"New Cities of Tolerance and Creativity"


I have been feeling like I want to wear a black beret again. A beret and a black leather jacket.  Once again I am up for a fight. When I was a younger social worker who frequented some very tough neighborhoods and advocated for and with young women and girls who were experiencing and speaking out about sexual and physical abuse, a black beret and leather jacket was my uniform. Triggering this of course is the current (and not so current like last year) news and stories of prominent men sexually harassing and assaulting women and the general regressive political pull to the past. These memories are also evoked by the cool and strong girls wearing berets in the Fall 2017 Dior campaign as I dream and think about my Fall wardrobe and the story I want to tell, the identity I want to emphasize.

Perhaps fight is not the right word, as I don't feel that is always a productive solution. Perhaps strong, or resilient is a better word, one that better conveys the harnessing of productive power, one that transforms. Something like what I have witnessed in the post-traumatic growth of those I have worked with and from whom I have received the gift of what I call "vicarious resilience".  Both social media and fashion have both productive and oppressive uses and I think that perhaps it is time for me to be more thoughtful about how to use my project to do some creative transforming. Although, without any intent, my project has been able to empower many to take risks and be strong about being themselves, regardless of what social category society says you are, now perhaps the time has come to be more intentional. 

I was taken up short, and for good reason, by an Op-Ed by Chris Wallace on this weekend's bibliography about the "Image Economy" of which I had to admit I am a member in good standing. Calling us all "editors-in-chief of us.com", he maintains we are all creating identities from the same "drop down" menu created pretty much by market forces and not always by us. Some of the time, not all, for me, guilty as charged. For me this presents challenges around authenticity, agency and obsolescence as well as the tension and belief that helping others is not or should not be, compatible with making money. The author believes that what sets the image economy apart (because we have ownership over how and what we project) is that we have "real, revolutionary potential" to change the world. Whether it is modeling new ways to behave (and interact with each other), developing new modes of exchange and to truly be visionaries, the author laments we do not seem to be thinking critically about our power in ways that can build "new cities of tolerance and creativity". 

I think I am going to take Mr. Wallace up on his challenge. I still want to wear my black beret but now it may mean something entirely different.

How might fashion be part of building "New Cities of Tolerance and Creativity"?



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