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Subverting American Apparel: an interview with the amazing Nancy Upton
09.11.2011
02:25 pm
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You might have seen the name Nancy Upton trending online in the last few days. After taking offence at the language in a recent talent-hunt campaign by American Apparel (a company whose image is already a source of much controversy, and who are looking for a plus-size model to advertise their new range), Nancy decided to do some satirical beauty shots of herself sexily consuming food and enter them into the contest. Well, the photos came out very well and have proved wildly popular with the public, who have voted Nancy into first place in the competition (even though she has stated that she would not accept the prize if the judges chose her to win). 

All in all this is a pretty awesome story, which touches on female sexual empowerment, body image, sexist corporate branding and the acceptability of sizeism within the mainstream. I sent Nancy some brief questions for Dangerous Minds, and she was kind enough to answer them in some detail:

How did you feel about American Apparel before their “plus size” competition? What was it about this particular campaign that made you want to enter?

I feel like they’ve always gone above and beyond other companies in objectifying women. Basically it was the fact that they were trying to take advantage of a new market but make it seem like they were doing people a favor. I answered this a bit with my Daily Beast article.

“The company was co-opting the mantra of plus-size empowerment and glazing it with its unmistakable brand of female objectification. The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind.
...
American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products.”

 

 

What’s your reaction to being voted no. 1 by the public?

Complete and utter shock. I never expected to actually be accepted into the contest, and I certainly never expected for people (other than friends who knew what I was doing and why I was doing it) to want me to win.

You’ve taken a bit of flack for supposedly insulting large women with the pics - how do you respond to that?

It’s actually very upsetting for me to hear from women that they feel insulted by what I did. I feel like, being a plus-sized woman myself, it should be very apparent that the photos are done to mock people who are the ones judging overweight men and women. Also, that they were done in the spirit of silly shenanigans and having fun being yourself. I feel like watching a plus-sized model get brutally airbrushed or only shot from one specific, slimming angle for an ad campaign is way more insulting. It’s interesting that by insulting a company that has a history of negativity towards women, I’ve managed to insult the same women the company marginalizes.

You have already said that if you do win you wouldn’t accept the prize - but wouldn’t it be better if you did?

Would it be better? I’m not sure. I wouldn’t appear for American Apparel because I disagree with their business practices, specifically their system of advertising. I feel like putting your face on a product or brand you can’t actually get behind is pretty gross. I’m also not sure it would send a great message. I feel like I’ve had an opportunity to make a statement about standing up (or at least satirizing) for what you believe in, and if I turned around and accepted a job from AA, that statement would be negated to a degree.
 

 
Do you have any favourite other models in the comp you think should win?

I’m not going to play favorites, but I definitely think the person chosen should ACTUALLY be unknown, especially since there’s no monetary compensation. Some of the women in the competition not only had modeling experience, but are actually signed with agencies. I’ve always been under the impression that once you have representation, you should avoid contests and stunts like this. But what the hell do I know about the world of modeling?

What do you think as to how large people are treated in mainstream culture and fashion in general, and is there anything anyone can do to affect this?

I feel like it’s a dialogue/presence that is always in a flux between shrinking and expanding. For every “fat best friend” throw away character on television, we get one who is brilliantly written and portrayed. Increasingly we see different shapes and looks being incorporated into major ad campaigns and runway work. Are large people treated well across the board? No. Has their level of representation and respect grown from where it was 10 years ago? Yes.

I think people are becoming more and more outspoken about the role of the plus-sized model in fashion, as well as in other aspects of entertainment and art. If we continue to keep those lines of communication open and express our desires directly and dynamically, change will happen.
 

 
Are there any designers/labels/outlets you think DO respect plus size people?

I think some designers have cuts that are more generous or have become more generous as time has gone on. Diane Von Furstenberg, for example. I believe they go up to a 14 now, as does Kate Spade, which is interesting considering their clothing line isn’t even the company’s main selling point.

I’m a big fan of the Dove campaigns. They’re very natural and don’t feel patronizing or cheap. They’re honest, simple and encourage individuality. The Gentlewoman had a great article on Adele earlier this year, and I’m a big fan of the way they profile strong, interesting women in their magazine. Target has a great selection of sizes and, I swear, every time I walk in there, the clothes are better and better.

