Leave Steffi Tanner Alone: Thoughts on Normcore
I got this article off a friend’s fbook wall and the ensuing comment conversation was as snarky and funny as it usually is with his group of bros. They’re a bunch of culturally-obsessed curmudgeons steeped in the gospel of irony who complain about everything except things they love unreservedly.
So, reading this normcore thing, I was struck.
Fashion is not and has never been about fashion. Fashion is about attractiveness and beauty. “Styling something” so it looks “good” is not about making a garment cut and tuck and flare and hang and shine in a figure-flattering way (and what does that even mean anyway). It’s about making the wearer attractive to the kind of attention they want. The male gaze, the art-babe gaze, the potential boss’s gaze, the church-going gaze. As far as I can tell, “styling” is also using a person’s beauty to make clothes okay. A gorgeous person makes gorgeous choices, the narrative goes (see: pretty much every editorial photoshoot ever). If you don’t think they look good, you’re just a big blind dummy. The whole American Apparel/new beauty bullshit about finding “other” kinds of beauty is revealing what has always been true: beauty isn’t beauty, beauty is attractiveness. Fashion doesn’t sell fashion, it sells beauty, which is attractiveness.
Not that I’m well versed in Kantian notions of the sublime (dropped out of my one poetics class after three weeks of indigestibly dense reading) but this seems like that. What we label fashion is beauty, what we label beauty is attractiveness.
So, normcore. If it’s a real thing (and it for sure will become as integrated into the lexicon as hipster and boho chic, so get ready, fashionistas) does what fashion has always done: accentuate the parts of our bodies and minds that we consider attractive. This has nothing to do with beauty. The human form has stayed essentially the same for the entirety of our existence. This is what we’ve got to work with. The human body is the site of both attractiveness and beauty, but is not the origin of attractiveness, while it is the origin of beauty. Being a certain way in the world is attractive. Existing is beautiful.
So, normcore. The task of fashion is to decorate our bodies while highlighting the things our social moment deems important. At this moment in time, this Twitter-reolutionary, Glenn Beckian, global debt crisis-y, technological freakfest we live in, it’s gotten gauche to put too much effort into your look. It is no longer attractive to look glossy and perfect, because we know that perfection is Photoshopped. We have seen Kim Kardashian spend an 40-hour work week getting her hair pulled, her skin zapped, her face painted. We know that attractiveness takes work. And that’s unattractive.
So, normcore. Kids today: we don’t have any money. So, it’s unattractive to have too much money. We know that the rich are the problem. Eat the rich. How does the life-inclined rich person survive? “Juinors-department denim.”
So, normcore. The inevitable child of American Apparel and the constant rotation of retro. If you’re hot and 17 right now, you were born after grunge, after puffy bangs and glossy pink lipstick/ice blue eye shadow, after Run DMC was cool. So you know that these were cool, but that coolness is so foreign. I think every generation finds it hard to believe that their parents ever had sex, because everyone looked so goofy back then. So, the kids try it on. First as a joke, then for real. Hey, there were some good ideas back then. But let’s just update them a little, put our own little spin on it. Neon, lycra, graphic pattern, high waist, low waist, platform, stiletto, beaded, ripped, tight, loose, whatever. Fashion morphs constantly as the product of people’s attempts to define themselves, and this definition exists within the social moment. What is acceptable right now? Authenticity. Modesty. Sexual liberation. Asexuality. A rejection of the shiny capitalist machine we live in.
My friends who were mocking this article reminded me why fashion is so polarizing. Clothes are imbued with meaning, Mythologies-style. A fleecy sweater is not just 90’s dad, it’s also modern devil-may-care. Oliver Peoples-y glasses aren’t Patrick Bateman + George Costanza, they’re the soft-eyed poet of now. Yeah, kick me in the teeth, but that’s the dialectic of fashion. It’s between what you think and the new meaning created by the wearer. To be fashionable requires a constant retuning of the signifiers we have around us - an exhausting task not everyone is interested in doing. And yeah, that’s fine. And yeah it’s fine to criticize it. But I am kind of sick of reading pearl-clutching snark venom about how everyone’s dressing, because it just matters so little in the grand scheme. We’re all gonna have sex, guys. No worries.
