Category Archives: currently

Janelle Monáe, Q.U.E.E.N. of my heart

Screen shot of Janelle Monae's QUEEN music video

Janelle Monae silhouetted in black in the final scene of the music video for Q.U.E.E.N.

How many songs have you heard that challenge racism, sexism, slut-shaming, homophobia… and make you want to bust a move? There are only a handful of artists I’ve encountered who wrap up all of those dynamics in a fresh way (M.I.A., Santigold and Ebony Bones! come to mind) but for whatever reason, Janelle Monáe stands out from the pack.

In late April, the great folks at Browntourage posted a link to a song. When I clicked play, I had no way of knowing it would become my new anthem. Q.U.E.E.N. has been playing full blast non-stop: as I make dinner in my kitchen, in my headphones at work, in my living room as I chill out with my cat, over and over. So when I saw there was a music video for the single, released May 1st, I fell even more in love with the song. So much so that it merits its own post:

Janelle Monáe referencing “Qui etes vous, Polly Maggoo?” Yes please! Janelle rocking a 1960s bob? I never thought she could top her badass trademark pompadour.

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.09.50 PM

Film still from William Klein's 1966 satirical art film, "Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?"

Film still from William Klein’s 1966 satirical art film, “Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?”

Erykah Badu has an alter ego named Badula Oblongata? Gold!

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.13.29 PM

Monáe does with Q.U.E.E.N. what she does best, mixing visually stimulating high art, culture, and her very own brash brand of feminism. This song and its accompanying video marries them with deft skill.  Her lyrics reference everything from black NYC drag ball culture in the 1980s (Walk in the room they throwing shade left to right/They be like ooh, she’s serving face) to Philip K. Dick (Will you be electric sheep?/Electric ladies, will you sleep?/Or will you preach?). Visually, her machismo comes across in her posturing and sartorial adjustments, while lyrically schooling you on the state of racial politics in America today.

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.15.27 PM

Anyone else see that final scene lighting set-up as bit of a wink to James Bond?

Not to mention the hard femme rebelles who bring their leaders out of art gallery exile:

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.06.10 PM

Now, I shouldn’t be surprised by all the artistic and (sub)cultural references in a Monáe video. First off, I’ve been a fan for years. She consistently prides herself on bring high art – or at least art that is all too often limited to university classrooms – to the masses in her own creative manner. One of her earlier videos, Tightrope, references Maya Deren. Of course, it’s not just her music videos; her concept albums are incisive, subversive, cohesive (not to mention catchy as fuck) – something we see all too rarely in the world of pop music.

What thrills me about a music video like this one, and what sets it apart from the masses, is that although it references these various elements, it remains unique and fresh. For example, as much as I love Beyoncé’s video for Countdown, I was taken aback at how blatantly it ripped off dancer/choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker… without so much as a wink in her direction (let alone questions of financial compensation). There are countless other examples, some of which lead to successful law suits on the part of the lesser known parties who are being “honored” in this fashion. But Monae? No. Her work is thoughtful, intentional, and unique. It just serves as a reminder there is a very fine line between homage and straight up rip-off.

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.11.57 PM

Sartorial excellence, bravado, and an impressive catalogue of art/film references are all showcased beautifully in this video, but they would be nothing, of course, without politics. Her commentary of race and class is absolutely essential to her oeuvre, summarized nicely in this quote from April 2011:

Heavily inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 German expressionist film Metropolis, which used an urban dystopia to berate capitalism, she too has invented a not-too-distant future in order to comment on the confines within she is expected to perform and present herself as a black female artist. “As an African-American woman, as an immigrant, wherever I am, I’m always the minority,” she explains.  “So I came up with the concept of the android as the ‘other’ in society.  I’ve been studying the theory of technological singularity, which predicts that as advances in technology become faster, there will come a point when robots will be able to map out the brainpower of humans and recreate our emotions.  I’m posing the question – how are we going to live with the ‘other’?  Are we going to treat them inhumanely, teach our children to fear them?”

