Coven

Welcome to The Dark Side.

Instagram

Witches of Eastwick

image

image

Witches, à la the book by John Updike, and that movie with Michelle Pffeifer. Witches, in the medieval era, were women who did not conform to societal standards. Based on the  gossip of people around them, the shaming and blaming of independent and powerful women started - and it still continues on, even in the modern society. People are uncomfortable with women who are comfortable with their own sexualities; they are even more uncomfortable with people knowing their own rights, so the society uses “hardcore feminists” as a pejorative, in attempts to downplay the woman’s power and agency to understand and own herself - so she would eventually feel alienated. Like a witch.

Maleficent

image

Maleficent is Disney’s way of getting rid of the virgin/whore dichotomy - to assert that not every woman is a witch villain or a virgin princess, but rather, that every woman is different, and complex(because human beings are complex - and women are human beings). Often, our stories are complex, and we have kindness, anger, fear, and maliciousness all inside of us. The movie tries to explain that what we shame as evil is ultimately complex. It explores our tendency to label powerful women who go against the grain with polar stereotypes based on the way they dress. Maleficent, though classically labelled as evil, is independent, empathetic, heartbroken, and fiercely protective of the things she loves. Princess Aurora, though she appears weak-willed and soft, which is what the society classically labels as “feminine,” is not docile; she is strong-willed about leaving her nest and she is ultimately the one who brings the castle that vilifies maleficent to the ruin, as well as the one who causes the fire to trap her own father. In this case, the classic villain is the hero, and the classic damsel in distress is also a hero - showing exactly that those stereotypical labels cannot fit anyone, because we are, complex. And indeed, the story focuses on a friendship and bond between female characters and their supporting of each other - instead of how movies typically love to pin women as jealous creatures who cannot coexist.

On Women’s Sexuality

Taylor Swift’s music is not really in my taste. I will say that.

And I do think that sometimes she says things that play into the virgin/whore dichotomy: how she “finds it easy to keep her clothes on,” as if it is wrong to want to take your clothes off, and her songs that allude to virginity as a commodity.

And I do absolutely think that many celebrities think, it is okay that Marc Jacobs never pays his models as long as they’re getting free stuff, that taking pictures with Terry Richardson is cool as long as they’re on the cover, and starring in movies by directors with rape convictions is totally cool because that’s art, because that’s just how it is. And they never own up to it and say, “it was a mistake.” A lot of them seem to think that it is just “haters hating” if you vocalize about how certain thing isn’t fair. And they take instagram pictures with said criminals, and think they are really chill, really cool, I’m in the love club. I do, really, get upset about that.

However, it just seems like women can’t win, ever. From the moment we are young girls, we are constantly told on how we should behave, dress, and talk. Strangers comment on our bodies like they have the right to, and we’re supposed to be flattered. We are taught just how aggressive we can act, because there’s a limit. We are taught that if we are vocal and opinionated, then we are “feisty,” we are too aggressive, we are too promiscuous. Surely you don’t want that, people tell us. Surely they know better than us girls. People shame Taylor Swift all. the. time. about her boyfriends, saying “she dates too much,” or that she is “desperate.” All the guys who she has been with has been linked with plethora of women, some even half their age. But it is Taylor who gets all the flack, which roots to slut shaming. Should she just give up after one failed dating try, at her young age, and never, ever date again just so she can please other people’s dating quota? 

See, it’s not just women who are “desperate” or “needy.” Women are human beings. Human beings make mistakes. Every human being can be emotionally vulnerable, and even desperate about something they really desire. But media, and very often, we, portray other females as that; belittling their emotions and attributing emotional qualities only to female gender. Often, if a person is going through any vulnerable moment in public and the person happens to be a female, the media paints her as “emotional,” “crazy,” and “unstable.” If the person were to be male, however, most will paint him as honest, vulnerable, and sensitive, or worse, call him a “pussy.” Because yes, apparently a sex organ that pops all the human beings out into the world is a sign of the hugest weakness. But is it weak to be brave enough to show your vulnerability? Or to hold it in and create a facade because you are afraid of being judged? Which one is truly weaker?

