Saturday, October 4, 2014

FIERCE Perspective! | Feminism and Abercrombie & Fitch...

She can homerun just as good!   |   Image, @abercrombie IG, Aug. 12
         I WON'T COMPROMISE my point of view. Absolutely not, absolutely not... With iron-fist resolve, neo-feminism has found itself in strong-willed resurgence! A call to arms against an alarming continuance of international silence and abuse on gender equality-issues, as we walk ever further into the 21st century, the topic, what has problematically become an elephant-in-the-room in media and industries in a staunchly androcentric, male-dominated society, has been brought to the very forefront for awareness for all by determined, internationally-renowned public figures to break silence, misunderstanding, ignorance and human injustice.

Inhuman wrongdoings degrading the physical, emotional, and psychological state of women and girls across the planet is a real-life occurrence 'round the clock that's not an issue just in developing nations, but in the developed world, too. In your own backyard. You may not be in awareness of what happens outside your immediate circle, but wherever you go daily, you more than likely pass the face of someone, once or more a day, who's been facing some degree of abuse. But we're not just talking about abusive acts that generally come to mind on the matter, like physical and verbal. Being forced to conform to, and compromise for, male preferences, interests and agendas and to a repressive, submissive role replete with stupid, backward notions of a woman's role in society is abuse also.

The thing is, as Emma Watson mentioned during her headlining speech at the UN, this isn't just a one-sided thing, and "feminism" isn't just for women but also for men as well. Feminism is, in umbrella definition, "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes," and, in essence, goes against the social constructs, developed by a millenniums-long androcentric collective culture, that have had damaging effects at large, across space and time, in human history. The whole notion that masculinity is full-on solely aggressiveness, insensibility, and dominance is a sociopsychological construct – basically developed, literally constructed, along polarized perceptions of what a man "should be" and is carried on by enforcing it upon on the succeeding generation in complete disregard for their personal individual nature. How come when boys grow up they have to stop holding hands, stop full-embracing each other warmly, can't kiss, can't be openly emotional and sensitive when the sentiment to do so appropriately naturally arises out of need. Oh, because it's "gay". Oh, because it's what girls do because it's not what men do. It's bullshit. It's guys placing on the construct straightjacket, having been slipped into it by established conformist-norms (from the precedent generations) while growing up into manhood, and telling the other dude that he has to keep in place in it because it's how it is and should be. Think of how older generation men firmly instill general polar, one-shade, onerous masculinity constructs onto the younger, rising set: from growing-into-manhood in American suburbia to the warzones overseas where young boys are given guns in hands (there's an basic element of this that is just generally prevalent, regardless, in cultures around the world – aggressiveness, insensitivity, dominance and at arms with some sense of bruteness – but within regional social contexts). The issue increases in families, communities, and cultures in general worldwide with further high levels of machismo. Human nature can't be strictly polarized – this-and-that, black-and-white. No, it's a natural spectrum and trying to black-and-white polarize, as has been done for centuries, is unnatural and oppressive and conflictive within oneself and everyone around...

"To date, I've seen my father's role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother's. I've seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help from fear of it making them less of a man. In fact, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men between [ages] 20 to 49 eclipsing road accidents, cancer, and coronary heart disease. I've seen men made fragile and insecure by [the] distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don't have the benefits of equality either. We don't often talk about men being imprisoned by male stereotypes, but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don't have to be aggressive [all the time] in order to be accepted, women won't feel compelled to be submissive. If men don't have to control, women don't have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining ourselves by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be free-er." – Emma Watson, actor and United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, September 21, 2014

People generally have no idea how far and wide this goes, on into sexuality, the existence of war and conflict, and opens the floodgates to everything, feminism. And for the record, something you should have gotten the hang of by now, feminism doesn't equate "effeminacy" or being "against the guys" / anti-men/male – a misconception that discourages people, men and women, from taking initiative on the matter and being open about it because they think it may likely alienate them. As aforementioned, it's, simply put, gender equality pro for both in balance. And perhaps the reason that there's an uncanny feeling about it among guys is because, subconsciously, many may feel it as a threat or disturbance against their masculinity – the construct of it as "things should be" as taught to them – and place in society and advantageous dominant role in it. It's just not so.