Damn. Smart, stylish, talented, critical, gorgeous… you can have it all.

Now go watch the music video. Again.

Recommended Reading:

Recommended Eye-Candy:

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Filed under currently, music, Uncategorized

2012 in review

forlorn flapper
january

  • looking like a forlorn flapper
  • adjusting to the fact that all of my very close friends had moved away
  • enjoying the harsh cold québécois winter

recommended reading

  1. Instead of an interview with Xtra by Rae Spoon (Jan 3, 2012)
  2. They is me by Ivan Coyote (Jan 10, 2012)
  3. If the Clothes Fit: A Feminist Takes on Fashion by (January 17, 2012)
  4. Homai Vyarawalla, Pioneering Indian Photojournalist, Dies at 98 by Haresh Pandya (January 28, 2012)
  5. If the clothes fit by Arabelle Sicardi (January 31, 2012)

soundtrack:

tumblr_lzm4ko6gPd1qzvsguo3_1280

february

  • mastering the art of looking – and being – surly
  • went to a phenomenal exhibition on fashion in Québécois art, did a short radio report on it

recommended reading

  1. The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League by Lawrence Lai (February 2, 2012)
  2. Islamophobia in Canada: A Primer By Fathima Cader and Sumayya Kassamali (February 2, 2012)
  3. Honor Codes and Dress Codes by Sharday Mosurinjohn (February 10, 2012)
  4. Better Homes & Bloggers: Are lifestyle blogs a new way for women to compare themselves and come up short? by Holly Hilgenberg (February 18, 2012)
  5. When Anger is all I have and why anger is my feminist stand by Flavia Dozan (February 22, 2012)
  6. The Artists: Notes on a lost style of acting by (February 27, 2012)

soundtrack:

none of dem (robyn) covered by austra

mars
march

recommended reading

soundtrack:

julia and iris

april

  • went out west for the very very first time to visit my best friend morgan
  • visited toronto!
  • celebrated james & rachel‘s wedding
  • aforementioned radio documentary was rebroadcast nationally! on one of my favourite shows!
  • read an awful lot, as proven below:

recommended reading:

  1. She Told Us So: Nafissatou Diallo and Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s New Case by Valerie Jean-Charles (April 3, 2012)
  2. Interview with Jenny Zhang at Chictopia (April 4, 2012)
  3. Trying to understand a tragedy by Mary Burnet (April 23, 2012)
  4. The Colour of the Student Movement – “Maîtres Chez Nous”  by Lee Way (April 23, 2012)
  5. The changing face of beauty: the rise of make-up for darker skin by Anita Bhagwandas (April 24, 2012)
  6. Carmen Miranda’s Ethnic Masquerade in The Gang’s All Here by ShienLee (Apr 25, 2012)
  7. Femme Post III on [real] Cuntext (April 26, 2012)
  8. Resistance is not violence: Putting property damage and economic disruption in perspective by Mona Luxion (April 28, 2012)

soundtrack:

may

may

recommended reading

  1. Femme: In Praise of Higher Expectations by Zoe Whittall (May 5, 2012)
  2. What Fashion’s “Ethnic” Prints Are Really Called by (May 19, 2012)
  3. Women Are Heroes: A Global Portrait of Strength in Hardship by French Guerrilla Artist-Activist JR by (May 24, 2012)

soundtrack

june

justyne, jasmine, julia and myriam. best wedding party ever.

justyne, jasmine, julia and myriam. best wedding party ever.

