of the most influential women in fashion for years.

It bugs me because yet again, a TV show is suggesting that a woman’s achievements are somehow lessened, somehow not as valuable, if she isn’t also beautiful. Replace that with married, or a mother, and you have way, way too much of the mainstream media.

I guess what I’m hoping is that in my lifetime, we’ll get to the point where being physically attractive isn’t a qualification. For anything.

Links of Joy: Mad Max- Fury Road

Just because I loved loved LOVED Mad Max: Fury Road, here are some excellent articles that I hope will persuade you to go see it.

7 ways Mad Max sublimely subverts movie sexism

Furious about Furiosa  at We Hunted the Mammoth (another article about how MRAs are losing it over the film)

And again- ‘Misogynists are boycotting feminist ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ which is one more reason to see it

The Daily Beast agrees- ‘How Men’s Rights Activists killed the world

George Miller, the director, talks to Vanity Fair about how he can’t help but be a feminist.

The Mary Sue thinks it could be his answer to his own franchise.

Also, the things you think are CGI? Totally not CGI.

This is how they made the flamethrower guitar.

How is anyone who was in this film not dead? It’s a good question, when you watch this.

 

Glory days part 2: 5 things from the past that should stay there

So two weeks ago (oops, Webstock), I talked about the idea that some people in the retro/ vintage community express of wishing they were back in the past. Nostalgia is big news. We’ve all done it- looked back to a different time and thought it was better than now, for whatever reason. With all the problems that still exist today, it’s an easy escapist move to imagine that once upon a time, things were better. But I think that while there are things about the past that were positive, being thankful for the time that we’re in now is also important. Here, then, are 5 things that really belong in the past.

Gender stereotypes

They didn’t just happen in the 40s and 50s, though the stereotype of the 50s housewife is still there. Feminism has brought us some of the way, but we’ve a long way to go if we really want to put this in the past. The expectation that women should be the ones staying at home with the kids, that the man must be the main wage-earner for the family, pink for girls and blue for boys…those ideas are still here, people. And they’re archaic. They belong in the past. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it until we really have dismantled patriarchal society and built on a foundation of equality: the patriarchy hurts men, too. It says they can’t- and shouldn’t- be the main caregivers for their children. It says there are rules about division of labour in heterosexual relationships and says that it’s weak to be in a relationship with someone of the same gender. Of course it hurts women, ignoring the contribution we make or valuing it less than the equivalent contribution from a man, less even than a lower contribution from a man.

It needs to be a thing of the past.

Medicine

A lot of us today wouldn’t be alive if this was the 50s, or the 40s. Even the 90s. Medical research has brought us a long way forward, and it keeps improving our chances of surviving things that would have killed us in the past, like measles (anti-vaxxers, I’m looking at you).

No social security

I don’t care what the right wing would have you believe about the poor- I’m here to tell you that putting money into giving people a living wage, or giving them benefits so they can live, is a good thing. Most people want to be working, and helping their families. Most people want to contribute to society. Scaling back benefits prevents them from doing so. It prevents them from giving their children all they need- and in the case of many of the right wing, it then blames them for not being able to properly care for their children. It’s not on. But for all the flaws in social services and welfare today, it’s better than the past, when if you were out of a job, you had no income and that was it. You couldn’t get help from the government.

No internet

If you wanted to find something out, it was a lot harder in the past. If you wanted to keep in touch with someone on the other side of the world, it took a lot longer, was way more expensive, and you certainly couldn’t just video chat with them whenever you felt like it. The internet is a wonderful thing. Would you *really* want to go back to a time when it didn’t exist?

Culture

No, I’m not saying music or art or anything else belongs in the past, but my Goddess, think how many amazing bands have been around since the 40s. Go back to the 50s and there’s no Beatles, no Metallica, no Runaways (I may be listening to Cherry Bomb right now), no Rolling Stones. I’d say there were no boy bands but I’d be lying- but there wouldn’t be the ones *you* listened to and pinned up on your walls.

Think about artists- no Andy Warhol, no Molly Crabapple, no proliferation of wonderful graphic artists on DeviantArt and places like it.

Books? You want me to list all the amazing authors who hadn’t published anything in the 50s? There are way too many to mention. But Diana Wynne Jones. Neil Gaiman. Jim Butcher. Emily St-John Mandel. SARK.

And don’t even get me started on movies.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this is, yes, there are things to love in the past. But we have it pretty great, and if we work at it, it’ll keep getting better. Lets not focus our energy on wishing ourselves back in time, lets make now an amazing time to live in.

F*** the patriarchy: a message to men who want to craft

To all the men out there who want to craft,

We see you. You watch how we knit. You look at craft shops. You ask us what that is that we’re doing. Occasionally you confuse embroidery and crochet. And we know that if you were given the chance, you could make great things just like we do.

