CW/TW: suicide, violence, gender identity
It only took a month for me to reach a place where I disagree with the sentiment of my last post. My blog remains a valueless platform for 'creative expression,' but no longer do I see that in an unconditionally positive light. My contention before was that having liberated my blog from financial expectations, self-elected opportunities for more innovative editorial spreads would emerge and constructively challenge me. Yes, fashion blogging will now require more independent effort from me and thereby expose a version of myself working under circumstances that demand a deeper, more genuine, more meaningful commitment. But how could that possibly be a good thing? Why is my creative expression more important than my ethics?
I struggle with the concept of a moral fashion blog. What would that look like? Certainly not this. Even in posting flattering photos of myself wearing non-sponsored garments, I promote the image of a product and contribute to its relevance, and by syllogism, to consumer demand. By making a commodity "look pretty," I become a tacit ambassador of it. I glamorize it, I persuade people to buy it or at least something similar. How can I consider myself a moral person when I have such an intimate relationship with consumerism? I volunteer material inspiration by beautifying anything that can be purchased.
Another voice in my head suggests that photographing myself in secondhand apparel would be less immoral because it wouldn't convenience my readers - at least not as much as a hyperlinked fast-fashion outfit that could be bought in several clicks or located in several hours. But even secondhand apparel can be 'fast,' as we've all seen our share of Urban Outfitters graphic tees and Topshop pullovers at Goodwill. Still, I am contributing to market demand for those items. I am doing nothing to slow down the production of them.
So by now you're wondering why isn't Bebe doing less talking and more deleting to honor her ethical praxis??? Good question. For the month that I spent deluged in self-hatred for having ever entered this harrowing trade, I had every intention of shutting FTBH down for good and finding another work-from-home profession. But yesterday I was struck with an incredible realization -- my praxis is more nuanced than this. While I might see clothing as a mostly superfluous luxury, others see it as a crucial layer of survival. It is not fair that I privilege my critique over the testimony of those who contend that without fashion, they cannot present themselves as the vision they feel on the inside.
Despite my hesitation to work within the parameters of first world materialism, I recognize that in doing so I might help more than hinder. I cannot ignore the obvious consequences of systematic oppression on people who deserve a chance to live free from violence. Yes, in continuing to advertise for unethical companies I am complicit in material exploitation. But there are ways that I can alchemize this platform to directly and immediately benefit my community. There are ways to simultaneously assist my duty to reduce waste by recycling apparel. And there are ways to launch this blog up and out of the wasteful fast fashion practices with which it is currently associated. I'm not going to throw out a tremendously useful tool with the potential to materially help queer and transgender folk, especially my LGBTQ sisters of color.
Transgender people are disproportionately pushed into poverty due to inescapable institutional and personal discrimination. They are disproportionately assaulted in public and private. They often fear for their lives when they do so little as step outside, knowing that if they don't pass well enough, they will be found out and viciously attacked. Just this year, seven transwomen were murdered. We're only two fucking months into 2015. As a consequence of society's willingness to reject, alienate, abuse and kill those who do not conform to cishet sexuality and gender identity, the rate of attempted suicides among transgender folk exceeds 41%. This is a crisis.
This information is pertinent for several reasons.
1) I do not identify as cis. I am genderfluid and sick of pretending to be a person I'm not to avoid conflict. Sometimes I feel very feminine and present/refer to myself as a woman (she/her). Other times I feel completely devoid of both femininity and masculinity. On those days I prefer to present/refer to myself as androgynous (they/them). I would like to finally incorporate this fluctuating element of my personhood into my blog because it's ME. I can't blog transparently or even confidently when I'm not truly showing you the core of my being. If you feel uncomfortable about this confession... well then. See that little red X on the top right corner of your screen? Yeah. Click the shit out of that. You're polluting my private space faster than a polyester factory in Taiwan.
2) While I don't experience the dread of being found out in public because I am cis presenting, my transgender brothers and sisters do. And because they are statistically likely to make significantly less money at work than their straight/white/cis/male coworkers (or not be employed at all), they are less likely to be able to afford essential clothing that helps them pass. They also are less likely to have the free time to go sifting through racks at department stores and boutiques. My transgender sisters need access to clothes way more than I do, and I have the means to acquire *plenty* as a fashion blogger. Shutting down this blog means dispensing of an indefinite opportunity to help transgender people express themselves through contemporary style. (I'll explain how in a second.)
While being complicit in the violence of fast fashion sucks, it is only temporary as I can eventually level up and attract sponsorships from companies that offer higher quality apparel - items that don't need to be replaced every season and subsequently reduce the likelihood of buying more. My goal right now is to develop and share as much content as I can in an effort to quickly 'move out' of fast fashion and acquire those valuable goods. Of course it isn't me who needs them; it is the systematically disadvantaged who do. After styling sponsored items for my blog/Instagram, I will be donating as much of them as I can to transwomen either individually or through my local LGBTQ center in Las Vegas. The fraction of garments that I keep for myself will be liquidated to fund modest expenses like bus fare and website maintenance. As for the obvious -- I know that I am petite, but I can rock an XL with the right accessories. (Seriously though, I will try to source apparel in as many different sizes as I possibly can.) I'll post more info about this soon as it is currently the entire driving force behind maintaining Fated To Be Hated.
Given an (undisclosed) disability, there is not much I can do with my time besides blog. There are also few options for me in the income-generating department since I cannot be counted on to reliably interact with the world, face to face, voice to voice, or even screen to screen. If I'm going to keep this job, I must find a way to reconcile the arteries that frustrate me with the avenues that empower others. I'm not going to squander an opportunity to potentially reduce someone's dysphoria by offering the comfort of visual consistency. I know that on days when I feel especially androgynous, a unisex outfit can easily unite my external with my internal and relieve me of self-alienating malaise. Giving the transgender community more sartorial options is, in my opinion, the most helpful thing I can do with my access. This new direction motivates me to approach fashion differently, to be more selective about my collaborators, and to always consider the wants and needs of those with less liberty or leisure. I am eager to see how repurposing this space will develop as I progress, and even more excited about the joy free apparel will bring my wonderful and deserving community.
Slowing down the current rate of consumerism takes time and is something I can work on and within forever. It is not at odds with my more immediate goal to make life easier and more enjoyable for transgender people. My blog is never going to be morally perfect. And despite my earnest efforts it may never be ethical either. But it's something I can do. I hope you all can understand my critique of fast fashion and simultaneous willingness to exploit it for the benefit of others. If you think there's something I can do better, or you disagree with my approach, or you found this blog post to be problematic, I urge you to send me an email. bebe zeva at gmail dot com.
Everything is infinite (but some infinities are more infinite than others),