alexander

most of you who know me know that i’m not very stylish. i do my own thing, but if i manage to look well-put-together, it’s by accident, rather than design.

however, i have always had a secret love for fashion. of a particular ethos. i love the stuff that pushes the boundaries of form and function. of shape and image. of wear and wearable. and, now more than ever, i’m interested in the action of fashion – the behaviour of wearing and the codes of the industry.

and the reason that i’ve had this very small, but burning love is because, when i was 18, i saw a short interview with alexander (lee) mcqueen. vivienne westwood may have been the godmother of punk (and she still is, really), but it was young alexander who showed me that fashion and clothes, and sculptural form could be as seditious as a bar chord and a molotov.

sadly, his suicide has taken another shining, flammable beauty from the world. and, as a friend said today, ‘if an amazing and beautiful genius like that can’t make it in this world, what hope is there for the rest of us?’.

vale alexander mcqueen.

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boys don’t fall in love with feminists. reason why i’m single #465

i had quite an interesting, disturbing and ultimately upsetting discussion with a workmate today. it all started with me questioning the validity of a shaver shop ad posted on the sales noticeboard. the ad has a rather plain looking girl, dressed in christmassy red’n’white striped underwear and over-the-knee socks. kinda like our vanilla elf here. but on her back with her legs in the air. an obvious pose for an ad about razors, i thought. apparently it was hott. with two ts.

in asking why the ad was posted there and its relevance to work, a delicate, but important discussion ensued, covering all the fun stuff:

why it bothered me,
why i was kind of militant about such matters (my silly use of the term militant, really)
whether (and why) i considered myself a feminist,
the fact that men think about sex all the time and the obvious need to accommodate that
the validity of being able to look at ‘things of beauty’
the validity of ‘play’ in discussing or accepting sexuality
whether the image was, in fact, demeaning or disrespectful
why the idea of ‘boys will be boys’ is either valid and/or a crock of shit
and – the real corker – whether i had a boyfriend.

one of the reasons i call myself a feminist is to make sure that these kinds of discussion are had. although, if i’m honest, i’d rather not. i’m sick and tired of these kinds of conversations, really. i wish boys would just get it.

but it seems that my nasty feminist views – my desire to not be simply viewed as either mother or whore (or for my sexual identity to even be part of my identity at work, thanks); to be treated with respect and to have equal rights and responsibility – it seems it turns the boys off. and is (probably) the reason i don’t have a boyfriend. well, according to the lovely insinuations that ended the conversation.

i would like to say that i came back with a witty retort, calling into question his not-so-savoury sexual exploits, or his own lack of a girlfriend. but the reality is that the pipsqueak hit a very sore point – one that i had no idea was there until today.

i recoiled.

it has had me questioning myself all day, which i think is somewhat important for open-mindedness but something that i really wish i didn’t have to do. it’s obvious to me now, hours later, that my sexual life and/or identity is not actually a prerequesite to my basic human right to be treated with dignity. and vice versa.

but it seems that an age of history – of solely identifying women with their sexual nature, doesn’t shift easily. on either side of the gender divide.

UPDATE: after reading mayhem’s fantastic post about her complex relationship with her own marriage and the need for another feminist revolution, i’ve been reminded that the above idea of being ‘coupled’ as the ultimate validation for my opinions and/or sexuality is fucked.

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gender-based human rights

Censored Times

I’ve taken to reading The Economist a bit lately. I don’t know exactly why. But i do get a fascinating picture of what’s going on in the world that feels like it’s largely unbiased, if not surprisingly humanitarian in its focus. Novel idea.

Anyway, there was a fascinating article in it about the definition of a gender. Prompted by the ghastly handling of the South African runner, Caster Semenya the article talks about the lack of definition of a gender in most countries documents of policy, and that the only country to mention it in any kind of report was Australia:

“A rare exception is in Australia, where a Human Rights Commission report in March 2009 recommended that adults should be abllowed to register their sex as “unspecified” on documents such as passports.”

How’s about that?! seems that Australian advisors and policy makers are up there with the Germans and Austrians (who have decreed that surgery is not a prerequist for sex-change). They have recognised that the diversity and openness of gender identification is to be preserved, that it is ultimately bound up in choice – orientation, perhaps – and not necessarily science.

It reminded me of Lesly Turnbull‘s Tomboys series (and the awful policy in Malaysia which outlaws tomboy behaviour) and i almost felt a little bit of pride for our struggling little society here – given our mucho conservativo history here.

Now, if we can just sort out the gender stereotypes that happen in the media here…sigh. Wouldn’t that be nice.

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manweek

lego men and woman

following on from that post about feminism, it seems that there’s a bit of a ‘thing’ going around called ‘manweek’. part of an initiative of reachout.com.au, some of the boy bloggers are expressing their feelings about being a man, in an aim to get boys talking about how they feel about stuff, in an effort to stop the crazy depression/suicide rates of australian men.

and as much as i stand and applaud the initiative (and its fantastic mix of twitter hashtags and radio), i’m going to be challenging some of my boy blogging friends to dig a little deeper yet again. whilst it’s vital to express ones emotions, nostalgia and responses to life, i think it’s also necessary for these particularly articulate mates to also ask questions like ‘why?’ and ‘how?’. why do i care what my father thinks of me? why do i feel it necessary to be extroverted, macho and/or brave? how can i use my feelings to reflect/develop my idea of masculinity? who are my male idols and why?

again, i think it’s about a continual assessment of what identity and gender roles are placed on us and whether that leaves us as human, social beings.

