The week before last I decided that October 5th would be my last stressed, anxious, low-energy, try to eat an elephant in one bite Monday. Instead it would be a day for inspiration, to set my week on track for growth and creativity.Monday, after a day full of investigating the landscape of urbanism, feminism, and thoughtful, sustainable living, I kept the ball rolling by watching Miss Representation. For those of you unfamiliar, Miss Representation is about how women are portrayed in the media. Yikes. There was a lot of depressing stuff in there, but it was also very hopeful. A lot still needs to change, but we have the power to change things.
The feminism theme continued Tuesday when I read an article in the New York Times Magazine about Nicki Minaj, The Passion of Nicki Minaj. (For those of you who don’t know me well, I know less about pop culture than my grandmother, so it takes an article in the New York Times to really learn about Nicki Minaj.) Ms. Minaj calls herself a “Boss Bitch” and wears the highly sexualized pop culture attire. (Admittedly, I am focusing in on these parts of Ms. Minaj, who also uses her power and cultural reach to say really insightful things about gender and race.) Nicki Minaj is part of a 3rd wave of feminism. Distinguishing characteristics are taking back the insulting and denigrating pieces of our culture and making them our own. Wear the crazy heels and lipstick, display your god given wares and actively use and own the term “Bitch” and “Slut”.
I applaud women like Nicki Minaj for using her cultural cachet to speak out when she sees injustice. And yet, I can’t help but piece together the information from Miss Representation and think: The mostly male media execs, evidenced by the gender make up of their boards, have no problem when women sexualize themselves and get attention by using denigrating words, earning these execs hundreds of millions of dollars in the name of “feminism”. This type of feminism they will let through the cultural sieves. But what would happen if Ms. Minaj, Beyoncé or Miley Cyrus decided that they did not want to sell themselves with their bodies, if they wanted their words, artistic talent, vision and wisdom to sell instead? Like Neil Young, Jay Z, and Eminem. What would happen if their bodies took a back seat to these things? Would the powers that be let them through? Unfortunately, looking at the line-up of female musicians in pop culture, I think not.
So how do we break through this circus act? (You may be asking at this point: What the heck does this have to do with fashion?) Well I think a lot about women’s empowerment, feminism in my words, but really just the idea that women deserve equal power and representation. I wonder about how we express ourselves through what we wear or indeed if this is a misguided effort at all. And what I come to is that I want to live in a world where WOMEN decide how to express themselves, free from the influence of corporate culture. That we could choose to dress to express ourselves based on inner creativity and our god given beauty and not society’s expectation of how we should look. Or that we could choose to wear the same thing every day and express ourselves only through what we say and do, like many many men in this world. To earn respect through those things which display our talents, kindness, wisdom and inner beauty. Our choice.
So how do we break through this circus act? One answer here: By making a choice to be authentic and supporting each other to do the same.