Joy of unisex: the rise of gender-neutral clothing

Lately I’ve been seeing a bunch of macho men wearing “Tactical Kilts”, meaning kilts with lots of pockets.  I’d wear skirts more if they actually had useful pockets.  But casual clothes like parkas, sweats, shorts, t-shirts, flannel shirts, the stuff hippies and a lot of lesbians wear has tended towards the androgynous.

A lot of clothing takes on its gender from the wearer.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/04/joy-unisex-gender-neutral-clothing-john-lewis

John Lewis’s decision to stop dividing children’s clothes by gender has sparked anger and delight. But it’s not just childrenswear that is increasingly non-binary – there’s a sartorial revolution for adults, too


Monday 4 September 2017

Is John Lewis at the frontline of modern gender politics? It has never seemed so before, but judging by the reaction to the department store’s announcement last week that its own-brand children’s clothes will no longer be divided by gender, some people clearly see the retailer as radical. There will now be no separate sections in the stores, nor such binary labels on the clothes themselves; instead, the labels will read “girls and boys” or “boys and girls”.

The conversation over whether clothing should be more gender-neutral does not just apply to childrenswear – over the past decade there has also been a marked rise in gender-neutral clothing for adults. Some high-end designers such as JW Anderson, Rick Owens and Rad Hourani have championed gender-neutral clothing, while a raft of smaller companies run by young designers, such as Rich Mnisi, are pushing the idea that men’s and women’s clothes should be obsolete categories. This approach has also filtered down to the high street – H&M and Zara have both created non-gendered ranges.

The British designer Katharine Hamnett has a long history of exploring non-gender-specific clothing, and her newly reissued collection features unisex shirts, sweatshirts and silk all-in-one suits. She says that, in the past, when women stepped on to more traditionally male sartorial territory – wearing military-inspired clothing, for instance – this “was about appropriating male power”. Now, she says, a move towards equality means women “may be feeling more comfortable with themselves”; in other words, they may have the freedom to wear what they like. (It is still far less common for men to seek out traditionally female clothing.)

Chloe Crowe, brand manager for Bethnals, a London-based unisex denim brand, says that when they have run pop-up shops, men and women in couples have come in and bought jeans that they can share. The company was launched in 2014 by Melissa Clement, a former senior denim buyer for Topshop, who borrowed her partner’s clothes a lot and wondered why men’s and women’s categories had to be different. The core styles of her brand – skinny, straight and relaxed – are cut the same for men and women. “It’s just clever pattern cutting,” says Crowe. “With denim, it can vary so much depending on your body shape. One woman is not going to [fit in] the same pair of jeans as another woman. I think it makes things a lot more simplistic, and it’s about the style and design rather than your sex.”

The growth of the brand follows more awareness and discussion around gender fluidity and what it means to reject the male/female binary. A study for the Fawcett Society last year found that 68% of young people believe gender is non-binary. “When Bethnals lauched, there wasn’t a lot [about gender],” says Crowe. “More brands have released gender-neutral clothing. It has filtered its way to the mass market. There seems to be a huge demand for it.”

“You don’t look at food and say it’s going to be eaten by a man or a woman, so why should it be any different for clothes?” says Tanmay Saxena, founder and designer of LaneFortyfive. The clothing Saxena designs is mostly bespoke tailoring, including shirts and waistcoats; about 60% of his customers are women. The clothes are the same styles for men and women, in the same fabrics, and while the shirts and smocks are cut the same, only the fit for trousers is slightly different.

He has been working on the label for about three years, but formally launched it last year. “I couldn’t find clothes that suited my own style. The basic idea was I would make something that I can wear but at the same time, it has to be irrespective of gender. That idea was always in my head.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/04/joy-unisex-gender-neutral-clothing-john-lewis

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Liberal elite, it’s time to strike a deal with the working class

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/23/liberal-elite-its-time-to-strike-a-deal-with-the-working-class

Coalitions need compromise. But it’s coalitions that win, writes Joan C Williams, the author of White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America


Wednesday 23 August 2017

Abortion rights are central to my identity. As an ambitious teenager, I wanted to have both a vital career and a vibrant intellectual life, and I felt that having a baby at the wrong time would doom me. I went on to a both a full career and motherhood. It all worked out for me, but only because I could control my fertility.