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black wall, white text, feminist discourse.

I’ve been to see a few shows recently and have stumbled upon some recurring themes: white text on black wall; and feminism.

The white text on black wall is really just on the block of Gertrude street that contains Seventh Gallery and Gertrude St Contemporary Artspace.

There’s a series of shows at seventh at the moment that are fantastic and predominantly text based. The first thing you see when you walk into the space is an epic FAIL. As in, a huge F-A-I-L in white on a black wall. Awesome. And then in the back room, it’s spectacularly ordinary: white neon ‘ordinary’ in a black room, by Kristin McIver.

Between the wordplay is also a beautiful project piece that is playing with magnetic force and light, creating a trajectory between a magnet on a rotating motor/crank with LED – a picture of attraction and repulsion. It’s simple, delicate and beautiful.

Then, across the road, the front gallery at Gertrude is lit up and open to see at night (which I love!) work by Newell Harry (“The artist with the first name last and the last name first” – The Art Life), which, as well as an installation of bottles, clay pots and broken glass, is the neon sign reading THENATIVESARERESTLESS coupled with its own anagram in reflection. It’s such a striking diorama, especially in light of these other text pieces across the road.

I love that kind of synchronicity.

And to follow on from that, in the last 2 weeks, there have been 3 – count them – 3 shows about feminism in various galleries about town.

Instructional Guide to Femininity at Jenny Port Galleryis a work by my studio-mate Naomie Sunner and is a fabulous work which critiques fashion and media-based ideas of what it means to be ‘feminine’. Using costume, and more importantly, the idea of the pose, the is like a storyboard of the female gesture – rarely seen in reflected in mainstream images of ‘beautiful’ or ‘feminine’.

There was quite a bit of discussion about feminism and its ideals at the opening – a refreshing change from some of the banal conversation that can creep into such gatherings.

I got a lot out of the show – being a straight girl who very rarely subscribes to the traditional idea of ‘feminine’ and apparently challenges the idea of what it means to be straight, as a consequence. This work reminded me of a time (not all that long ago) when female fashion was all about rejecting a narrow-minded view of gender stereotypes and that blonde-long-hair-big-tits-short-skirts were a fashion faux-pas to be fucked with.

AccidentalFeminists

Over at Kings ARI is a great work –in the form of a publication – Accidental Feminists by Victoria Bennett. This work combines a series of documentary images of incidental or ambient feminist discourse –graffiti in womens’ toilets and various groups of women together – interspersed with 3 essays about feminism in a contemporary setting by Clare Rae, Nella Themelios and Anna Knight. It is almost a curated exhibition in print form and has the perfect balance of fun, intense critical dialectic and pride in feminism as a vital social mechanism.

Accidental Feminists Opening

At the opening, it was fantastic to see people sitting around, reading the publication, discussing feminism and the images/words surrounding it. I had a romantic and/or sentimental moment, imagining that this is what it means have been like in early 20th century paris, sitting around, drinking wine, discussing political theory and contributing to the shaping of society. And then the crowd got too much and I got too hungry, so had to leave. Real life, baby. Real life.
However, it’s great to see that feminism as an important topic of discussion continues to knock on the door in Melbourne.

And then…next week there’s a show at Shifted: Unfixing the Feminine with Meg Andrew, Justine Barlow, Kotoe Ishii & Jade Venus. I’m looking forward to seeing how that relates to these other two shows and to start to experience a city-wide focus on feminism. It’s great to see a resurgence of its presence in ‘output’ and I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a new round of regular discussion about the role of feminism in contemporary life.

image credits:
FAIL by Anthony Sawrey
Lifeless by Kristin McIver
Instructional Guide to Femininity by Naomie Sunner
Accidental Feminists by Victoria Bennett
Unfixing the Feminine from the shifted website

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harassed on the street.

The angry watermelon man

saturday was a hell of a day to be an artist out in public. well, for me anyway.

firstly i went to frankston and, whilst recording sound outside the station, got told i was a wanker and that i should “go back to melbourne, where you belong!”. hmm.. did i have to think about that suggestion for too long? ah, no.

secondly, recording in st.kilda, on grey vs gurner, i had a full-on argument with a ‘concerned’ (read: paranoid) citizen that i was taking photos/video of him and had to rescue my camera from being busted. even after showing him the very tightly cropped footage of me and my laptop, he was being very unreasonable. he threatened to complain to the uni and was unimpressed that i was unwilling to just divulge my name, course, subject, etc because he was unimpressed.

then, the piece de resistance was the effeminate ice-head on chapel st who sidled up to me (photographing headphones in a window) and said

“hey random lesbian” (presumably because of my short hair [gasp!] and casual attire, not because i was fucking a girl on the street)

to which i replied “hey random idiot”

which of course resulted in idle chit chat and pleasantries, such as cigarettes being flicked at me, jostling, menacingly following me up chapel street and yelling at me “YOU GODDAMN FUCKING… PUSSY MUNCHER!!“.

charming.

i’ve not been quite so shocked at the level of vilification about my sexuality – especially as i’m not a lesbian. although this isn’t the first time that the crime of being a lesbian has been the worst insult random idiots have thought to throw at me, this is the first time i have actually feared for my safety – being intimidated/followed down chapel street isn’t really warm and fuzzy.

thankfully, i have been followed through kings cross in sydney and i just happened to have had a tripod handy, so i just strode of confidently down the street and prayed that the little misogynist would contract syphilis.

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