It can be problematic to have celebrity role models, because you will possibly never know them as who they are. Which is why I don’t look up to public figures most of the times. I know who they are in real life will be absolutely different, even to a minimal degree. But from what we can see, it seems that it is Taylor’s personality to be emotional, vulnerable, self-deprecating, and out in the open about her life. And she has the right to be that person, and talk about her own life, which is the only experience she can speak of in her own songs. Why should she pretend to be somebody else, why should she try to talk about other things that are not important to her?

Having emotions to the point where you feel like you are desperate, whether because you have failed in love before or you have low self esteem, is natural, human, and we’ve all been there. Shaming others for their emotions doesn’t make you any stronger. People are hard on Taylor often because she lays it all out for people to pick on without shielding herself. And yes, it would be nice if she owned up to her mistakes when or if she makes them, but you don’t need to bash her as a brainless being who can’t think for herself, a lost lamb who isn’t in control of her life because you despise weakness in other human beings. There are all kinds of women in this world, and not everybody has to be Beyonce. There are room for all of us in this entire world, and each and every one of us is incarnated in this body as only one person in the entire world, and we can’t ever be anybody else. We can only do us.

Same goes for Katy Perry, or Miley Cyrus, or Rihanna, who all have made mistakes, because human beings make mistakes. Yes, I do get upset when people reject feminism altogether because we can’t agree on one thing, or casually exploit other human beings, or imply that gun symbolizes power and strength. But people often call these women “immodest,” that they “can’t keep their clothes on.” Why should they keep their clothes on? For whom? The concept of modesty is a subjugation tool used to shame women to alter their appearances to fit the stereotypical “good girl” mold. And if they don’t fit into the societal mold of so-called “good girls,” then they are not welcome. If you want to like your body and be sexy in public? You want to say you love sex? Shame! Because people say that there is no way they are empowered, there is no way they are doing that for themselves. And how do we know that? We don’t. We don’t know. But we still treat women like they are infantile creatures who need men to think for themselves. We don’t trust women when they say “I like my body, I like sex.” And we don’t forgive women if they make a big mistake in public and want to turn it around. But we forgive Terry Richardson, we forgive Roman Polanski, we forgive Woody Allen, we forgive Marc Jacobs, we forgive R.Kelly, we forgive Sean Penn. Why?

We tell Miley Cyrus, you are just “acting out.” Even if it is a perfectly natural thing for people to grow up, discover their bodies, love it more, explore with it, and be more comfortable with nudity. If Miley Cyrus does it, it’s always “acting out.” It’s always “exploited.” Nobody thinks that a grown, female adult can possibly make her own decisions about her body. Yes, there is a ton of exploitation in the industry, and even pressure. Yes, maybe she really was coerced secretly. But we don’t ask young men who write explicit sex lyrics if they are brainwashed. We don’t ask Channing Tatum why he posed shirtless with his chiseled abs on the cover. We don’t think they are coerced, we don’t think they are acting out. We think it’s just boys being boys, as if only men have sex drives, as if only men can own their bodies truly, as if we weren’t once hormone raging teens who grew up to discover what we like and what we don’t like in sex and relationships. And I do have a problem with this. I do have a problem with how hard it is out there for all of us.

Wear whatever you want, be whomever you want to be, do whatever you want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt people. And if it did, if you made a mistake, own it, learn from it. Define every single thing in your life on your own, gender, sexuality, ethnic identity, whatever there is. This is your life. This is our lives.

The Love Club

I am writing this here because I hope that I am not the only one who cares. As Lorde put it adequately in her song, “it’s a new art form, showing people how little we care.” But it would make me feel better to know that at least I said something, that it didn’t sit right with me. I do think about the anonymous yet vulnerable nature of posting online, and I would like to clarify that this entire post is indeed my own personal opinion about the experience that is solely mine, and I can only hope that there are others out there who would read this and give a second thought. 

At 20, I was wedged in an awkward state after moving from South Korea to California. I was wiggling in a cocoon, emerging to form a stance, trying to stick up for all the things that I could never stand up for while I was growing up. I was also at an especially impressionable stage, more so than my teen years had ever been. 