And finally the photographs are beautiful - can you tell us more about the photographer?

Shannon Skloss, the magnificent. She has a website that will be launching soon, but for now you can find her business page on Facebook. She’s incredibly funny, vibrant and talented. We had so much fun on the shoot, and her work is just outstanding. We were introduced through a mutual friend when I needed some headshots done a few months ago, and I’m so glad it worked out that way.

Voting has now closed on the American Apparel “Next Big Thing” campaign, though we await with interest any kind of statement from the company. Shannon Skloss’ Facebook photography page is here.

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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09.11.2011
02:25 pm
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Olive and Mocha: (Little) Riot Grrrls
08.24.2011
03:16 pm
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Simply brilliant:

“An unlikely friendship between a goody-goody and a bad seed results in havoc at a birthday party.”

Directed by Suzi Yoonessi. Written and produced by Molly Hale. Producers: Lara Everly, Jonako Donley

More information at www.oliveandmocha.com
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.24.2011
03:16 pm
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Kathleen Hanna: The Riot Grrrl Manifesto
08.23.2011
04:48 pm
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If I wrote something this good when I was young, I think I’d read it now with real satisfaction:

WHY RIOT ?

BECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways.

BECAUSE we wanna make it easier for girls to see/hear each other’s work so that we can share strategies and criticize-applaud each other

BECAUSE we must take over the means of production in order to create our own moanings.

BECAUSE viewing our work as being connected to our girlfriends-politics-real lives is essential if we are gonna figure out how we are doing impacts, reflects, perpetuates, or DISRUPTS the status quo.

BECAUSE we recognize fantasies of Instant Macho Gun Revolution as impractical lies meant to keep us simply dreaming instead of becoming our dreams AND THUS seek to create revolution in our own lives every single day by envisioning and creating alternatives to the bullshit christian capitalist way of doing things.

BECAUSE we want and need to encourage and be encouraged in the face of all our own insecurities, in the face of beergutboyrock that tells us we can’t play our instruments, in the face of “authorities” who say our bands/zines/etc are the worst in the US and who attribute any validation/success of our work to girl bandwagon hype.

BECAUSE we don’t wanna assimilate to someone else’s (boy) standards of what is or isn’t “good” music or punk rock or “good” writing AND THUS need to create forums where we can recreate, destroy and define our own visions.

BECAUSE we are un willing to falter under claims that we are reactionary “reverse sexists” and not the true punk rock soul crusaders that WE KNOW we really are.

BECAUSE we know that life is much more than physical survival and are patently aware that the punk rock “you can do anything” idea is crucial to the coming angry grrrl rock revolution which seeks to save the psychic and cultural lives of girls and women everywhere, according to their own terms, not ours.

BECAUSE we are interested in creating non-hierarchical ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations.

BECAUSE doing/reading/seeing/hearing cool things that validate and challenge us can help us gain the strength and sense of community that we need in order to figure out how bullshit like racism, able-bodieism, ageism, speciesism, classism, thinism, sexism, anti-semitism and heterosexism figures in our own lives.

BECAUSE we see fostering and supporting girl scenes and girl artists of all kinds as integral to this process.

BECAUSE we hate capitalism in all its forms and see our main goal as sharing information and staying alive, instead of making profits of being cool according to traditional standards.

BECAUSE we are angry at a society that tells us Girl=Dumb, Girl=Bad, Girl=Weak.

BECAUSE we are unwilling to let our real and valid anger be diffused and/or turned against us via the internalization of sexism as witnessed in girl/girl jealousism and self defeating girltype behaviors.

BECAUSE self defeating behaviors (like fucking boys without condoms, drinking to excess, ignoring true soul girlfriends, belittling ourselves and other girls, etc…) would not be so easy if we lived in communities where we felt loved and wanted and valued.

BECAUSE I believe with my whole heart mind body that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real.

Kathleen Hanna’s “The Riot Grrrl Manifesto” was originally published in “Bikini Kill” fanzine issue #2, 1991.

Below, Bikini Kill perform “Suck My Left One” live in a clip from the 1994 UK video zine “Getting Close To Nothing.”
 

