Signal Boost: Haute Couture and Sailor Moon

US American reporter and translator Angelica Frey posted an article yesterday on “Sailor Moon’s Fashion from Christian Dior to Theirry Mugler” on Jezebel. This is a great read on the intersection of East Asian storytelling and graphic novels, European fashion, and the US American market in the 1990s. If just one of those topics interests you, I highly recommend her article on Jezebel.

Link:https://theattic.jezebel.com/the-haute-couture-history-of-sailor-moon-1844488914?utm_campaign=Jezebel&utm_content=1598886989&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR2uAsHH8vdbHWB7sklYKZbG1gB-8whTy69wU595Xu5apsZlqdI6NQdWcWw 

A stylized drawing of Sailor Moon wrapped in pink ribbons

Thai Protesters use Harry Potter Symbols to Rebuke Government

Image of Thai protesters with Wands Up Harry Potter gesture from The Guardian

Image from Photograph: Sopa/Rex/Shutterstock via The Guardian

A series of protests and rallies have spread across Thailand, condemning the government. The protesters, many of them high-school and university-aged young people, are using art to circumnavigate the lèse-majesté laws in place, making it a crime to defame, insult, or simply criticize the royal family. By using the images, symbols, and narratives in Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, protesters can critique a government which has acted in eerily parallel to the books’ plots:

  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned King Rama X of Thailand in 2016, and later the Palace led a campaign that changed the constitution to give the king increased emergency powers.
  • The Thai Crown is closely linked with the Thai military, as the king now has personal control over several influential army units and the Prime Minister previously led a military coup
  • Police have increasingly harassed activists
  • Nearly ten dissidents who have fled the country have “disappeared,” and at least two are confirmed dead
  • Public school students face stricter behavior and personal appearance guidelines set forth by the government.

The imagery and language of Harry Potter are being used by the protestors to call out their government. Many protesters use “Wands Up” gestures using prop wands or glowing cellphone flashlights to evoke imagery of the final battle for Hogwarts against the Deatheaters in the penultimate book. Some dress in Gryffindor colors or witch/wizard robes. A few dress as Deatheaters and hoist gilded gold framed images of Lord Voldemort– gold being the color of The Crown in Thailand.

The youngest protesters also use other art forms to tell their stories. The New York Times published a photograph of high-school-aged children performing the Mockingjay Salute. Their article also explains a piece of performance art by one such child protester: she was tied to a chair, a pair of scissors on her lap. Audience members (fellow protesters) are instructed by a nearby sign to cut her hair to the government-mandated crop length– even with the bottom of her earlobe.

Hundreds of young protesters use pop culture iconography, imagery, and narratives to indirectly criticize their government that limits free speech. It is indisputable, at least in Thailand, that art continues to be a powerful tool against oppression.

 

Sources + Read More: 

 

#AintNoCinderella: The Power of a Selfie and a Slogan

Earlier this week, the hastag #AintNoCinderella went viral in India following an incident of a young woman being harassed and then victim shamed. Varnika Kundu went out on the town on Friday night, August 4. At the end of the night, she was harassed by two young men who then followed her when she fled in her car, attempting to make her stop and trying to enter her car several times. She wrote about the harrowing experience in a public Facebook post, thanking the police who helped save her from being kidnapped and urged women to be vigilant against attacks.  One local politician victim-blamed her by stating that she should not have been out late at night.

Public outcry against misogyny and classism was immediate, and only increased in fervor once it became clear that one of the two young men allegedly involved was the son of another local politician.

The viral hashtag #AintNoCinderella, often accompanied by selfies of young women in clubbing outfits, has become a rallying cry by young Indian women to exercise their basic human right to safety no matter what time of day. Every tweet is a micro-effort to battle violence against women, and the overall effect is bringing to light the persistent issues of classism and sexism in a country that had elected and reelected a female head of state in 1966 and 1980.

 

Sources:

The Burkini Debate Spreads to Italy, Australia, and the USA

The debate over the rights of women to wear modest, full-body swimwear is spreading like wildfire over social media and news sites.  Twitter and Facebook posts reached a fever-pitch after a well-documented incident involving a French Police officer ordering and forcing a woman to disrobe on a beach. Images and commentary are trending across all platforms, and mainstream media including CNN and the New York Times are offering more in depth journalism on the topic.   The Times article interviews the Australian designer of the Burkini, who defends her design. She is not alone–Italian author Barbie Latza Nadeau examined the duplicitous nature of the argument, pointing out that Catholic Nuns have never been shunned from beaches for wearing conservative garments while enjoying the sea and sand.