Somewhere along the transition, I stumbled onto a Los Angeles based brand Wildfox Couture, known for its California Dreaming aesthetics. Their campaigns were inundated with gorgeous young blonde women enjoying the beach, riding in convertibles, and partying in a glorious abundance of pastel pink. And even though their style was radically different from my goal of generally looking like a grim reaper, I was eager to find something new to identify with, to join their enviable lifestyle.

Through various social media outlets, Wildfox continuously let us in on their fun-loving, tight-knit young LA crowd. Half of Wildfox, cofounder Kimberly Gordon, had quit her day job and started the brand with her childhood best friend. Kim, who continuously identified herself as a feminist, spoke out on her blogs about the fashion industry’s impossible ideals that hurt young women, garnering support from women who related to her “believe in your dreams” mantra. The celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Katy Perry also responded to Wildfox’s soft sweatshirts, one of which claimed, “Shopping is my cardio.” Another claimed, “Swim all day, dance all night, fall in love, pizza.”

I, too, followed Wildfox for years, enamored by the carefree, romantic life that the brand projected. But whenever I obsessively scrolled through their tumblr, the phrases on Wildfox’s t-shirts often confused me. The shirts claimed, “How bad can a good girl get?” “Ask me, I might.” “My boyfriend’s a prince.” On a recent instagram post, Kim called her own t-shirt “slutty.”

I tried to push away the gnawing feelings. Even though Wildfox’s designs were not my cup of tea(and that language, because there’s no such thing as a slut), I must clarify that I am all for women choosing to be whomever they feel comfortable being. I am the first defender when people choose to bring down certain females in the media for portraying a “female archetype,” because I think everyone has the right to be who they are, and it is having a choice that matters.

In my opinion, however, the image Wildfox portrayed was that of girls getting what they want through their pretty faces, pretty bodies, waiting for the boys to call, lusting after being the objects of male gaze. The “Wildfox girl” seemed to be in a state of perpetual childhood, being called “girls” even in their thirties, twirling their hairs and biting their lips in the pictures, waiting for their princes to come. And though I was proud and impressed by the brand’s dedication to ethical and local production of clothes, I felt conflicted because I felt as if pushing an image of a brand that denotes feminism and female power came with a responsibility to upheld such image with care, honesty, and research.

Of course, I am willing to be corrected. I am cautious to call people out for not being feminist enough in my book, because it furthers the policing for women who already face so much scrutiny in their daily lives. And we are not going to satisfy every one and their mother’s definition of feminism. But my confusion with Wildfox only intensified when Kim posted numerous pictures taken by Terry Richardson on her blog, and I asked her via Tumblr what her opinion on him was.

Richardson is known for his overly exposed photographs portraying women in a degrading manner, to put it lightly. It is known that the model Charlotte Free, famous for her pink mane, has worked both for Richardson and Wildfox. Free, who closely communicates with Wildfox through social media, has previously said in an interview blaming the victims of Richardson, calling them “stupid bitch.” Free, just like Wildfox, has been vocal about feminism. Mark Hunter of Cobra Snake, who has shot Wildfox’s campaigns and is close to the brand, has also posed with Terry Richardson, imitating his infamous thumbs-up.

Kim responded to my question on Richardson, saying, “I don’t judge professionals.” I can certainly see how people can separate the art from the artist, even though I rarely can. But her response left a bitter feeling in my stomach, as she herself had previously spoken about her friends being in the model industry and the harsh environment that cripple them. The models like Charlotte Free or brands that absolve Terry Richardson continue to ignore the issues of women in the industry while profiting from their work. And this is a tradition that has been going on for too many years, for too long. I submitted another ask in her inbox, asking her to clarify. Kim took her initial response down from the blog immediately and did not respond further.

The biggest incident that sealed my conflict with Wildfox took place in 2013. In August, Wildfox’s CEO Jimmy Sommers faced sexual assault charges on the grounds that he had repeatedly molested a young girl aspiring to be a model in LA. The alleged victim, Meghan Chereek, was only 17 years old at the time of the alleged molestation, and he 43. Chereek claimed that Sommers promised her modeling work for Wildfox in exchange for sexual favors, telling her, “Nothing is free.” 

