Sunday, October 10, 2010

Who's To Say?

Last night Miss Tavi shared a smart and funny satirical article titled "Look Like This: The Social Network!". 

The article had some great quotes and images including these two that jumped out at me:

"With reprints of the 60s Japanese Style book “Take Ivy” flying off faux-distressed mahogany hunting mantels in pre-fab mall stores across the world, it is clear that we are entering a brand new age where we are finally looking to rich white people to dictate what is fashionable."


"While obviously the romanticization of pre-Civil Rights era Ivy League white men and the fetishization of their trappings depicted in sepia-toned and Kodachromed photos should be totally and utterly divorced from their glaring historical context (we just really like the clothes, ok?!), it’s clear that Americans are yearning for a time when white people were unquestionably in charge and keeping other, less stylish, people down."

Fashion is a barometer of the times, as we all know, and with all the news about the Tea Party, immigration and socialism, this revisiting of a rose-tinted view of the fashions from the past is everywhere.

So I shared the link to the article, retweeting the source.  At that point I received a response stating "Who would know better than her?" and then that same person retweeting it again as a "Hypocritical tweet to savor." 

And that's fine.  I'm all for freedom of speech and irony and humor.   I don't think I am the most PC person so, the comments didn't phase me.  But they did get me to stop and think about a larger issue...who can criticize?

What I take from the comments above is that Tavi, as a middle-class to well-off white girl, has no right to agree with the article because she is one of those "rich white people dictating what is fashionable" (please correct me if that was not the implication).  That because she is, on the surface, a member of this group by virtue of her birth and upbringing and current circumstances that she has no right to agree with the satire.

Is that true?

Taken to the next step, I should not be agreeing or passing it along either.  I too am a privileged white person.  I'm not putting that in quotes because this is not a euphemism; I know that I am in that same group.  So much so that I didn't even understand until recently how the term "privilege" was being used in the context of race discussions.   I have had many advantages growing up and now and am lucky enough to have a comfortable lifestyle now. 

But does that mean that I cannot be critical of these discrepancies?  Taken on a superficial level, maybe some would feel that I shouldn't.  That it could be seen as disingenuous.  But what if I use the advantages and opportunities to work for change and to support that change however I can?  Should I be criticized for opening my eyes and realizing that I need to learn more and working to share information and make changes?  I hope not.

Perhaps I am giving Miss Tavi too much credit (I'm sorry to have to keep using you as an example, Tavi).  I only know her through our brief conversations online and perhaps she is a spoiled child who doesn't know how good she has it.  But for some reason, I doubt this.  Yes, she has definite advantages in her life but that doesn't mean that she isn't interested in changing the world around her to be a better place.  Who's to say that she won't be out there, tomorrow or in ten years, actively campaigning for social change.  And why would we discourage her now?  But Tavi is just here as a reference example.

Growing up I had little access to all of the information and discourse that is available to us now.  I didn't have a variety of people to learn from.  But even with that insulated life, I still knew what was right and what was wrong.  And now I've been taking the opportunities to broaden my views and the perspectives I receive.  I want the discussion and I want to know where my privilege has clouded my perspective because I want to learn and change where needed. 

Updated:  Tavi forwarding the link and the commentary here around that was the start of my thinking for this post but I also want to talk about the larger issue.  Not if Tavi has a perspective but more, does it seem unseemly for a member of a certain group to criticize that same group?  Comment either way!

Let's foster the discussion.


Sister Wolf said...

Since I am the tweeter (tweetist?)you refer to, let me assure you that I never meant to criticize you or hurt your feelings! I'm so sorry it appeared that way!

Just seeing the words "rich white people dictating what is fashionable" attributed to Tavi made me laugh out loud.

Here is my issue with that: A white kid who wears Rodarte and cries over Commes des Garcon is exactly the wrong voice to comment on elitism in fashion or anywhere else. It is absurd!

You just can't have it both ways, not in my view. You can't deplore the lack of clean water in Africa while drinking Perrier.

I am always dismayed by Tavi's ironic view of her own life. So in this case, where the irony is actually so glaring, she is blind to it.

As for wanting to change the world, remember when some of us bloggers were enraged over the Terry Richardson antics? Tavi wrote an impassioned post about his wrongdoing, just before she was scheduled to speak at a conference. I urged her to take this opportunity to speak out about TR!

She explained that she already had a prepared talk and couldn't disappoint her sponsors.

That's not "changing the world." That is called "lip service."

I understand that she's 14. But given her celebrity and publicity agent etc, she doesn't get a free pass.

Finally, I LOVE a good discussion,Poochie! Thank you for letting me be a part of one. xo

Lara said...

While a teenager wants nothing more than to be taken seriously, I simply can't do it.

The new Courtney Love obsession, riot girl zines, being nominated as a feminist role model... my god. I have to take it all with a grain of salt.

I agree mostly with Sister Wolf but I don't think it's so black and white. I think privileged people certainly can make a difference in the world but I'm not going to sit around and wait for Tavi to do a darn thing.

The thing that scares me, looking back on my own teenage years sans all this immediate gratification technology and being able to put yourself out there like we can now with blogs and such... We were allowed to go through our teenage extremes. I see myself in her when I was her age. I loved grunge and punk and was a rabid feminazi, read zines, helped organize anarchist gatherings. I also grew up without an audience, allowed to grow and change without pressure to maintain my extremes.

It will be interesting to watch this disaster of a child's life on display but never will I take her seriously. She's just like any other teenager who wants to get a rise out of adults, who wants to be regarded as one. She's admitted that she chooses her clothes to irritate people. C'mon!

Poochie, everyone has an opportunity to grow and learn and change. It doesn't end when you become an adult. You've taken real steps in walking the talk with your animal rights concerns. I admire you for that. You also know how good you have it. You have made responsible decisions to maintain a certain lifestyle. I don't think Tavi knows how good she has it but does it matter when she's reveling in all this attention? It's a teen dream.

Lara said...

Sorry about the rant on Tavi and teendom.

To your update: I think you can rationalize picking on a group peers if you're actively trying to make changes and even then, it's fair game to be called a hypocrite until the proof is in the pudding. Still, people can go, "Remember when they were like this? They just changed because of blah blah blah."

But perception is relative. One seemingly greedy individual could call out the greed of a group and both sides could manage to explain it away and justify. "My greed is different and more acceptable than your greed because..."

Only from the outside looking in can you see the absurdity of it.

Poochie said...

Thank you, Lara! I hope you don't feel I was singling you out. It was more that I wanted to make sure MY words were clear, which sometimes I think I skip over things in my mind.

Love the comments!

: )