Rubber Wear

A friend turned me on to the photos included in this exposé, so I looked into the photos’ back story briefly (busy researching plastic bag bans, somehow ironically related), and my research turned up little more than a Brazilian artist’s attempt at a simple message: wear a condom.

The more interesting story to me is always the imagined pinpoint moment when this artist had the lightbulb appear above his head and thought, “Hey, I think I will go buy ten thousand condoms and make a fashion line with them.” But really, the imaginative design and vibrant color and shape patterns are admirable, bespeak huge talent for this absolutely stunning line–and not as mere novelty. 

I just cannot fathom how condom rubber breathes, however. Those condom-clad models (even scantily) sweating loads under the hot lights of the runway may have less appreciated the clever creativity.

Am I overthinking this?


Taking the High Heels Road

Do we really need feminism any more? I mean, women work outside the home when they choose to, are protected by laws against discrimination in the work place and other places, and can vote. Isn’t feminism more about choice now–for both men and women–and the freedom that comes with choosing each his or her own happiness?

Just last week I brainstormed with my college student daughter for her speech class presentation over this very question. Together we offered instances beyond the blatant: sex trade and slavery, genital mutilation and pornography. Yes, we concluded, right here in the U.S., where genital mutilation and a thriving sex trade do not lurk in every corner of the country, feminism has work to do. Sure, equal pay for equal work slogans, body image and slut shaming come to mind as battlegrounds for feminism, but the more insidious poisons that preserve patriarchal prejudices work more subtly. 

Take language, for instance. Something as simple as “Hey, you guys!” may seem harmless as an expression. But most unconsciously respond to that call without thinking how the phrase beckons males and females alike while there is no feminine counterpart. “Hey, you gals!” would not turn a single male head. 

And then there are high heels. Given that most anyone can merely look at a pair of high heels and foresee the long-term damage of daily wear or even the short-term calamity that could befall a novice wearer, forcing women to wear them to suit the tastes of a few male gatekeepers smacks of sadism let alone sexism. That such footwear would be prerequisite to female attendees of such a prestigious event as the Cannes Film Festival, upon which some fates and finances depend, can be perceived no other way but sexist–wittingly or unwittingly.

However, I cannot imagine the headline, “high-heels gate”, to a BBC news story about flat-wearing females turned away at Cannes a few days ago–even if one of the refused flat-wearers (though later admitted entry) had a partially amputated foot too unstable for heels.

Ironically, one of the headliners of this year’s Cannes festival was ‘Carol’ the story of a 50-something lesbian.

Although the festival director denied a “ban on flats,” apparently the festival has a history of ‘partiality.’ 

The festival opened with a female-directed film for the first time since 1987, and organisers have endorsed a series of “Women in Motion” talks by stars such as Isabella Rossellini and Salma Hayek.

One former attendee noted the fashion bias existing for decades:

Wendy Constance, a children’s author who attended Cannes in the 1970s, tweeted the festival had a less than stellar reputation when it came to women’s clothes.

“Back in 1971, when I started work I asked for [the] rule about women not wearing trousers to be changed. It was. Forty-four years later.”

“It’s ridiculous that women are still being expected to conform,” she added.

Those subtler forms of sexism perniciously pervade, permeate a society and motivate conscious or unconscious acts of sexism that may seem small but, in their accumulation, grow large in the long-term consequences. Sexist attitudes have been known to influence the line of questioning by a male detective to a female rape victim or a male judge’s sentencing (two positions empowered with a great deal of discretion within a realm of rules), actions with far-reaching effects to that victim and women generally.  

So what if Cannes bans flats? Aren’t we being too sensitive? Nothing to get our undies in a bunch over, right? Wrong. 

Conduct of a nation, including its laws and commerce–daily practices–are predicated on the stuff fed to our brains sometimes in blasts of shocking information and trauma, sometimes in long steady courses of study and living, but mostly in imperceptible increments–like subtly sexist language, pictures, and gestures, such as silly dress codes at Cannes. 

Feminism means freedom; freedom means choice. We cannot choose if the knee-jerk reactions of our conduct are pre-programmed, unconscious and unchanging. We must question our behaviors, the reasons for rules we set and how they are enforced, not take accepted practices for granted. A simple start? Ban the arbitrary bans on women’s fashion choices.

Penises in Men’s Fashion


Here’s something you don’t read every day? Why the penis is having a moment in men’s fashion. Simon Chilvers explores this tantalizing title in today’s Guardian.

In January, at Rick Owens’ Paris fashion week show, penises swung gently down the runway. The designer – who has a made a career out of creating highly expensive leather jackets – sent out several models minus underwear in tunics featuring peepholes, cut to reveal their genitals.

There is nothing like the mention of genitalia in a headline to draw a reader in. No words other than maybe an f- bomb will pique curiosity as much. Penises, in particular, however, are not often blatantly dangled before the public eye compared to the endless preoccupation over women’s body parts, how they work and why they won’t work when they are misunderstood, in particular. Now place penis in the same sentence as “fashion world” and no one can resist sparing the ten minutes to read on.

