Fashion… In the Eye of the Beholder?

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. One thing about fashion that I absolutely love is all the varied looks a person can put together, how diverse people are and how fantastic it is to walk down the street and see humans from all walks of life wearing something different. Fashion pushes the limits. You will see things on the runway that you will rarely EVER see worn out in everyday life. You can mix and match items from different time periods, and create something innovative that looks fresh and appealing. You can stand out from the crowd and not blend in with the trends in the magazines (though it’s totally cool if you want to wear those too!).

However, the fashion industry is booming and it waits for no (wo)man. It’s relentless. Trends flash by in the blink of an eye and before you know it, that item you just bought isn’t ‘in style’ any more. I’ve also begun to consider fashion from a feminist perspective. AKA, feedback from others on what an individual is wearing. We struggle with many feminist issues in society, including but not limited to sexism, body-shaming, and slut-shaming. Each of these issues is a gigantic weight of a problem in itself, and it’s really easy to pass judgement on others without even realizing it – especially when it comes to their clothing choices.

Natural looking young man

School Dress Codes

These have always bothered me, and not in a “I’m a rebellious teenager let me wear what I want!!” kind of way. I don’t understand why skirts/shorts/dresses had to be of a certain length to be considered appropriate, or the tank top strap width of 2 fingers wide was a rule. I don’t understand why all hell broke loose over visible bra straps, especially when all or most preteen/teenage girls ARE wearing bras – primarily for the physical support they offer. Overall, it just seems like female students are being punished solely for having female bodies. These clothes are viewed as “inappropriate for school”. I have to ask, why though? The reasons given for those rules are confusing to me. Because it’s distracting? Because they’re too ‘young’ to show that much skin? If anything is a distraction around here, it’s the fact that females are being asked to cover themselves (yes, even in very warm weather) in order to prevent distractions. I’d like to know who they are supposedly distracting – classmates, teachers? For one, teachers shouldn’t be looking at students’ bodies, and especially not hard enough to be ‘distracted’ by normal body parts like thighs, stomachs, and shoulders. The same rule applies for classmates, when these apparently offensive body parts are only viewed as offensive if they are connected to a female body. I consider this extremely sexist, especially as there are no gender-specified dress code rules for male students.

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Body-/Slut-Shaming 

This is something many of us do (or have done previously), probably without even considering the impact it can have on someone else. When comments are made about a larger woman such as “She should wear clothes that fit” or “She’s too heavy to get away with something that short/tight/revealing”, we are essentially saying that another human being is too visually unappealing to wear the clothing she likes. I’m sure that she looked in the mirror before she left the house that day, and felt happy and confident with her reflection. Ergo, we have absolutely no right to comment on what someone “should” or “should not” be wearing in regards to their body type. No right at all. The same applies for comments about skinny women, such as “I can see her bones, that’s gross”. Especially if the weather is warm, people are going to dress to reflect that – negative comments about their weight, regardless of what size they are, have no place here. I’m hoping this can become widely accepted within the fashion industry. The same types of awful comments are made about those whom choose to show lots of skin, warm weather or not. “She looks like a slut.” “If I were her parents, there’s no way I’d let her out of the house in that outfit.” “Aren’t your boobs supposed to stay inside your shirt?”  Why are we so determined to shame women for showing their body? We all have the same body parts, and it’s a personal choice whether or not you want to expose them. It doesn’t make it right to insult women for making that choice, although it may be different from yours. Nobody claims there is anything sexual about male shoulders, male stomach, or male legs – yet they’re ‘too’ sexual to be viewable on a woman? Not to mention, breasts are basically just fat and their primary purpose is to breast-feed after childbirth. There’s nothing too sexy about that. Yet a low-cut top that shows cleavage is a ‘slutty shirt’. This is the way society views clothing, this is how we have been trained to think. We need to put an end to shaming of all kinds, and very much so in the fashion industry where most of us have a critical eye for clothes.

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girluhmboobswherever

You tell her, Laci!

“Bad” Outfits

We’ve all seen them – the lists in magazines, on television, and social media discussing ‘Hot or Not’, ‘Who Wore It Best’, and ‘x amount of Worst Outfits Worn to This Public Event’. Most recently, there’s been a lot of hype regarding the Swarovski-studded gown Rihanna wore to the 2014 CFDA Awards. Many are calling it disgusting and offensive due to the see-through nature of the garment, which again leads me back to the body sexualizing in the above paragraph. I personally think she looked incredible, and was too entranced by the glistening design to even notice much else. So why do we have these lists? Does it make us feel like we have to balance out our favourite celebrity outfits by naming the ones with the “worst” fashion choices? Or do we simply feel like we need reasons to tear beautiful people down? This idea of pitting outfits against each other seems silly. Our comments aren’t just directed at celebrities, however. How many times have you or a friend pointed out someone’s outfit only to call it hideous? Or to say that they look like they got dressed in the dark? All too often, we let our own personal fashion choices dictate what we think is appealing, which in turn affects how we view others’ apparel. I maintain that if you feel good in your outfit, that if you feel confident, comfortable, and happy, then that is what you should be wearing. No one should make you feel inferior, especially when it comes to something as simple (yet as expressive) as clothing.

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Black Milk Clothing Social Media Disaster – A Guide on What Not to Do

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Yesterday, this above photo was posted to the Black Milk Clothing fan page, with a statement that states the staff member wants to look like the woman on the left, and ends up looking like the woman on the right.

This meme erupted on Facebook, causing loads of fans to comment stating how this was inappropriate, that it offended them, and that shaming of any kind is not okay – especially when you are running/promoting your company, and most of your fan base is female.