• 27 February 2014
I Dreamed a Dream
Of homes gone by
and rent worth paying
But the tigers come at night
With this man’s sleep apnea literally coming THROUGH THE WALLS
My neighbour - not even my downstairs neighbour, my NEXT HOUSE OVER NEIGHBOUR - snores so loudly, starting at exactly 10pm every night, that I have to listen to a white noise app on my phone to fall asleep. Look, I get that it sucks that he has sleep apnea (because my landlord told me and he says there’s nothing anyone can do) BUT SERIOUSLY. THE BRICK WALLS/INSULATION/SIDING/OUTSIDE SPACE cannot keep this sound out.
This, the last in a series of seriously awful living arrangements that are just born out of the joy of paying under a grand a month for a living space.
• 10 February 2014
A List of “Men’s Rights” Issues That Feminism Is Already Working On
Feminists do not want you to lose custody of your children. The assumption that women are naturally better caregivers is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not like commercials in which bumbling dads mess up the laundry and competent wives have to bustle in and fix it. The assumption that women are naturally better housekeepers is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to have to make alimony payments. Alimony is set up to combat the fact that women have been historically expected to prioritize domestic duties over professional goals, thus minimizing their earning potential if their “traditional” marriages end. The assumption that wives should make babies instead of money is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want anyone to get raped in prison. Permissiveness and jokes about prison rape are part of rape culture, which is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want anyone to be falsely accused of rape. False rape accusations discredit rape victims, which reinforces rape culture, which is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be lonely and we do not hate “nice guys.” The idea that certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to have to pay for dinner. We want the opportunity to achieve financial success on par with men in any field we choose (and are qualified for), and the fact that we currently don’t is part of patriarchy. The idea that men should coddle and provide for women, and/or purchase their affections in romantic contexts, is condescending and damaging and part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be maimed or killed in industrial accidents, or toil in coal mines while we do cushy secretarial work and various yarn-themed activities. The fact that women have long been shut out of dangerous industrial jobs (by men, by the way) is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to commit suicide. Any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of any gender are part of patriarchy. The fact that depression is characterized as an effeminate weakness, making men less likely to seek treatment, is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be viewed with suspicion when you take your child to the park (men frequently insist that this is a serious issue, so I will take them at their word). The assumption that men are insatiable sexual animals, combined with the idea that it’s unnatural for men to care for children, is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be drafted and then die in a war while we stay home and iron stuff. The idea that women are too weak to fight or too delicate to function in a military setting is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want women to escape prosecution on legitimate domestic violence charges, nor do we want men to be ridiculed for being raped or abused. The idea that women are naturally gentle and compliant and that victimhood is inherently feminine is part of patriarchy.
Feminists hate patriarchy. We do not hate you.
If you really care about those issues as passionately as you say you do, you should be thanking feminists, because feminism is a social movement actively dedicated to dismantling every single one of them. The fact that you blame feminists—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting men isn’t nearly as important to you as resenting women. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?
— Excerpt from If I Admit That Hating Men is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning it Into a Self-fulfilling Prophecy?, by Lindy West (via cyanimator)
(Source: angerr, via cyanimator)
• 29 January 2014
David and Goliath
Last night I was on the bus. It was nearly empty, so everyone, myself included, had done the same thing: left a single seat every so often, forcing the newcomers to choose who they would make suffer the indignity of being sat next to on a bus, of all places.
On stepped a young man, about my age, I’d guess, with a sweet face and on-trend glasses and a girl on his arm that I recognized, I thought. When I saw them searching for seats together, I got up and let them have my seat and, de facto, the one next to it. She thanked me without acknowledging she had met me before, perhaps not remembering, looped her right arm in his and nestled into his shoulder. They started chatting softly and she draped her left arm comfortably across his middle. It just barely made it half way. He was very heavy, you see. Fat.
Modern culture hisses that fat people are to be stared at or conspicuously not stared at, to be shamed, ignored, tolerated. I imagine, based on my experience as a woman in the modern world, that many fat people internalize this monologue and feel it coming from everyone who looks at them, particularly in moments of softness. When I forget to don my analytical/feminist armour and make eye contact with someone who reminds me of what society thinks I should be, I feel just as worthless and powerless as every shaving cream ad wants me to. I didn’t want to engender that feeling in him, but I was so touched by their tableau that I kept stealing peeks.
He seemed comfortable with her, but uncomfortable at the PDA, which I can understand. It looked like they had just come from a party, tired and maybe a little drunk. They didn’t do or say anything objectively remarkable, but I kept looking.