At Abercrombie & Fitch, quite frankly, it's always been a "boy's club" for the majority of time in its history. Having been founded as an exclusive sporting goods store in 1892, this more held ground at a time when women wouldn't even get suffrage until 1920 in America and would still mold their lives to the will of men in society well into post-WWII conformity in the national culture. One is typically the reflection of one's time. A&F did introduce womenswear in 1910 and would even relocated off of Reade Street in 1913 because of it being inconvenient for women to shop at. But still, women were just the ladies in what was all a male-dominated world. With the arrival of Mike Jeffries by the turn of the new millennium, Abercrombie & Fitch was transformed into a multi-billion retail theater awe of a fantasy revolving around the youthful, chiseled ideal male. Commentators would criticize the A&F of the 2000s as perpetuating stereotypes of the scoring hot jock guy always admired, winning, witty and getting some and of the explicitly-promiscuous easy girl as a cute, dumbed-down darling plaything in guydom – "Who Needs Brains When You've Got These," said that one immortalized tee of many other over-the-years humor tees for young women. By the filing (2003) and settlement (2004-05) of the landmark Gonzalez v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. lawsuit, sexism, along with the greater issue of multifaceted discrimination within the chain, primarily ethnic, was immediately addressed and, in effect, gave rise to the diversity and inclusion programs, placed at the forefront of corporate culture, which evolved to where they stand today in the Company. There is zero tolerance for discrimination and inequality at the Company. Needless to say, you won't be seeing tees on the level of good humor as what was in the 2000s again.

Nevertheless, Abercrombie & Fitch is still explicitly androcentric but in a curious and benign way which, when explained, would likely perplex the feminist. First and foremost, A&F is the brainchild of a gay man. A genius man, but its important to note Mike's orientation because what he has done is one of the most paramount achievements in modern culture. It's been impactful. Truthfully, Mike's Abercrombie & Fitch is a paradoxical triumph in that regard which has, unknowingly with feminist underpinnings tied to male liberation, broken all the rules of masculinity constructs: it is the creation of a gay man which went multi-billion in getting guys across the spectrum worldwide to shop and obsess over its male-fronted image with testosterone-driven energy and romanticism; all-the-while they pillaging its stores plastered and staffed with half-naked sculpted beefcake inline with its ideal androcentrism, breathing in and reacting positively to the male-musk heavy fragrant air, in a sensual environment furthermore dim-lit and blasting majorly bright, sensual, fun pulsing electronic dance music; and all the girls get to just watch, enjoy, shop-into and obsess over this overtly amusing display of fantasy that excites them and which, while centered around the male, even more turns the tables on sexualization in marketing. It's the most genius, amusing thing in history. Ever. It's truly a real, monumental tableturner on what has been constructed for years by straight, conformist, industries-dominating males out there to which we've been told is "what is" because it is. Mike's, a real groundbreaking triumph. And the beauty about it: "I think that what we represent [...] is healthy. It’s playful. It’s not dark. It’s not degrading! And it’s not gay, and it’s not straight, and it’s not black, and it’s not white. It’s not about any labels. That would be cynical, and we’re not cynical! It’s all depicting this wonderful camaraderie, friendship, and playfulness that exist in this generation and, candidly, does not exist in the older generation," he told Denizet-Lewis in the recognized journalist's benchmark interview article, "The Man Behind Abercrombie & Fitch".