  • chopped off my hair for the 1st time in ages, felt (and looked!) so good.
  • went to europe for the 1st time as an adult, since i lived there as a kid
  • met amazing people in pamplona, wasted hours in bookstores and art galleries and wandering along cobblestone streets
  • rented a scooter and rode along the atlantic coast in france…
  • headed back to canada in time to be a bridesmaid for the very first time, for my little sister jasmine!

recommended reading:

  1. Une autre raison de s’indigner by Sophie Le-Phat Ho, Kevin Lo, Faiz Abhuani, Amber Berson, Dominique Desjardins, Gwenaëlle Denis, Farha Najah (June 1, 2012)
  2. How To Be A Reverse-Racist: An Actual Step by Step List For Oppressing White People by A.D Song and Mia McKenzie (June 27, 2012)
  3. Life, death and the meaning of a wedding dress by Laura Snelgrove (June 15, 2012)

soundtrack:

july 14

july

recommended reading

  1. Field Notes on Fashion and Occupy by (July 9, 2012)
  2. Turbans on the Runway: What does it mean for Sikhs? by Sonny Singh Brooklynwala (July 10, 2012)
  3. Be a fan, not a jerk at Untitled Teen Mag (July 17, 2012)
  4. Doing Femme: Fiona Apple by iris (July 16, 2012)
  5. Make up, my bane and saviour by Teresa (July 25, 2012)

soundtrack:

self-portrait

august

  • celebrated my 5-year anniversary with simon
  • covered an election campaign as a journalist for the first time ever (was particularly amused by this story)
  • had a nice visit with carmelle
  • did not spend enough time in the sun, did not spend enough time outdoors
  • spent far too much time thinking about/working on election coverage
  • struggled with how to deal with that stress, and how my body was manifesting it…

recommended reading:

  1. How To Talk to People Who Are In Wheelchairs by Monica (August 2, 2012)
  2. Hate Crimes Always Have A Logic: On The Oak Creek Gurudwara Shootings by Harsha Walia (August 6, 2012)
  3. At Least Pussy Riot Won the West by Kriston Capps (August 16, 2012)
  4. Manic Pixie Dream Dissidents: How the World Misunderstands Pussy Riot by Sarah Kendzior (August 20, 2012)

sept-1

september

  • went to visit my family in ottawa
  • thought i was going to have some time off, struggled with the ups and downs of being a freelancer
  • worked on some pitches and ideas

recommended reading

  1. «Nous sommes tous responsables» de l’attentat du Métropolis par Catherine Lalonde (8 septembre 2012)
  2. What can’t be published by Stacey May Fowles (September 14, 2012)
  3. Special Victims by (September 14, 2012)
  4. Accessibility to fashion and the visibility of bloggers by GraceLizaBetty (September 18, 2012)
  5. The Good Girls Revolt: The Untold Story of the 1970 Lawsuit That Changed the Modern Workplace by Maria Popova (September 19, 2012)
  6. Ariel Pink And Beta Male Misogyny by Joe Kennedy (September 24, 2012)
  7. I wrote this thing about Grimes’ “Genesis” and it never ran so here you go by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd (September 28, 2012)

soundtrack:

october2

october

  • got sick
  • went for a hike in the woods
  • thought/wrote a lot about feminism…

recommended reading

  1. What the Girls spat on Twitter tells us about feminism by Bim Adewunmi at The Guardian (October 8th, 2012)
  2. A problem that stubbornly refuses to budge by Reni Eddo-Lodge (October 8th, 2012)
  3. Bullying: It’s not just for kids (October 6, 2012) sidenote: this was also the most popular thing i shared on tumblr this year, with over 7000 notes
  4. Her Body Is Not Your Playground: Why the Photoshopped Frida Nudes Are Not Okay by Mia McKenzie (October 25, 2012)
  5. Trolls and the spaces created by trolling by Nora Loreto (October 24, 2012)
  6. Real Talk: Am I living radically? by Katie West (October 26th, 2012)

soundtrack:

november

  • followed the american elections a bit too closely
  • went to the vintage clothing fair in ottawa with steph
  • spent some quality time with my sisters
  • started working on a big project…
  • took a week off and went on a mini road trip with simon

recommended reading:

  1. Die Antwoord’s revival of blackface does South Africa no favours by Adam Haupt (November 2, 2012)
  2. An Open Letter to the AGO About Frida Kahlo’s Unibrow by Sarah Mortimer at Shameless Magazine (November 6, 2012)
  3. An Unedited Rant About Looking Into Fatshion’s Navel by Natalie (November 11, 2012)
  4. Doing Antiracism Wrong at Jezebel at Postbourgie (November 12, 2012)
  5. Are we becoming cyborgs?

soundtrack:

dec2012

december

  • visited and interviewed my grandparents in valleyfield
  • caught up with karina
  • put together Threads: Fur, fabric and fashion in Quebec for CBC Radio
  • celebrated my 27th birthday!
  • got a really fucking good haircut, as pictured above

recommended reading:

  1. The Natives are restless: Wondering why? by âpihtawikosisân (December 11, 2012)
  2. For the last time, stop conflating violence & mental illness by (Dec 17, 2012)
  3. Foreign Tokens: The Blackamoor Brooch by Rama Musa (Dec 17, 2012)
  4. Parsing the online comments on #IdleNoMore: How Canadians are failing a tolerance test by David Newland (December 20, 2012)
  5. White Men are Not in Decline by Sarah Jane Glynn (December 20, 2012)

soundtrack:

all in all, not too shabby!

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Filed under currently, digital/online culture, links, personal, Uncategorized

black and white beaches

a few weeks ago, i came across natasha khan’s latest video via queersforfeminism. something about it struck me as oddly familiar, giving me a minor case of déjà vu… and recently i realized what it reminds me of.

one of my favourite filmmakers, maya deren. specifically, her 1944 film At Land.


you can watch the full film on youtube if you like (i recommend turning off other things and fullscreen that shit!) but here is a description courtesy of Nichola Deane:

In At Land, the protagonist begins as a body washed up on a beach. Then some simple backwards footage: the reversal of a breaking wave. The woman wakes from where she fell—gravity pulls her upright. We see her hands move with seductive slowness over and around a large piece of driftwood. There is a game of chess at the seashore played by two women. A pawn is knocked off the board into the sea and Deren’s camera follows it as it is pulled over rocks and out into the ocean. Twists of water and rock, the innocuous pawn falling away: everything is seen as though it is floating, as though the mind that made the film is floating in what Merrill calls ‘a calm shining sea.’

you can read more in Three Studies for a Triptych: Elizabeth Bishop, Patti Smith, Maya Deren by Nichola Deane if this tickles your fancy.

1944, USA, 16 mm, b/w, silent, 14 min.

Film still from Maya Deren’s 1944 film, At Land (16 mm, b/w, silent, 14 min.)

Maya Deren by Alexandr Hackenschmied [Alexander Hammid]

Maya Deren by Alexandr Hackenschmied

it’s not exactly the same as the music video for all your gold, but there are some quite similar visual elements. the dancing, the fact that both deren and khan are almost always in the shot, being glued to the beach sand and rocks…. when i think of it, it makes perfect sense that natasha khan (or her music video director would decide) and maya deren might go together nicely. even if the references to at land may be unintentional, the music video puts me in mind of a lot of beautiful black and white beach scenes i’ve seen elsewhere. francesca woodman’s powerful self-portraits also come to mind.

Francesca Woodman, Self-deceit (1978)

Francesca Woodman, Self-deceit (1978)

Photograph by Francesca Woodman holding up a mirror on a beach

i wish i remembered/could find the title for this piece! i was lucky enough to see it in person when it was at the mnbaq this summer as part of In Wonderland: The Surrealist Activities of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States exhibition. it completely captivated me, as most of woodman’s pieces have a tendency to.

happy admiring! you can also stream the new bat for lashes album on NPR before it is released. i’m often discovering great music via first listen and highly recommend checking it out often.