The problem, of course, is that you’ve been told your entire lives that crafting- at least, the crafts that don’t involve wood or welding or leather- are something women do. It’s reinforced even by women. And you’ve been told that anything ‘feminine’ is somehow weak, ‘unmanly’, that you’re less of a person if you, as a man, try it love it, do it.

It’s not true. And this is one of the many ways the patriarchy is hurting you. It tells you that there are ‘women’s’ things and ‘men’s’ things, and it locks you into a pigeonhole based on what’s between your legs.

But you have a choice. You can let it lock you into your rigidly constricted role, or you can break out of it. You can pursue your interests, regardless of whether your Grandma or your Grandad was the one who used to do what you want to do. You can ignore the haters.

Feminism, which you may well have been taught to look on with fear and suspicion, is on your side in this. As a feminist, I want to see a world where men and women are equal, and free to go after whatever aspirations they have for what they want to do, to be, to learn, without being told that their gender is a reason not to do it. I want to see a world where men AND women can have a go at the crafts I love.

Imagine it-

Knitting groups made up of all genders, all bonding over a shared love of their craft.

Men proudly showing off the shirt they sewed themselves at work- or indeed the dress!

Men and women both busying themselves creating handmade gifts for loved ones.

Guys complaining about the girlfriend sweater curse.

Expectant fathers preparing for the arrival of a new baby by making clothes and quilts for them, and later scrapbooking photos of their family.

Men frantically hiding the new stash they just bought because they weren’t supposed to buy any more yarn.

Complaining they don’t have enough time to finish all their Christmas crafting.

Admittedly it would make yarn sales all the more cutthroat, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Crafters need feminism. EVERYBODY needs feminism. But most especially the people who think that they can’t do something just because of their gender. We’re here to tell you that actually, yes, you can.

And you should.

 

Craft is a feminist issue

embroidered uterus

Set of Anatomical Uterus napkins by Hey Paul Studios (at Etsy)

 

This week. Oh, this week.

We’ve had the continued harassment of women in gaming. The news that the so-called ‘Roast Busters’ are being let off with absolutely no charges laid. A “pick-up artist” who grabs women in choke holds and forces their faces up against his crotch being allowed to come and speak in Australia (too close for comfort- but then even on the other side of the world someone that disgusting would be too close for comfort).

It’s all made me angry. But the straw that broke the feminist camel’s back? A comment on a photo on Facebook. A friend of mine had put up a picture of his wife (who is expecting their baby) baking. And a misogynist acquaintance congratulated him on “doing it right”.

That got me. The idea that of all the things a woman can be, wife and mother are the only ones with real value, is one of many elements of patriarchy that I find distasteful. The pregnant wife in question is an intelligent woman in a demanding job. She’s got a lot of other accomplishments, and yet the only ones that seem to matter to Mr Sogynist and others like him are the ring on her finger and the baby in her belly.

I struggle a lot with these ideas, because as a crafter I worry I’m perpetuating a stereotype.  Crafts- at least sewing, knitting, crochet, cross-stitch and paper craft, are seen as ‘women’s stuff’ by a lot of people. I learned to do these things from the women in my family. I’ve met the odd guy who sews or knits etc, but they’re few and far between.

I love my textile crafts and scrapbooking. But I worry that I’m contributing to a tradition that both ring fences women and excludes men.

I can see how this same issue would put a lot of people- women AND men- off trying the kinds of crafts that I do. I wish it wouldn’t.

Because in the end, the only way we’re going to break these stereotypes down is by not letting them stop us doing what we love in a way that makes sense to us. Embroidered lady parts.  Knitted merkins. Making whatever the hell we want, because we want to, because it makes us happy and fuck anyone who doesn’t accept it. Molly Crabapple said in an article I saw today “I didn’t have a big break, I’ve just had tiny cracks in this wall of indifference until finally the wall wasn’t there any more”- doing our crafts, our way, regardless of gender- I think that’s how we start chipping away at the preconceived ideas about women and craft, and eventually, I hope, we’ll find that those ideas are so out-of-date as to seem ridiculous to everyone.

I think that’s the kind of crafting I can get down with.

Not your usual Tuesday- #YesAllWomen

I’ll be honest. I put together a publishing schedule for this blog and Tuesdays is meant to be tutorials. From next week, it’s going to be. When I thought about writing this post, the rules-following part of myself said “no no! We must stick to the schedule! It’s too early to go breaking your own rules. It’ll be anarchy! It’s only your second post to this blog!” But sometimes, as my Godfather once told our congregation when delivering a sermon about money, something is important and you have to talk about it. So I decided to share some things about my own experience that have led to my support of #YesAllWomen.