Rick Owens’ motives are questioned and critiqued in this article:  Is this penis-peephole style production a publicity stunt or truly thought provoking work? Unquestionably, I am ignorant, but in the fashion world that I am hard pressed to believe values intellectual or activist stances in clothing styles over promoting profit-making, I lean toward the former, not the latter.

Owens, for one, claims his motivations were pure: “I was just questioning why we keep penises concealed and why exactly it’s bad to show them,” he tells me. “The social rule to keep the penis hidden just gives it a power I’m not sure it merits. But isn’t it great when something is sacred and profane at the same time?”

The bigger question: Why do Puritannical attitudes toward nudity still exist in this country? And does over exposure to penises and vaginas desensitize viewers to the intimacy associated with those parts or is that a line just to keep the pornography biz going strong–you know, forbidden fruit and all? The author characterizes “male full frontals” as “the last taboo in an otherwise hyper-sexualised society” with “power to shock and even anger.” Why the anger and whose? Not surprisingly, men’s anger about having to look at other men’s penises or have their own penises looked, that’s whose and why.

McLellan, who also shot the naked story for Fantastic Man, which featured men aged between 22 and 52, and was accompanied by an essay on the ageing process of the male body, said the shoot was about creating characters who were appealing but “not necessarily in a fanciable way”. Jop van Bennekom, co-founder, creative director and editor of Fantastic Man, says that as well as showing diversity, the shoot offered “an unbiased look at the male body without it being sexualised”.

Irony: the fashion world with its built in bias toward women cares about the exploitation of men. I guess this is why I am cynical. The industry’s product is the ubiquitous imagery of women whether exploitive or celebratory and it literally makes money off the backs of often undernourished or photoshopped female bodies. So now designers and photographers are trying to step up on behalf of men and their sexualized bodies while perpetuating practices that reinforce sexually discriminatory practice.

Top female models are often inured to nudity. “If you ask a female model to take her clothes off, you don’t really have to get permission from the agent,” says McLellan. “But if you ask a guy to take his clothes off it suddenly becomes a big deal.” Andrew Garratt, a model booker at Select Model Management, confirms that male nudity is always discussed before a shoot, and no naked shots of the model would be supplied to the photographer in advance. Many male models, he says, have turned down very successful international photographers because they didn’t want to get naked.

In so far as peep holes bring the discussion of objectified bodies into light, any body’s body, I am all for them. Exposing the industry practices, its perpetuation of gender and body myths and the concomitant consequences of stereotyping is enough justification for the collateral cynicism and backfire of turning men’s attitudes toward their own anatomy into gold–clearly commercial objectification. 

The penis shouts: Look at me and look at yourself feeling uncomfortable or amused! Shocking an audience to buy product is nothing new, after all. It’s just more entertaining when the often ironic, illogical yet complex human conditioning and responses are exposed in doing so. 
As men’s fashion continues to break out from the shadows of women’s, there is increasing scope for stylists and photographers to push the idea of what masculinity means. Could we see more objectification, too, bringing menswear closer to the women’s fashion industry?

I hope so.

I Yam What I Yam


I have to say, I wish I had written this article What Not to Wear After Age 50: The Final Say by Michele Combs in the Huffington Post sent to me yesterday by someone who truly cares–the same one who sent me the original article this one counters.

Google ‘what not to wear after age 50’ and you will have your pick of thousands of articles telling you what looks terrible on your old ass body.

It’s not just Combs’ tell it like it is humor and irreverence that amuses me or the supportive message of the sender of the article that entertains me with a big ole “right on!” in reaction to this writing. It’s that it is truth, not just defensiveness disguised as truth or solely my truth.

Just as there are rites of passage for 13 year olds becoming men or women like Bar or Bat Mitzvah’s, symbols of acknowledged or expected responsibility for being part of the community of adulthood and baptisms by fire with the drunken night out or at the porcelain pedestal on a 21st birthday, signifying responsibility to the community’s recreating populace, so too there is a rite of passage for older adults, women over 50, in particular: becoming themselves.

50+ women who dress for themselves, to their own comfort and feel-good production, are totems to younger women, a signpost of what’s ahead for them, and encouragement to keep up the good fight of daring to say, “but this is me.”

So much struggling and striving and settling in the 20s, 30s and 40s, in living for others–parents, children, friends, lovers, employers and parents again–I have to believe there is some culminating prize for the effort, and I’m not talking about retirement. Retirement is an illusory carrot invented to keep people from walking off into the night or out to the desert to leave society just when (American) society wishes their less “productive” asses to leave.

Wearing the I don’t give a flying fuck because I’m comfortable style is the reward for a life too long lived giving a shit about things that don’t matter–like how we look to others, the messages our clothing and makeup (or lack thereof) send to others so that they can properly label us and act accordingly. We figure this out when the physical and mental wanes just as the emotional waxes.

You are over 50 for fuck’s sake. Wear whatever you want

Trending with or against the current style dictates for age appropriateness is a choice for the 50 something that she has earned–real choice. She has only one message to send if she has paid her dues to harvest the fruits of her life long burns and labors: I yam what I yam. And perhaps her legacy is in planting seeds in her progeny to do the same.

If I could beam one insight into my daughters’ beings it would be: Stop curtailing yourself to satisfy others. The sooner you allow yourself to be yourself, the longer your happiness will be.