When this article was revealed on Jezebel, Sommers’s spokesperson responded to say, “She was a Sunset Boulevard stripper… so we won’t dignify her with more responses,” claiming that she had said she was 19 at the time. Since then, Wildfox has never made a statement about it, and Jimmy Sommers still remains, to this day, a CEO of Wildfox.

Can a brand that markets so closely to young women(and now even children), saying, “Don’t you know, Wildfox is you” be so mum about an issue that has plagued women in fashion industry for ages? On Kim’s tumblr, hundreds of messages from young women gush to her that her brand is their “biggest inspiration,” some even claiming that they aspire to move to Los Angeles and model for them.

But Wildfox, or even Charlotte Free, is certainly not alone in this ignorance. It is no secret that women’s magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar continue to employ Richardson, issue after issue, refusing to comment on various petition to ban him from the industry. Celebrities like Beyoncé, who identify themselves as a feminist, continue to take pictures with Richardson. Lana del Rey and Shailene Woodley, who often market towards young women encouraging female power, are quick to say, “I’m not a feminist,” citing reasons that show that they do not have a clear idea on what feminism means. Lena Dunham, who has identified herself openly as feminist, also faced controversy after her photo shoot with Terry Richardson, forcing her to apologize. Lady Gaga, who has sung about strong women, recently worked with R. Kelly, who had been arrested in a child pornography case and a series of alleged sex crimes. Should we all pretend that these famous people didn’t know any better? That they could all pretend like it’s nothing until it is someone they know?

Underneath the ritzy and exclusive facade of celebrity and fashion, Richardson and Sommers’s cases seem to have died down. Nobody from Harper’s Bazaar, or Vogue, who previously worked with Richardson, has commented on the allegations. Neither has Wildfox. This is not unlike the controversies in Hollywood surrounding big-time directors Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Allen and Polanski are continuously protected by their celebrity peers, some of whom even filed petition on Polanski’s behalf to bring him back to the States because “he is a great director.” Polanski was convicted of drugging and sodomizing a 14 year old girl, but the celebrities we idealize have no problem pretending like this is the norm.

In a world where speaking out about such incidents are frowned upon and grant you the nickname of a “hater,” I can’t help but wonder: can people continue to profit exclusively from women and yet not take a strong stance on feminism? Feminism, after all, is a “radical” idea that women are human beings. And even if a brand or a celebrity takes a strong stance on feminism, which I definitely commend them for, how much should we be willing to believe about them as they continue to turn a blind eye on issues in the industry, and refuse to educate themselves? In the end, we have no way of knowing how much of them are truly inspirational behind the scenes. Love yourself, female power, they claim, pulling a thick curtain between us and them.

After Dark

image

image

People are less guarded at night, which is when their moon signs come out. In astrology, aside from typical sun signs there is a moon sign, among many other signs - and moon is your inner self. I think when you are in a room full of strangers, you are typically going to channel your rising sign, which is your mask. But when you are one on one with someone, alone in your room, it’s more likely that you will meet the person’s moon sign. When it’s darker, at night, the moon comes out. I feel that you see something different about people then, a face that you can only glance at when they think no one is watching. 

John has a blog that’s inspired by that, late night diners and 24-hour restaurants, cities that don’t sleep, street lights and driving through tunnels with lights flashing across your face.

When I first read Haruki’s book, After Dark, I was in San Francisco. I still cannot emphasize enough how that book connected me to something deeper inside of me, to a time when everything seems to have stopped, moving in its own way. It’s weird that we all transport to this place, several hours a day, just lay still and drift off, go onto another world. The book is about that. I have read it probably more than a hundred times.

Picture via MliquetoastismJ Robert Black

Stoker

image

image

image

image

image

image

I probably watch Stoker every other day - the movie, the style, the tiniest sounds, the clothes, the ice cream scoop and carton, I am drawn to everything in it visually and emotionally. This is also the one of the most fascinating articles regarding the costumes in the movie and how they selected each.

Load more posts