Regular readers of this blog will know that I go back and forth when it comes to this whole fashion thing.
Some days I see it as an amazing tool for creativity and transformation, that wielded with the correct eye and skill, affords the capacity to “become” a different person each day or the week. Other days, I believe it encourages us to invest too much into appearances, peddling the myth that “if only we were beautiful enough, fashionable enough, thin enough, our lives would magically become better.” Not to mention reinforcing the idea that a woman’s value - her fabulousness - can be found in how she looks.
On this particular day, I find myself sitting somewhere in the middle. I do think that our perception of what it “fashionable” hinges as much on adherence to a narrow body type (and wealth, obvs) as it does on creativity and aesthetic nous. But I also think that some of the outfits worn on the pavements outside the major fashion weeks are incredible, and I respect the visual intelligence of the women and men who put them together. I certainly don’t have it myself!
And I am fascinated by what International Herald Tribune editor Susie Menkes calls the “peacocking” side of fashion, the degree to which what we currently and collective perceive as “stylish” is driven by what is photographable and shareable on social media. So I decided to head down to London Fashion Week a couple of weeks ago to check out the scene and write about it for Daily Life.
Here is a taster of what I came up with:
“A mix of social media, digital photography, and reality TV culture have turned fashion professionals like Vogue Japan’s Anna Dello Russo, fashion retailer Moda Operandi’s Taylor Tomasi Hill, Wonderland Magazine’s Julia Sarr-Jamois and Vogue Australia fashion director Christine Centenera into international celebrities, whose images are sought out by photographers, sold for cash, and reproduced and emulated by fashion fans online, on websites such as Pinterest, Polyvore and Tumblr.
And while the scene at Somerset House isn’t all fringed caps and oversized cat’s heads, there is a uniformity of purpose to the pin-thin heels, oversized accessories, designer logo t-shirts, and bare legs in near-freezing temperatures. They are dressing for the camera, and for social media, where he or she with the most dramatic outfit – think Dello Russo’s fruit-shaped hats or Tomasi Hill’s cartoonishly large Comme de Garcon shorts – wins.”
And to leave you, a picture one of my favourite looks from London Fashion Week, from the outstandingly well put together Soraya De Carvalho:
Elsewhere: Street style and the attention economy (Daily Life)
There is a blogger meme going around at the moment called the Next Big Thing, in which writers answer questions about their next big project (usually a book, but not always – one of my nominees is a playwright) each Wednesday, and pass the baton on to five other writers to continue the project the following week.
It’s a great way to learn more about the non-blog-related work of bloggers you already follow, as well as to discover new writers you might like. Last week, I was tagged by Sarah Jansen and now it’s my turn.
Here we go.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
The Sex Myth.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve always loved reading work that puts individual experiences into political perspective – as the adage goes, I believe the personal is political. When I was younger, I cherished books like Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and Bust’s Guide To The New Girl Order. They helped me to make sense of what I was experiencing, and made me feel less alone.
While there are plenty of books published about sex, especially from a feminist or queer theory perspective, there aren’t many that look at the act itself as being social – whether you’re male, female, gay, straight, asexual, cis, trans, whatever. There is a tendency to view sex as being uniquely apolitical, an unfiltered expression of a natural urge. Sex is biological, but it’s also more than that. And I think it’s helpful to understand where our hopes and assumptions come from.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
According to my publisher, it’s an “argument book.” I’d also categorise it as a “feminist book” (although it’s not really about gender), “big ideas book,” and – as is probably apparent by now – non-fiction.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
My “characters” are all real, flesh and blood people, but were the book to be fictionalised for the screen, I could see someone like Emma Stone in the film. Or (more likely) a bunch of currently unknown, but in a few years hip and happening young actors.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Sex is political.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Published by Simon & Schuster. Not until 2014, though.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Two years (once I finish the full draft come February/March 2013). Plus an additional three years of research and interviews.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My friend Monica, to whom the book will be dedicated. I tell her story, as well as my own, in the introduction.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s based on interviews with over 200 people, conducted over three years across three different continents.