Black Milk’s reaction? Deleting comments, banning people, and basically replying with “If you don’t like our jokes, you are free to unlike the page and stop shopping with us.” What a way to keep your customers loyal! I have exactly zero experience in running a business, and even I know that one of the many things NOT to do is direct [potential] customers away. The post was eventually deleted by Alicia (one of the social media team members) due to ‘negativity’. Here are a few screenshots of the comments some (ex-) fans have taken and shared with me or the general internet:

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Longtime ex-customer Kristen has this to say about the matter:

“The issue isn’t bodyshaming. That post puts women in a competition none of us agreed to, and implies that geeks and gamers can only be sexy if they dress and style themselves in a hyper sexualized, highly feminized manner. It inherently shames women who don’t want to be sexualized within the geek/gamer community and perpetuates misogynist stereotyping. It’s mean.

And I don’t think anyone should sit around and defend BM. Their treatment of their community is horrendous, they regularly violate copyright when making their “original” designs yet encourage their fans to shred other companies who use similar commercially available fabrics, and they’ve perpetuated rape culture and racism in the past year.”

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But wait, there’s more!

Think this is the first time Black Milk has overstepped the line? Think again.

How about this post from Easter?

bodyshame

Presenting some casual body-shaming for your holiday weekend. I suppose this could be taken in the sense of  “spend your money on leggings instead of chocolate”, if Lana hasn’t stated in the comments that she didn’t follow her own advice and ate a chocolate bunny for breakfast. Also, since when does chocolate cost $75? I really don’t see the connection here, if this post was not INTENDED to be body-shaming. Comments were also deleted on this thread.

Or how about this time Lana was in full support of blackface on Instagram?

blackface

I don’t think I even have to explain what’s incredibly inappropriate about this one.

Or what about that time they told people to ‘go right out and read’ a Batman comic that includes a brutal implied rape scene, without a trigger warning for the content? But apparently, it needs to actually be CALLED rape, in that specific word, for them to do anything about it.

killing

It takes 5 seconds to apologize for their insensitivity, and edit the post to include a trigger warning. But this isn’t what happened. Instead, more excuses were made because it wasn’t actually called rape. As a previous Black Milk customer between the time period of March 2012 and January 2014, this is when I removed myself from the community. I’ve sold off most of my pieces, and I haven’t purchased from them since. I stepped down as one of the 3 admins for the Black Milk LGBTQ group (which I created because I thought it was a glaring omission among the 30+ other community groups), and removed myself from all groups as well as the fan page. Excusing rape-culture related issues is something I find inexcusable – whether you’re one person who makes a rape joke, or a company attempting to sell you products.

This is the link to the original comic artwork – TRIGGER WARNING for sexual assault/abuse/brutality of women. http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/killing-joke-gordon.jpg

That really looks like rape to me. If I had clicked on it without a warning from a friend, I would feel incredibly messed up. Shouldn’t Black Milk feel that their customers deserve fair warning before delving into this type of material?

Or how about the time they shamed one specific customer publicly on the fan page for becoming a teenage mom?

partyresponsibly

This young woman shared this before and after photo, presumably because wearing Black Milk makes her feel good, and she wanted to share that you could still look awesome when you’re expecting.. so Black Milk takes advantage of this by reposting her pictures, and tells us all to “party responsibly?” You might as well say, don’t party too hard or you’ll end up a pregnant teenager like this girl! The company knows nothing about her personal life, nothing about her choices and decisions, and have no idea about anything she has gone through. This post was cruel, uncalled for, and likely very embarrassing for the female targeted. I really hope she was sincerely apologized to following this incident, but given the way BM tends to handle their mistakes, that’s unfortunately not very likely. [Note: If the girl in these photos ever comes across this post, I want you to know that you have the full support of myself and many other people out there! This was hurtful and wrong for Black Milk to do, and that’s why I’m sharing it now. Also, you look amazing in both photos! xx]

Chinese New Year release? Otherwise known as, an excuse to sell new items release!

Black Milk’s 2014 Chinese New Year collection was completely void of anything to do with the holiday. The artwork of this panda shirt was done by a Japanese artist, and I think that’s the connection they attempted to make? …Except that Chinese and Japanese are two different cultures and are not by any means interchangeable. Pandas also have nothing to do with the holiday. Have I mentioned that the release date of the collection was not even the SAME date as Chinese New Year? This is a definite far cry from the Chinese zodiac pieces that were put out for the celebrations in 2013.

panda

Let’s talk about the Black Milk “Commandments” – because it’s not important to practice what we preach.

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How about you be excellent to your customers? How about you don’t compare one woman to another with the intent of saying one appearance is more attractive? How about you have a reasonable discussion and engagement with your fans instead of deleting all opinions you don’t agree with? And how about you DON’T compare racism to llamas?

To sum up, the geek-girl post was not a one-time thing. Black Milk Clothing regularly posts content that shames people for varying reasons, deletes replies that aren’t to their liking, and displays a “sorry-not-sorry” non-apologetic attitude when putting an ‘end’ to posting discussions. Their fans built them from the ground up, and this is how we are treated in return. The Black Milk “community” you speak so highly of is the same community you are now disrespecting. Alicia stated in her final statement regarding the geek-girl post that ALL of the Black Milk team are in agreement.  Whether these problems lie in the hands of the social media team itself OR the business as a whole, these are the people you have representing your brand. Please consider where your money is going, and the kind of company you are supporting.

If you have any comments, questions, or want to contribute to this topic (I may follow up on this post at a later date), please feel free to contact me! I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions (and I won’t delete them either)!