Still, though, it's not like A&F is not subject to conformity. It was considerably more open and candid during the 2000s and during the A&F Quarterly period (1997-2003) – this including full on guy embracing and play in photography; article on circle masturbation with male friends; photo of reclining on a sofa, one shirtless, against the other; all-bare sports guys having a full-on romp in the showers with grins on face; another with a shirtless-two-guys one-girl trio on the beach, middle guy standing with the two resting against him facing him, guy on the left with a soft, closed-eyes smile with chin on middle-guy's shoulder, girl with a sweet smile, arms around middle-guy and gazing ahead behind him; and just acting out in genuine camaraderie – as captured by the lens of the master Bruce Weber. The brand has generally been more liberal within the pages of the Quarterly which had further releases for Spring 2008 and Back-to-School/Fall 2010 (which actually featured a same-sex playful male couple and another female couple which kissed). But that's where it has fallen short in recent years. No guys kissing in the 2010 edition, yet only the girls. Then in 2012, A&F made headlines like "Abercrombie Coming Out of the Closet" after Bruce released his set of films, utilizing work he had created for Abercrombie & Fitch, of which one featured two guys kissing and mistaken as a direct A&F piece. The short film in question was Other Sports Require One Ball, Wrestling Requires Two, and it was just a kiss on the forehead – a hands-grabbing-his-face, very well full-lips-planted kiss on the forehead – but just a damn forehead kiss. Media then proceeds trip over itself in "gay-kiss" hooplah. Abercrombie was not delayed at all in immediately stating it was not a footage released among the marketing for its brand. Furthermore, the Company has lately been loving rolling out photos of threesomes with the guy always arms full of two girls all over his ass (figuratively speaking). Also, there was a tee at Hollister this year that stated "Group Text" (way to encourage teen sex, by the way! Unwanted, life-altering, pregnancy rates included!) with a male gender-figure with a bunch of female gender-figures on each side of him. Can't do that for girls though: can't have a girl in similar fashion with dudes around her arm because she'd be considered a "slut"; can't have tees like that for girls either because, again, slut-shaming. If you can't do it for both genders, don't even do it at all. Plain and simple. Too, there's rarely any pics on the Instagram accounts of male friends together in genuine, warm, expressive friendship. Ah, but plenty of girls. (Doing so instead of giving example that it is natural and healthy is malignant and perpetuates the issue). In group photos in marketing, males just standing around shoulder-to-shoulder with some kinda look on their face, but the girls can be embracing and smiling in each others arms and shit. Why all that. What went wrong? What ever happened to not being cynical? Conformism. In a male-dominated culture, it's completely conforming to unnatural, repressive polar masculinity constructs and not wanting to create an uncanny feeling in male audiences and over including two explicitly kissing dudes (in regard to the Quarterly pics). And funny enough, girls are the ones who generally don't give a fuck; it's majorly guys insecure of their manhood – if you are who you are, you should be confident and not give a fuck; and if all guys understood that and were free from these constructs, they wouldn't go around shaming and bullying other dudes for acting out of the conformist constructs and no guy would feel pressured and awkward in the first place to just be free and go with their inherent, natural emotional and psychological instincts. Remember the whole "guys are supposed to be aggressive against each other", "guys don't do that" male-construct bullshit. Guys can't do that (embrace, kiss, whatever the hell may come up to them, everyone's different), even with playing around, even with it being naturally healthy, otherwise they're straight-up "gay". Oh, but because they are girls and girls have are supposed to have sensible, submissive natures, it's less uncanny. It's complete monosexualization of male sexuality through pervasive, onerous masculinity constructs carried on; it's another example polarization, a double-standard, emotionally, psychologically, sexually oppressive and real fucking pathetic and annoying (and is an example of one aspect of problems afflicting masculinity when there is talk about male liberation). Specially when your audiences are supposed to be young adults which now comprises majorly of the Millennial generation considerably more open-minded and indifferent and accepting – the most progressive generation in history, and polls and studies on various subjects only reflect this strongly. We're for equality for all, inclusion, and reflecting the natural spectrum of the human condition, not perpetuating polar, one-shade gender constructs on roles and sexuality purely out of easy conformity. It is very dangerous, damaging, and backward when public figures – whether persoanlities or corporations themselves – conform instead of working, easing to be 100% progressive on all facets in line with what's going on in the world at large. The greatest shame being when you had and showed more initiative in the past to be groundbreaking, innovative, noteworthy and now no longer, and that's just the greatest sign of being cool no more.