My life has centered around what the sociologist Mary Blair-Loy calls the “norm of work devotion”. Work has provided me with joy, social status, dignity, and financial stability. To me, the image of the stay-at-home mom epitomized oppression and thwarted self-fulfillment. Abortion rights are crucial to the logic of lives like mine, which is why I and about two-thirds of college grads support them.

But only about half of Americans without college degrees do. The logic of their lives is different. They fault white-collar professionals for unhealthy work worship and a failure to understand that “family comes first”. Elites think they are so high and mighty, but it’s we who keep the world in moral order, the working class believes.

The demise of blue-collar jobs means that many families face a daily scramble between two not-very-fulfilling or well-paid jobs, with Mom working one shift and Dad working a different shift, and with each parent caring for the kids while the other is at work.

Tag-team families are under such pressure, and these parents see each other so rarely, that they have three to six times the national divorce rate. In the light of this harsh reality, it’s no wonder they look back with yearning at the breadwinner-homemaker family, supported by the husband’s blue-collar job.

This helps explain why abortion rights look different to those with good jobs and education and those who are struggling. To women like myself, they are the bare minimum of human rights. To working-class women, who often see motherhood, not work, as the key source of social honor, obsession with abortion rights among well-off women is selfish, exemplifying lack of an adequate devotion to family. Seen in this light, opposition to abortion rights becomes, for high-school educated women, a way of claiming social honor.

That’s why research since the 1980s has found class differences in the levels of support for abortion rights. The fight over abortion becomes a fight over what it means to be a good person. That’s why things get ugly really fast. When elites dismiss abortion opponents as mindless misogynists and non-elites dismiss abortion rights advocates as selfish careerists, class conflict becomes acute.

Debates over guns and gun control are similarly visceral, again because identities are at risk. To me, the ready availability of guns is associated with killings among young black men without a future, struggling to find dignity in a society that offers them precious little. Guns mean Sandy Hook and other horrors, and living in a country where mentally unstable kids regularly murder their classmates.

But even as I feel so strongly, I understand how other Americans feel differently. If the abortion debate involves ideals of femininity, guns involve ideals of masculinity. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of women but less than half (43%) of men support stricter guns laws.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/23/liberal-elite-its-time-to-strike-a-deal-with-the-working-class

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On the Ethics and Utility of Violence

I personally support people’s rights to keep and bear arms for the purposes of self defense.  I don’t advocate first strikes or being the initiator of violence.  But rather measured response to threats of physical violence.

From TransAdvocate:  http://transadvocate.com/on-the-ethics-and-utility-of-violence_n_20587.htm

Aug. 23, 2017

After the property damage at the University of Berkeley by protesters opposed to Milo Yiannopolous speaking there, many within the movement have condemned the violence. They argue that the violence plays into a narrative constructed by white-nationalists, and damages the moral legitimacy of the progressive movement that opposes everything he is calling for.

Others, such as Katherine Cross, have strongly argued that violence against fascist movements (“punching Nazis”) and leaders is not only justified but necessary and a moral imperative in order to preserve democracy. She opines that “Nazism is democracy’s anti-matter. There is nothing about the ideology or its practice that is anything but corrosive to democratic institutions. Fascism is a cancer that turns democracy against itself unto death.”

This essay does not propose to achieve a definitive answer to how, when, and where violence is justified. It attempts t o analyze the effectiveness of violence and the threat thereof as a tool used by factions to influence systemic change. This includes how it can positively and negatively create change, as well as change societal attitudes. While this may seem like a “listicle”, it does tie together by the end.

1. “Punching Nazis” is depicted as virtuous in popular culture, and we accept it

In comics and cinema, gratuitous punching of oppressors by the “good guys” is depicted as right and justified.  Indiana Jones, Superman, and Captain America all used violence in the defense of liberty, with the understanding that Nazis were the bad guys. Who didn’t want to cheer when Hermione Granger punched out Draco Malfoy, the vicious spawn of Death Eaters (basically magic Nazis)?