Next Wednesday, you’ll see responses from these writers I hereby tag:
There has been a lot of discussion online this week about the fact that Mamamia, the popular Australian “mummy blog” owned by former Cosmopolitan editor Mia Freedman, doesn’t pay its contributors.
Freedman isn’t alone in this – the News Ltd/Rupert Murdoch-owned The Punch does the same, and countless other websites operate on a payment-if-we-commission-you-slash-if-you-ask-for-it-no-payment-if-you-don’t-ask basis to keep their budgets down. Still, as part of a broader pattern of non-payment, it’s disappointing: contributing to a culture of devalued writing and lower quality media.
I’ve been vocal on this blog and elsewhere about the importance of writers getting paid – and getting paid in a manner that will allow them to pay their rent (and more importantly do their research and analysis properly), which is not $50 or even $150 per article – especially when working for profitable, non-struggling media companies like Mamamia and News Ltd.
It’s something I have a vested interest in, obviously, as someone who makes a living from writing, although it’s not something that affects me directly: the vast majority of publications I work for pay properly. Not as much as I would earn as a full time staffer, but enough to sustain me working as a full-time writer for the past 2.5 years (and as a part-time writer for six years before that).
But it is something that affects younger and less seasoned writers, who are looking for a break or “exposure”, and often find that the only places that will publish them are those that pay little or nothing at all.
Writing for free isn’t always a bad thing. As Clementine Ford wrote on Twitter earlier this week (and I agree), it’s good practice: a way to hone your craft and find your voice. Back in the mid-2000s, I used to edit a website that didn’t pay its contributors (it didn’t pay me, either), and most of said contributors are now professional writers in one form or another. Hey, I’m writing for free right now.
But I’m sceptical of claims that the “exposure” you get writing for free will lead to paid work. It might, if you go above and beyond, and the work you produce is of “payable” quality, but most unpaid publications aren’t full of work of “payable” quality. When you don’t pay your contributors, the people who can get paid for their work go elsewhere. And if they don’t go elsewhere, they’re still unlikely to put in the same time and effort they would if you did pay them. (Weirdly, this principle doesn’t apply so much to the blogosphere, which is full of interesting unpaid work, but it does seem to apply to curated websites, unless they position themselves as “prestige” literary brands. Pay peanuts, get monkeys.)
Which is actually my main issue with sites like Mamamia not paying: I don’t think it leads to good content. And as an avid reader of online content, I like to have interesting, meaty, thought-provoking writing to read. But, of course, not everyone has the same taste in “interesting, meaty, thought-provoking writing.”
At first, I figured Mia didn’t pay because she doesn’t have to. She’s got people lining up around the block to contribute to Mamamia for free, and an audience that keeps on growing. Why pay for what media types consider to be “good content,” when that’s not what the audience want?
But then I got thinking more, and thought that maybe the content isn’t the point at all. It isn’t for me, when I visit Mamamia. I don’t go to Mamamia for the articles, which usually don’t tell me anything I haven’t already read somewhere else. I go for the comments; the hundreds of alternatively fascinating and infuriating micro-insights into the mind of Middle Australia. I go to Mamamia to find out what people think – or as the site’s strapline says, “what everyone’s talking about.”
Rather that viewing Mamamia as a conventional publication, it might be better viewed as an online community; a place where people don’t go for a good read, so much as they go for a good talk. The articles are just the stimulus. And rather than viewing Freedman as a conventional publisher, she might be better positioned as a facilitator.
It also puts a different spin on the notion of “exposure” that Mia refers to. Mamamia’s contributors might not be likely to launch writing careers from their work on the site (unless, as before, they are exceptions), but if you’re already an active participant in the community, there is a thrill in sharing your experiences with it; in being the person to lead the “dinner party conversation”.
None of this automatically means that Mamamia contributors shouldn’t be paid (see this article on paying citizen journalists), but it does provide a different spin on the service the website provides. It positions Freedman not as an exploitative publisher seeking out labour she doesn’t pay for, but as a facilitator providing a for-profit platform for a community to interact with one another.