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currently: recommended reading on feminism

these days, you are far more likely to find me trawling the internet for incisive articles about feminist issues as opposed to seeing me decked out to the nines and taking photos to share with you. so as i was scratching my head wondering about what i should post next here, it came to me: i write about fashion all the time, mention feminism in passing, but hardly ever talk ABOUT feminism. and today, there is no shortage of things to talk about when it comes to the vibrant movement. i’ve been sharing links left right and centre on social media, but i thought it might be helpful to my readers to share some of the best articles here to tide you over as you patiently await a new post about fashion from a feminist perspective. for the most part, these recommended reads omit the “fashion” and focus on the feminism, but i think they will tickle your fancy.

Fuck Patriarchy by Midge Belickis

Dear Patriarchy, Fuck Off by Midge Belickis

lately i’ve been thinking a lot of some of the conversations i come across online or in real life about their perspectives on the voices or faces of feminism. it almost always makes me feel quite uncomfortable, and always gets me thinking: who are my modern day feminist heroes, who i admire and aspire to be like? why are they never in the limelight the same way the “flavour of the moment” famous feminists are? why do i feel so uncomfortable with the idea of feminist figureheads, instead of a vision of an engaged larger group? why do i feel the need to bite my tongue before criticizing aforementioned feminist figures for fear of feeding into internalized misogyny or girl-hate? and last but not least, how do i find a balance between the urge to reject the “feminist” label, since these mainstream feminist figures do not even come clos to representing my beliefs or the feminists i know, and the empowerment and perspective i often get from the very same movement?

"Viva El Feminismo" circa 1936

“Viva El Feminismo” circa 1936

luckily, i’m not alone in these discomforts. lately, formerly highly-lauded self-identified feminists, such as Naomi Wolf and Caitlin Moran, are finding themselves in hot water over head-scratching comments or publications. instead of steeping in their discomfort, many writers and thinkers have been articulating their frustrations in fantastic ways.

Sheila Sampath over at Shameless wrote this fantastic article entitled “The future of feminism?” (October 7, 2012)

I think there is an important conversation to be had around how patriarchy functions in divisive ways, and how this often results in a culture of competition among women and girls. One of the first things I felt I had to do as a self-identified feminist was acknowledge and challenge this tactic in an attempt to overcome it. But without context and analysis, all a statement like that does is say that Wolf isn’t accountable to her feminist community for the things that she says. It’s insulting to critics like Jacklyn Friedman and Laurie Penny, it perpetuates the very beauty myths Wolf herself once wrote about, and it assumes that all of us want to look like able-bodied, femme-identified, zaftig white women. Trust me: we don’t.

Do yourself a favour and take the time to read the whole thing. If you want to read a real take-down of Wolf’s latest book, I think Zoe Whittall puts it best here:

Zoe Whittall tweeting a link to an article entitled "Naomi Wolf's book Vagina: self-help marketed as feminism" suggesting "Maybe read this, and then let's stop talking about Naomi Wolf, forever."

sad to see what one of the first feminist writers you really connected with has come to producing. but! moving on…

another more recent feminist figurehead is Caitlin Moran. a colleague recommended i read her book “How to be a Woman”, and i’ve been seeing more of her words (and face) these days (like in this article i disliked quite a bit). then, she tweeted some stupid shit. many, many times. over the course of a few hours. i try as hard as i can to stay away from twitter shit shows, primarily because i don’t think it is possible to have civil discussions with strangers in short 140-characters-or-less statements, try as we might. but luckily for people like me, there are fantastic plugged-in writers like Bim Adewunmi who offer us insightful rundowns on the situation. What the Girls spat on Twitter tells us about feminism (October 7th, 2012) is one of the best things i have read about the way white feminists often have their head in the sand (or worse) when it comes to questions from women of colour about which women get represented in pop culture:

When we have “heroes”, we look up to them, and feel it especially keenly when they mess up. But even with all of my affection for the series, the omission of black and brown people in non-stereotypical roles was glaring. Is it unfair to ask Dunham to represent all of womanhood onscreen? Of course it is. But here’s the thing: no one did. We merely asked that she take a step back and question the underlying reason for why Girls looks the way it does.