 
After the jump, a recent Kathleen Hanna interview…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.23.2011
04:48 pm
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Unknown Swiss girl-group sings Slade’s ‘Gudbye T’Jane’ in 1974
08.11.2011
03:33 pm
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Sometime in 1974, an unknown, all-girl rock group from Switzerland performed an extremely mild version of Slade’s “Gudbye T’Jane.”  This is very, very Swiss.

Celtic Frost aside, the Swiss are not a people well-known for rocking out, are they? The “Swiss rock” Wikipedia entry is rather short, which is hardly surprising.
 

 
Thank you Douglas Hovey!

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.11.2011
03:33 pm
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Women are the greatest ones
07.31.2011
09:36 pm
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Yes. Yes, we are.

 
(via Nerdcore )

Posted by Tara McGinley
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07.31.2011
09:36 pm
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Sexist vintage ad: ‘Show her it’s a man’s world’
07.25.2011
04:37 pm
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No wonder this turkey’s sleeping in a single bed!

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Extremely sexist ads of yesteryear
Women Are Like Used Cars: Unbelievable sexist ad

(via Sociological Images)

Posted by Tara McGinley
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07.25.2011
04:37 pm
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Come see Bang Bang and Boom Boom at Fireworks Outlet
07.03.2011
09:25 pm
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Look for the huge flag in case you get lost.

(via TDW )

Posted by Tara McGinley
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07.03.2011
09:25 pm
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Richard Morris’ ‘Tyler: The Creator, or an Old Skool Sexist?’
06.19.2011
09:34 am
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Amid the ongoing internet brouhaha surrounding Tyler The Creator’s lyrical content, this article from the website Soundblab is the best I have read on the subject so far, and pretty accurately nails the problems I have with Tyler’s approach to writing about sex and abuse. Yeah, I get that he’s still a kid so hasn’t had a great deal of real life experience in these areas, but like so many of the other excuses brought up in this debate, that’s still pretty weak. Richard Morris writes:

Now, there are three arguments being put forward to explain, excuse and otherwise justify Tyler’s lyrical concerns. These arguments are the same ones which get put forward time and time again when hip hop artists produce dubious lyrics: he’s just reflecting his background; he just repeating what’s everywhere in hip hop culture; he’s playing with a persona. A moment’s reflection is all you need to work out that that last excuse can’t exist with the first two. Either Tyler is honestly reflecting where he comes from and the culture he’s surrounded by, or he’s concocted a character as satire or narrative aid. It can’t be both.

...

However, if you still want to buy into any or all of those arguments listed above, fine, but I have a question for you: where are all the songs by female artists about attacking and raping men? If that seems a ridiculous thing to ponder, ask yourself why. Why does it make sense for a man to rap about raping a woman but not the other way round? The answer, when you pick it apart, is probably that there would be no audience for those kind of songs. Similarly, there’s not much call for songs where gay artists have a go at straight people. No one would buy into that kind of stupid prejudice. Gay activists would condemn it as counter-productive.

Tyler, the Creator has identified an audience and, with the media’s help, he’s milking that for all it’s worth. That audience is primarily made up of white young men. A couple of weeks ago, Hamish MacBain took Tyler to task in the pages of NME, pointing out that Odd Future had bypassed the traditional hip hop audience, instead crossing over quickly to the kind of alternative music fans who read Pitchfork, the Guardian and, hey, Soundblab. It’s exactly these alternative, typically liberal-leaning fans who repeatedly let hip hop artists off the hook when it comes to misogynistic and homophobic lyrics.

For me the problem is not so much that these excuses are not applicable - it’s that twenty years after the release of Death Certificate we’re still having the exact same debate. We’ve not moved on. It’s disheartening to see that popular hip-hop has devolved into a negatized musical format whose primary function is to piss off suburban parents, and where shock tactics outweigh genuine insight. Much of the blame for this can be heaped on the feet of the media, but surely the music is just as much at fault too? Because to me Tyler’s lyrics do not feel in any way transgressive. Really, they don’t, they’re the same old thing I have heard countless times before. If you do think they are transgressive, then I would say you are part of a social group that has thankfully never been subject to the threat of rape or abuse. Tyler’s lyrics simply re-enforce the status quo, and as such they’re just boring.