One could argue that these are all fictional characters. They are, but that is beside the point.  These movies are a mirror of our own societal attitudes, beliefs, and values. They reflect what we believe is good, moral, and ethical. We are supposed to empathize, identify with, and agree with the motivations and actions of the protagonists. Hermione Granger is supposed to represent the moral center or conscience of three main protagonists.  Were we to find her motivations and actions contrary to our own values, we would not want to cheer her when she punched out Draco Malfoy.

2. Violence in the face of an existential threat is nearly universally seen as justified

Preemptive violence against a clear and present danger, where there is a clear intent of existential harm is generally accepted by our society. Whether it involves Jews participating in insurgency during WWII, or home-defense “castle laws”, or even pre-emptively blowing up the second Death Star, we culturally believe that using violence, at some level, is acceptable to avoid levels of violence and oppression that are far worse.

Milo Yiannopolous and the ideas he espouses are seen by many within the transgender community as an existential threat. He advocates harassing, bullying, and mistreating transgender people until they self-deport back into the closet, and encourages that they should be forced into the harmful and ineffective practice of reparative therapy. In short, he is advocating a form of crowd-sourced cultural genocide.

Thus, attempts to remove a platform for his advocacy of this can be argued to be a form of collective self-defense.

Continue reading at:  http://transadvocate.com/on-the-ethics-and-utility-of-violence_n_20587.htm

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Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html?ref=opinion

I haven’t watched MTV’s annual Video Music Awards since Bill Clinton was president. I was wearing a plastic choker and Alanis Morissette won for “Ironic.” But I wish I had tuned in this Sunday night. The award show was a veritable orgy — not of sex, but of cultural appropriation.

First up was Kendrick Lamar, whose backup dancers wore ninja outfits as they scaled a wall of fire. While the popular rapper went home with an armload of trophies, he was criticized for borrowing Asian dress. Later, Katy Perry, who just recently finished an apology tour for her previous sins of cornrows and kimonos, “snatched” off her long blond wig — a bit that was torn apart for caricaturing African-American women. Luckily for Ms. Perry, the floodlights lingered longer on her nemesis, Taylor Swift, who unveiled a new video that was immediately blasted for appropriating Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” Speaking of Queen B, I’m just waiting for the charge that she’s exploited Persian culture by naming her new daughter Rumi after the 13th-century Sufi poet.

And that’s just the rap sheet from a single night in pop music. Charges of cultural appropriation are being hurled at every corner of American life: the art museum, the restaurant, the movie theater, the fashion show, the novel and, especially, the college campus. If there’s a safe space left, I’m not aware of it.

The logic of those casting the stones goes something like this: Stealing is bad. It’s especially terrible when those doing the stealing are “rich” — as in, they come from a dominant racial, religious, cultural or ethnic group — and those they are stealing from are “poor.”

Few of us doubt that stealing is wrong, especially from the poor. But the accusation of “cultural appropriation” is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism — the mixing of different thoughts, religions, cultures and ethnicities that often ends up creating entirely new ones. In other words: the most natural process in a melting-pot country like ours.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered some of the most sublime speeches of the 20th century. In them he used a mostly Latinate language to evoke the trials of the Israelites while quoting the writings of a slave-owning founding father. Irving Berlin, the songwriter who wrote “White Christmas” and “God Bless America,” was a Jew born in a Russian shtetl in a home with a dirt floor. Jessye Norman, one of the greatest opera singers of our time, is a black Southerner who is famous for her Wagner repertoire. Hamdi Ulukaya is a Kurd born in Turkey who now runs the most popular Greek yogurt company in America.

The point is that everything great and iconic about this country comes when seemingly disparate parts are blended in revelatory ways. That merging simply doesn’t happen in places where people are separated by race and ethnicity and class. And it’s not only what makes American culture so rich, but it is also a big part of the reason America is so successful. When we see a good idea, we steal it; when we have a good idea, the rest of the world is welcome to it as well.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html?ref=opinion

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