What Emma Watson is spearheading is #HeForShe – starting a movement in bringing guys of all ages into the discussion on feminism because it is inseparably, incontrovertibly about guys, too. It's never been done before as an important leg in the movement; it's revolutionary. Bridging the gap, decimating misunderstandings and ignorance, and standing together for a better world free of personal emotional, psychological, social and economic oppression by gender constructs and injustice...for all, for no matter who you are (gender, ethnicity, orientation, whatever), it's about you, too. That's why it's important to talk about this and bring this to the awareness of all: "If not me, who? If not now, when?" Feminism has happened in historiographically chronicled waves with each its own issues tackled in correlation with waves' time and building and progressing on the precedent – the First, Second, and Third waves and, now, this feels like the beginnings of a distinct Fourth wave taking hold markedly with resolve in bringing in everyone truly tied to this for an unprecedented inclusive effort. It's for making an impact in turning the tide on realizing gender equality concretely by way of male liberation and the recognition of women's rights as fundamental human natural rights...

The resurgence of feminism throughout 2014....

Beyoncé highlights feminism in her track "Flawless" on her
December 2013-released eponymous album. Song becomes a pop culture hit
throughout 2014 particularly with its "I woke up like this" lyrics.

First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, expresses call to action
and discontent over the kidnapping of Nigerian girls, from their school dormitories,
merely to deprive them of their education for being girls. #BringBackOurGirls became
an international movement by public figures for aid, and it amplifies discussion over
the pressing global issue of gender inequality in education particularly
heightened after the courageous incident with Malala Yousafzai in
the Middle East in 2012 and whom the First Lady met in 2013.
1  0     M  A  Y     2  0  1  4

Angelina Jolie, actor and UNHCR Special Envoy, opens the End Sexual Violence
in Conflict summit in London with British First Secretary of State William Hague.
Summit addresses resolve to combat rape, a terror act, in wazones.
1  0     J  U  N  E     2  0  1  4

Victims testimonials session.   |   Image, AP (source)

Emma makes groundbreaking, internationally
news-making gender-equality speech at the United Nations.
Seen here with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
Image,   |   (source)
2  1     S  E  P  T  E  M  B  E  R     2  0  1  4

Amid Watson's speech fresh in mind worldwide, Karl Lagerfeld sends his models
down "Boulevard CHANEL" (conceived much prior) as feminists (the ideal a deep part of
the heritage of the House), walking to the Pet Shop Boys' "I'm Not Afraid", inside the
Grand Palais during Paris Fashion Week for Spring-Summer 2015 ready-to-wear.
Image, used for illustrative purposes only, screenshot   |   (source)
3  0     S  E  P  T  E  M  B  E  R     2  0  1  4

This all has now carried over into October which is National Bullying Prevention month and during which one can take initiative to extend it further to address forms of abuse through bullying due do negative gender ideologies and attitudes thereof against guys and girls who "do not fit" the oppressive cookie-cutter constructs of masculinity and femininity. (See anti-bullying-efforts-with-A&F post at #THEHOTTESTBLOG including men's and women's A&F tees and tanks for anti-bullying and strong character).

Furthermore, there are these great graphic tops, on the women's side, that have a real cool feminist edge for girls (muscle tanks to boot!)...

T H E   G O O D S

And finally, THE Abercrombie & Fitch feminist-streak / badass power-anthem track which was featured on the Back-to-School 2011 playlist...

The main message of the track is female personal strength, but its underlining message of empowerment as an individual is transcendent of gender and applicable to all...

"Told myself I won't complain,
But some things have got to change.
Not gon' be a victim of
All your social push and shove.
Right or wrong, you judge the same.
My picture never fit your frame.
What you thought, you'll never know:
You can't see me with your mind closed!

...All my people say, everybody say,
absolutely not, absolutely not!"

This – feminism and the basis of #HeForShe – is for our ourselves (guys and girls), our mothers, our sisters, our friends, our peers, our fellow members of our greater community, and for our generational successors, (future) children and grandchildren and on! What you do today and now has a ripple affect across space and time, and let's counteract the negative agents in the world and make it for the greater good. Take a stand for gender equality, acceptance of the natural spectrum of individual nature, and against abuse! #WEAREONE #BeAnAlly

As always, Stay FIERCE!