Read all of Richard Morris’ excellent article here. Soundblab also has another article defending Tyler’s lyrical content, by James Bray, which you can read here.

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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06.19.2011
09:34 am
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Vintage ad for women who have no sex appeal
06.14.2011
01:09 pm
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July 1937 issue of “True Romance”
 
Times have changed: From a different era, when women weren’t expected to achieve—from fashion magazines constantly shoving it down our throats—the unrealistic goal of the “emaciated runway model” look.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite message in this ad. 

(via World of Wonder )

Posted by Tara McGinley
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06.14.2011
01:09 pm
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EFIL4ZTULS: A report from a Slut Walk
06.13.2011
07:59 pm
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My first reaction on hearing of the international “Slut Walk” movement was “brilliant.” About bloody time! What a horribly demeaning word, one loaded with judgement that denies a person the basic enjoyment of their own sexual activities and bodies. “Slut” is rife for reclaiming - because there is no term for a person who enjoys copious amount of sex that is not pejorative. Why not, as other social groups have done in the past, take an already existing term of abuse and strip it of its negative meaning? It’s hard to fathom that the word “slut” still holds so much power in this, the twenty first century. Are we still to feel shame for our sexual desires and appetites? Does Michael Sanguinetti believe that if all women were to suddenly don burkhas all rape would be wiped out? No, because a rapist will commit a rape regardless of what a person is wearing, slutty or otherwise - the risk factors lie with the rapists not the victim.  

So, my partner and I turned out for Slut Walk Manchester on last Friday evening, to show our faces and bodies and in some small way reclaim the place will live as being safe from harassment and abuse. Of course it’s only a small gesture but that in itself does not make it invalid or worthless. By all accounts Manchester is a very protest-friendly city, but the turnout of roughly a thousand was very healthy and exceeded expectations. We walked for over an hour, winding our way through the city centre streets, stopping traffic and emptying public transport. The reaction from passers by was supportive and not negative like I had assumed it would be, and even though no official license had been granted for the march by the council, the police were helpful and friendly, and guided the mass of people on their way rather than hemming them in.
 

 
The crowd was mixed, with a lot of men walking and a good range of ages (though most on the march were young). There were a handful of drag queens and queer activists as well - Manchester has a large gay population and an active male sex industry, so male rape is not uncommon. If I have one gripe it was with the placards handed out to the crowd by the Socialist Worker Party, an act that to me seemingly hijacked an apolitical march for its own ends. The placards read “No Means No” on one side, with “Clarke Must Go” on the other. Sure, Ken Clarke, the British Secretary of State for Justice made some very unwise comments on rape a few weeks ago, but I did not need the SWP to help me call for his resignation, or tell me that my body was my property. It just came across as petty point scoring. Other placards of interest held by members of the march included “Police Rapists, Not My Fucking Wardrobe”, “My Minge My Rules” and “Queer As in Fuck You (But Only If You Consent)”.

At one point during the march I was approached by a man for a cigarette an we got chatting. He seemed not to be of the typical student/protester mould, more a working class guy fond of a few pints, but I had noticed him before and though he might have been one of the organisers. As we were walking he asked me if I had been raped. I answered that thankfully I hadn’t, but I still wanted to show my support as I know people who have. Almost with a sense of confrontational pride he told me that he had been raped, and that it had happened while he was 9 years old and living in care. He asked me what the march was about and if it was specifically for women. He didn’t know what a “Slut Walk” was, he had never heard of it, he just happened to be in town and saw it passing. So I explained about the concept, the reclaiming of the word, and the comments on rape Ken Clarke had made. He kept clarifying that he was not gay - at first I thought this might have had to do the leather gear I was wearing, but soon realised it was more to do with the societal taboo of male rape and this man’s own experience of it. Eventually he turned to me, looked me in the eye and said he had never told another man about this before. I shook his hand. I understood where the confrontation was coming from - it was not with me but it with himself and the fact that he was facing up to a dark part of his own past he had buried for god knows how long. A part he probably would not have faced up to had it not been for the Slut Walk.
 

 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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06.13.2011
07:59 pm
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