I saw a NYTimes article today about different summer camps that enforce a “no body-talk” rule. Meaning, no talking about how someone looks, positive or negative. Meaning, no complementing someone’s new dress or great hair, no saying that shirt looks bad on you, no talking about your own body really.
On Friday afternoon, when the campers, girls and boys from 8 to 17, are dressed in white and especially polished for the Sabbath, they refrain from complimenting one another’s appearances. Rather, they say, “Your soul shines” or “I feel so happy to be around you” or “Your smile lights up the world,” Ms. Stadlin said. – full article here
This immediately clicked for me and put a word to a weird feeling I’ve been having. I love talking about bodies, I love talking about clothes and I love when people look good and feel good. But there’s something that I’ve noticed especially on instagram and facebook (that I’ve totally taken part in) where powerful ladies complement each other by saying “babes!” or “hottie alert!” or “you look great girl!” It’s mildly ok when my female peers say something like this to me, but when someone I hardly talk to makes a similar comment, or if the commentator is male, it automatically feels weird.
It’s basically Feminism 101 — feeling objectified and like I am only seen as my body — but what surprised me or felt new was realizing how I am so deeply entrenched in this and am adding to it everyday. I don’t actually think that calling my amazingly beautiful friends “hotties” empowers them or makes them feel great. It’s just like a random thing to say. I feel weird being part of the system that just looks at people (because it isn’t just a female thing) as how we look. because really that’s not what i’m complementing them on anyways.
Furthermore it got me thinking about the clothes I’m making. I’ve always felt weird about making clothes — it’s why I’ve held off actually declaring that I’m making a real clothing line for so long. It feels so silly ! Clothes are for insecure fashion obsessed lame-os! Clothes aren’t going to change the world! And on top of that, many of the clothes I make are sexy in some way. I feel powerful in being sexy, in being powerful in my body, in talking about bodies, in being conscious of my body. But the context around this is what’s upsetting me.
I don’t really have a coherent conclusion or answer, it’s the start of an inquiry. I want my clothes to empower the wearer beyond having them feel sexy or good, like a nicely fitting dress or a new pair of shoes that some random stranger on the street complements as you walk by — “Oh cool shirt you look great today!” That’s nice and all, but that’s not what I’m going after.
There’s something to this “no body talk” rule and I’m going to take it on, WHILE ALSO making clothes and talking about bodies. There’s an intersection here somewhere and I think that is where I’m most excited to go — not into making custom clothing, not into making costumes for plays, not into making sewing workshops — going into a place where the clothes we wear naturally allow us to easily share our selves underneath these skins.
Your thoughts welcome.