It is often, on the Ossington bus, that I see couples, of all stripes and glasses types, canoodling, and especially in the wee hours. They can be chatty or quiet, kissing or not, but they are unmistakable and unremarkable in their couplehood. It is rare that I see a pair of people who draw my attention because the spark between them recalls a cabin fire rather than a school of minnows being attacked. A pair of friends (or lovers) who remind me that intimacy between people is only a good thing, that caring about someone is always worthwhile. I was very happy to see this person, who I imagine has experienced many indignities related to his size, who, indeed, maybe just experienced one when I gave up my seat for him - acknowledging that he might be uncomfortable, in his girth, standing in the aisle or sitting on a two-seat rather than a three-seat bench - was canoodling with a girl I know to be bright and smart and successful. The whole thing seemed so genuine, so personal, that I was ashamed to be looking, but couldn’t stop.
A content young fat man - not jolly, just content - isn’t something I see with any regularity. I appreciated him as a form of resistance to a damaging cultural paradigm and felt reinvigorated in my own resistance to the paradigm set out for me.
So, I’m sorry for staring if it made you uncomfortable, but you looked sweet.
• 24 November 2013
You may know that I love astrology.
Some days it’s so right on the nose that I’m vindicated in my life-living because dammit even a new agey text-creating autobot knew that November 18th would be the day I finally got paid.
cf. Horoscope.com for today: “Life is an adventure. At least, that’s the attitude you take today. Flush with past success and basking in the affection of friends, you’re feeling especially confident and enthusiastic. You’ll consider if not adopt any possible option for your future, even if it involves taking off for an exotic land! It will involve learning and meeting new people who share your interests.”
I’m wearing my jammies and my fleecy drapey sweater thing and a bunch of Band-aids in my unmade bed, triumphal after hanging some art in the living room. It took two tries and a dollar store level.
FLUSH WITH PAST SUCCESS!
• 23 November 2013
I seriously, seriously hate camping.
Murder, decapitation, haunted summer camp across the lake, wet socks, warm cheese, hikes, static-y hair, sleeping on a bottle cap, lack of public transit within walking distance.
• 23 November 2013
Years later, when Ghostbusters comes out, the mother will have eerie flashbacks when watching the final battle but won’t understand why. This baby will undergo an emergence of sentience much like that of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.
Many household items will be destroyed.
• 27 September 2013
The Rings Remind Me
The rings inside my mug remind me of cracked bones in old medical slides.
Of tracks that carry little wooden carts down to the bottom of a mine.
Of a Chinese tea-dyed 100-year egg, which I have never and will never age into trying.
Of dirt-smudged fingers growing up from the ground, the real green thumbs.
• 26 September 2013
Bro…. Bro. Like super hot. She’s like super— Like, twins hot. You ever seen those twins by rock path? They jog like everyday when I’m coming home from the gym. One’s got bangs and one’s got this hot rat face and they’re always wearing shirts that don’t match their shorts. I like a girl who coordinates. A little pink-and-black workout outfit. Shows she’s feminine. Shows where the curves are—haha! She takes care of herself. Like my mamma always said, “Baby, there are no good things in this world come from a woman in cut-offs.” Not classy. But the twins don’t wear cut-offs, just, you know, not classy. Baggy t-shirts and whatever.
I want a classy chick, you know? A girl that I’ll want to hold the door for. She has like soft lips and her nails have those little white tips. She’ll have a fat butt and a little waist and call me Baby. No, not like my mom, bro. God. You’re fuckin’ ignorant sometimes. There’s different ways of saying a word. Like fuck and fuuuuck! Like you’re mad, you say fuck you! Or someone’s joking and you’re like fuck you! That’s totally different. Duh. There are only so many words, right, bro? That’s why we have to take from Spanish, cabrón. And Swedish, like smorgasbord. Leftovers. Or a bunch of blond bitches at a club. You know. You can’t think every word is just one word. That’s fucking ignorant.
My chick would know a bunch of words and be able to read anything right off the screen. But she wouldn’t get all snotty about it, correcting your grammar and shit. She’d just be able to talk like a really good real estate agent to cops and whoever and then with me she could say nasty shit.
Nah, bro. She could wear cut-offs in bed.
• 25 September 2013
FEMINIST HITS ON WOMAN
INT. LIBRARY - DAY
Woman sits reading a textbook. Man approaches her. He’s got a bike helmet strapped to his backpack.
I just wanted to see what textbook you were reading.
Is it for a class?
I studied social work and I just wanted to say, it’s a really good text book.
So, are you taking a class?
Yep, just studying for a test.
A pause. He considers his options.
Great… well, see ya.
• 24 September 2013