Far too much attention has been paid to Melania Trump’s stiletto heels as inappropriate attire for floodwater. Writing at The Cut, Rhonda Garelick makes a much more important point about the First Lady’s presentation:
The problem is not that Melania Trump wore an unsuitable, blithely out-of-touch outfit, although she did. The problem is that this administration turns every event — no matter how dire — into a kind of anesthetized luxury fashion shoot, which leads us to some disturbing political truths. …
[Fashion] photos exist to cast the fetishizing spell of the commodity over us. They create, that is, a dissociative relationship with the viewer. And while Melania Trump was known to have been somewhat stiff as a model, she has clearly mastered that squinty, middle-distance gaze, which she regularly employs as First Lady.
The camera lies, even before the Photoshop manipulation begins. The person being photographed and the photographer have a vast array of decisions to make, decisions that can humanize or commodify, that can create intimacy or invoke power, that can equalize or separate.
Photographs of Donald Trump veer between the two. He isn’t any good at humanizing himself. Nor do his photographers often seem to have that in mind. Still, he has a certain level of wanting to be, or seem to be, Everyman, and there are pictures of him that convey that desire. But the women in his family, and the women in his administration, never cross that gap. They are always the (mythical) unavailable woman of Everyman’s dreams, the woman too desirable to be attainable, too arrogant to be the least bit interested in anything around her.
Here’s Garelick’s conclusion:
On Tuesday, this meant that instead of being a supporting presence in the president’s trip to survey flood damage, Melania became the star and the trip morphed into a simulacrum, a kind of Vogue shoot “simulating” a president’s trip. In other words, the realness of everyone and everything else (including hurricane victims) faded and the evacuated blankness of the commercial overtook the scene.
And this is how something as apparently trivial as women’s style reveals a profound truth at the heart of this administration and its relationship to America’s citizens: It is as dissociative as a fashion advertisement, brought to power by manipulating and rechanneling the electorate’s desires for wealth and possessions. This truth seeps out of every photographed occasion, including and especially those featuring the Trump women.
In 1998 when Camryn Manheim was up for an Emmy, which she won. Designers lined up to make her dress, like they do (or did?) for Emmy nominees. Manheim, ever the fat activist, refused to take an offer from any designer who didn’t otherwise make plus-size clothes.
Leslie Jones, star of the upcoming Ghostbusters remake, complained on Twitter and found a designer, Christian Siriano, to make a gown for her. At least some of the fashion press thinks this is Jones’ fault. Kara Brown reports from Jezebel:
Pret-a-Reporter talked to Hollywood stylists who perfectly exemplified the stereotypes of the thin-obsessed, catty, narcissistic fashion industry.
In addition to arguing that designers who have complete control over what sizes they make and still only produce the smallest sizes available do not have a size bias, stylist Jeanne Yang suggests that it would be a financial burden to create a new dress for a woman starring in what will likely be one of the biggest movies of the summer and who will soon be snapped thousands of times on the red carpet. …
It sucks that Jones had to complain on Twitter to get a nice dress to wear and that Christian Siriano was the only designer to step up, but hopefully he will do her right and she’ll show up on the carpet looking like a queen and making those fools wish they weren’t such brats.
All I can say is “Still? After all these years?”
In the class of “how was this ever not true?” towards the end of June New York City passed a law providing tampons and pads to all women in public schools, shelters, and correctional facilities. As Mattie Kahn said at Elle:
New York City is leading the crusade to free women from shelling out for a public health imperative. No one is forcing high schoolers to pay for toilet paper, dudes!
“Tampon taxes” are going away, but seriously: how did anyone ever think that supplying menstrual products was not a necessary thing?
Medium went to Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal to show us a biting overview of how female firsts are covered, from Amelia Earhart to Hillary Clinton. Hint: the woman’s accomplishments are often not given any credit. Here’s just one of my favorites:
December, 1903, OSLO, Norway — “Ignoring voice vote, rigged Nobel Prize committee hands award to Marie Curie.”
Bee also cites reports about Billie Jean King, Sally Ride, and … Joan of Arc! Sadly not surprising, but well worth the two-minute read.
I really liked B.A. Beasley’s essay at The Toast on genderqueer parenting:
You see, there’s no such thing as a parent. We only have mothers and fathers.
Here’s what I don’t mean: I don’t mean that women and men are hardwired to parent differently. I don’t even mean that the social construction of gender is so overpowering that overcoming motherhood or fatherhood is difficult for individual parents. I mean the social category of parent just doesn’t seem to exist.
I say this despite the fact that my social world is filled with people who are deeply invested in egalitarian parenthood. I personally know inspirations in the realm of splitting reproductive labor. They are not doing it wrong.
But all the good people in the world making all the right decisions about sharing, pitching in, and helping each other out can’t fix the fact that every form you complete, every book you read, every law you face, every policy you confront has two categories: mothers and fathers.
There’s a lot more: very thoughtful and some of it very personal. If the topic interests you, read the whole thing.
Discussing a different aspect of families, social circles, and social expectations, Amalthea Aelwyn at Queen of the Chaos Circle wrote a long, detailed advice column for the families and friends of people with autoimmune diseases. Her piece has over twenty bullet points of things to think about and do: here’s just one that struck me.
She will already be her own worst critic. In her head, she will most likely be struggling to avoid chewing herself out regularly. Nothing you can say will possibly be as harsh as she is on herself. So she needs you to be especially careful of the things you say to her, and how you say them. It’s okay to have your own feelings, and to express feelings, but you always have a choice in how you say something. There is a big difference between grumpily demanding “why do I have to stop eating wheat (candy or whatever else), just because you’re sick all the time!?” and saying “I wish there was a way to make you better, so we wouldn’t both have to skip candy and soda.” The first statement becomes an attack on a person who can’t help that she has this problem. The second statement is a way to express your frustration in a way that shows you care about her, and know that she misses those things too. It is even okay to be mad at her disease, but it’s not okay to take that mad out on her. Tell her that you are mad at her disease, too, if you want. But don’t yell at her for it. She can’t help it.
I have both family and several friends with autoimmune diseases. I found this a hard read, the kind I sometimes push against saying either, “That’s not fair to me!” or “But I already do that!” in my head, which usually means it’s things I need to hear. I’ll come back to it again and again when I need it.
Finally, Casey Chan at Sploid features an adults-only video by SuperDeluxe that takes those of us who want to go there (not for everyone) through a sex-doll factory:
Being inside a sex doll factory and watching all that plastic nakedness get shaped is much more haunting than it is titillating. It gets unsettling, like if you were trapped inside a scene from a horror movie and couldn’t get out. But it’s also somewhat intriguing, just to see the mixture of products and body parts that they put together in a puzzle to shape a doll.