Read the whole thing! Reni Eddo-Lodge tackles the very same question in her article A problem that stubbornly refuses to budge (October 8th, 2012). This sentence says it all:

When feminists can see the problem with all male panels but can’t see the problem with all white television programmes, it’s worth questioning who they’re really fighting for.

A card of a flapper smoking a cigarette saying "I won't stand up for gossip. I prefer to sit down and make myself comfortable."

I Won’t Stand for Gossip.

last but not least, if reading all these posts is getting you feeling like i’m feeding into negative shit-talking gossip, i recommend one last read: On Shit-Talking Your Way Through Life by Michelle over at The Untitled Teen Mag.

My feminism, believe it or not, is wrapped up in shit-talking. The two are intertwined. In one hand, I carry my ideas and aspirations for me and mine; and in the other, a big-ass stick. While I’m working to create new and better spaces for those who are left behind, I’m making sure that those who opt out of helping me and others in our quest will never live it down. My feminism is vicious for those who cannot be. It is loud and ugly and it will laugh in your face if you give it excuses. It will keep your name in its mouth. It will never have a problem with keeping you on your toes where you belong.

let me know what you think! have you read this articles already? what resonates with you the most?

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Filed under currently, digital/online culture, links, politics

currently: taking a different look at glasses

i’ve been thinking a lot about glasses these days; glasses as a fashion accessory, as a necessity, as a signifier of intelligence, desireability, gender or class. what do your glasses say about you? as someone who has worn glasses since two thirds of my life, how strange is it to hear people with perfect vision say they “wish” they needed glasses? how differently do i feel about wearing glasses now, as a young professional woman, than i did when i was a young girl? i’ve written about it before, but it shouldn’t surprise me that i have a lot of thoughts and feelings about something i choose to wear every single day.

vision as represented in photography has really been ringing my bell these past few months. i recently rewatched two old favourites of mine this past week, man with a movie camera (1929) and la jetée (1965). thinking about the camera as almost a pair of glasses for the viewer, permitting the audience to see things in a clearer way – or even, to see things they would otherwise never be able to.

i’ve also kind of been completely besotted with surrealist photography, something i knew very little about before this summer thanks in part to a fantastic exhibition on at the musée national des beaux-arts du québec right now. to be honest i’ve never been too smitten with the surrealist movement more generally, but this exhibition has offered a different perspective…  thinking about the possibilities the early days of accessible photography provided, combined with an incredible cocktail of creative uppity artists and feminists makes my heart beat just a bit faster.

a new pair of frames are in the mail, and i’ve got some other thoughts about glasses stores i’m slowly but surely processing. in the meantime, here is some eye-candy: literally.

Women with fire masks, Downshire Hill, London, 1941. Lee Miller

Lee Miller, by Man Ray

Lee Miller, by Man Ray

film still from Dziga Vertov’s Chelovek s kinoapparatom (The Man with a Movie Camera). 1929

Vertov, a Soviet film director, redefined the medium of still and motion-picture photography through the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), asserting that the recording proficiency of the camera lens made it superior to the human eye. In a double image in Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera), the eye is superimposed on the camera lens to form an indivisible apparatus fit to view, process, and convey reality, all at once.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Parabola optica (Optical Parable), 1931; gelatin silver print; 9 3/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. (24.77 cm x 18.42 cm); Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser; © Colette Urbajtel / Asociación Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Parabola optica (Optical Parable), 1931

WILLIAM WITT The Eye, Lower East Side, NYC, 1948  gelatin silver print, 10 3/4 x 12 inches

The Eye, Lower East Side, NYC, 1948 by William Witt

From Ken Russel's "Teddy Girls" series (1950s)

From Ken Russel’s “Teddy Girls” series (1950s) thanks andi!

Jaromír Funke

Film still from Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound," 1945

Film still from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” 1945

as always, click the photos for more details and links!

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