Some are very upsetting and may be triggering for some of you.

In some cases this will be the first time I’ve ever said anything about them. But several tweets on the hashtag last night pointed out that women being scared to talk about what’s happened to them is part of the problem. That really spoke to me, so here goes.


I am at school, and our popular and well-liked drama teacher is giving us a lesson in which he is the patient in various doctor/patient scenarios. He says “I need a girl for the next one”, and I am thrilled when he picks me out of every other girl in the room, our hands had all shot up. My mother is a doctor, I know I can be good in this scene whatever it is. He proceeds to come on to me, in character of course, in front of the whole class. They all laugh, but it makes me feel deeply uncomfortable and like something has been taken from me. I feel shame, and don’t talk about it, because I can’t articulate what it is that has made me feel that way. I become even more introverted. I am 11 years old. 


I am at university, at my second ever university party. I have never even kissed a boy let alone anything else. I get drunk faster than I expect on wine (I’ve had wine plenty of times before, we have it at home, I know how much I can drink), and after I’m done being very ill in the bathroom, a guy I barely know comes and sits with me when I’ve taken myself off to a quiet room to sober up. He starts kissing me. He says he wants to sleep with me. I say no. His response is to kiss me some more and then unzip his fly and put my hand on his erection. It is the first time I have ever touched one. I continue to say no, and he gives up because I’m sobering up fast. I am 19 years old.


I am a British girl in a relationship with a guy from overseas. He keeps fondling me in public- not just my butt, but my breasts too. I tell him it makes me uncomfortable and ask him to stop. He tells me I am “being too English” and that once I’m in New Zealand I’ll get better. I am 25 years old.


I have  moved to New Zealand, and the same guy now feels me up whenever he gets home- not because it turns me on (it doesn’t, and I ask him to stop, and tell him it makes me feel like an object), but because he enjoys it. He doesn’t stop doing it. I am 30 years old. 

One night, he wants to have sex. I don’t. He guilt trips me into it, but the not wanting to doesn’t change.  

After a lot more misery, I leave him. He tells me we have to have sex one last time, that he’s entitled to it because it’s unfair that he didn’t know the last time was the last time, that I should feel guilty for leaving. On the way to the house, I tell him “I don’t want to do this,” and I cry. He ignores it. I know I should turn around and walk away but he has made sure I feel too guilty and like he really is entitled to what he wants, to say no. I am 31 years old.


I am at work, and overhear a conversation between two seemingly well adjusted, respectful guys. “She’s too hot to be a virgin,” says one, and they discuss how “she must have had plenty of offers, she wouldn’t have turned them all down.” As if being attractive means you can’t really withhold your consent. I am 35 years old, and that happened just a month ago. 

I have been honked at, had unwanted attention in bars, had passes made at me that I’ve had to shut down. I am extremely glad that not all women have had some of the experiences I’ve had, but #YesAllWomen have had some kind of unwanted attention, physical or just verbal, from men. Not all men. I am priveleged to know many men who are kind, respectful, and horrified by the way some other men treat women. These are the ones who are posting to the hashtag begging their fellow men to learn from what women are sharing. I am lucky, now, to be in a relationship with a man who is incredibly caring and who treats me as an equal and makes me feel absolutely respected. But I know from my experience that not all men are like that.

There’s a lot of discussion about Elliot Rodger, how his view of women wasn’t the only problem, how he had mental health issues. How men treating women better wouldn’t have prevented the shootings.

But the fact is…this is much, much bigger than one troubled misogynist with a gun.

This is about the commenters who blamed women for not sleeping with Rodger, who said it was their fault that he killed people. This is about the Twitter-twats who replied to #YesAllWomen tweets with hatred, foul sexual comments, who tell feminists they need to get themselves a man, or think all lesbians must have been mistreated by a man ‘to make them that way’.  We’re underrepresented in films. We’re underrepresented in politics. There is still a gender pay gap. We’re still having debates about equality with men who feel like women being treated as equals will take something away from them. There are still politicians insisting there is such a thing as ‘legitimate rape’. We’re still in a culture that blames women for sexual violence, instead of educating all our young people about consent. Until we- both women and men- change things, #YesAllWomen will have to endure things that nobody should have to endure.

I believe that change is possible. We’re better than this. We can do better. It’s our duty to do better. We can create an equal world where women and men feel safe, respected and valued as people. I believe that #YesAllWomen could be part of that, as it’s a start- making people aware of the sheer scale of the problem. Once you can see how big the problem is, you can start to see ways to chip away at it, to solve it bit by bit. We can do it. I know we can.