Worldwide outrage and censure of the “Burkini Ban” continue to gain momentum, and the tide does not seem to be turning anytime soon.

Sources/Links:

Facebook:  Image of French Police Officer and Woman he ordered to disrobe https://www.facebook.com/Thei100/photos/pcb.986202944825665/986202511492375/?type=3&theater

Twitter: “The Burkini Ban is Sexist and This Poignant Tweet Shows Why Its So Awful” http://www.bustle.com/articles/180372-the-burkini-ban-is-sexist-this-poignant-tweet-shows-why-its-so-awful?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=owned&utm_campaign=feminismbustle

New York Times article “Burkini is ‘Freedom and Happiness’ Australian Inventor Says”  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/world/australia/burkini-ban-france-aheda-zanetti.html?_r=0

CNN: “Police in Nice Force Woman to Remove Part of Clothing”  http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/24/europe/woman-burkini-nice-beach-incident-trnd/

Italian Author for The Daily Beast: “Where is the Outrage over Nun Beachwear”
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/21/where-s-the-outrage-over-nun-beachwear.html

 

Fashion vs the Government: The Burkini Debate

Over ten years ago, a Muslim woman created the “burkini”-  a full-body, loose wetsuit that would allow active Muslim women to swim while upholding ideas of Islamic modesty. Today, the burkini is a point of contention and debate across Europe. Outright bans in Germany, backlash in Britain, and, a few days ago, runaway public censure in France, all center around the conservative swimsuit.

Getty Images Burkini Stock Photo

In Germany, the mayor of small town Neutraubling banned the swimsuit from public swimming pools under the guise of “hygiene concerns.” His claim was undermined by the rest of his statement, as he segued into victim blaming, questioning women’s choice to wear the modest wetsuit: “Why it is necessary to wear a burkini at a ‘ladies only’ evening? I don’t understand.”  (Source: Express)

Earlier this year, British multinational retailer Marks and Spencer came under attack for stocking the burkini. Politicians from the EU reprimanded the marketing decision as bowing to “misogynists.” One politician, Laurence Rossignol, stated: [Marks and Spencer] are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up.”  Domestically, there was a similar backlash in the press. Telegraph reporter Allison Pearson opined, “It is yet more dismaying evidence that our own culture has failed to stick up for itself and is allowing misogynist attitudes to sneak in under the radar.” (Source: Telegraph)

These instances of xenophobia and religious intolerance, masked by “anti-misogyny” language, only result in the further enslavement and disenfranchisement of a group they allegedly seek to “free.”  

Just this past week, a French waterpark (SpeedWater) in Les Pennes-Mirabeau  was sharply criticised for its “Burkini Day,” which sold out. The mayor of two nearby Marseille districts, Valerie Boyer incited protest to this event. In a tweet, she called out anyone who “let” the private event progress as  planned as “accomplices.” (Tweet source). Boyer has also alleged, “Accepting this so-called fashion means we accept communalism [communautarisme] in our country.”

It is important to note that Boyer is not a member of the National Front, which has international infamy for its xenophobic platform, but from the more moderate center-right group called The Republicans, which is currently headed by previous French President, Nicholas Sarkozy. Her views are reflective of that party, even when she states that allowing women to wear a burkini “is…a question of women’s dignity, a question of our most fundamental principles.” (Source: BBC )

 Most succinctly, a French citizen retorted to reporters, “Today in France, you are free to sell your body but if you just want to hide your curves to go to the beach, it’s a problem and requires a veto. What’s all the fuss about?”

In “free” Western Europe, Muslim women are disempowered and disenfranchised by those who claim that their clothing and fashion choice is incorrect, divisive, or even “unhygienic.”  It is a long road to pluralism, and the amount of hate and debate surrounding a simple swimsuit is indicative of the amount of work to be done for Europe to be truly multicultural. 

 

Sources:

 

Additional Links:

  • My previous engagement on the idea of “communautarisme” in France: “Is France Allergic to Multiculturalism?
  • BBC’s overview of European opinions on the Veil: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-13038095