Category: Philosophy

Rethinking Engagement Rings

The first part of most marriages is the proposal. Stands to reason, right? And a crucial part of THAT is the ring. Now, I’m not going to get into a huge, detailed history of engagement rings, but a quick bullet-point list might be helpful for context. Wikipedia goes into a little more depth, though I strongly encourage looking at other articles if you’re really interested in this sort of thing.

Overly simple, snarky rundown:

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2014 Already?

I know, it’s 2 weeks in. But I was traveling on the first, and didn’t have a chance to do a recap/plan for my blog this upcoming year. I feel like I’m supposed to do some kind of announcement with a megaphone or something.

THIS YEAR on THE FIVE Fs! sort of thing.

I have lots of projects and explorations coming up — 2013 wasn’t such a good year for me, being a little bit stagnant and a little bit lost. But 2014 is kicking off with some new clients, some new goals and a ton of ideas for sewing, cooking and pondering life in an anti-craftian sort of way.

Coming up:

Short term:

-Some self-drafted skirt tutorials in the vein of updated hobble skirts

-Some pants tutorials based on styles I saw in San Juan and Berkeley the past few months

-Burning Man/festival costumes galore; now that I’ve been once, I have some great ideas about costumes for myself and the Compatriot

-Leaf/dragonscale cutout jackets. When I wrap my head around how to accomplish this, you’ll see what I mean.

Medium term:

-A foray into shoemaking, with tutorials

-Some ambitious knitting projects; my attention span is short (so short that I originally posted this without finishing this sentence! Oh man.) but I really want to get into some more detail-oriented, delicate work like shawls. Well, shawl. If I finish one, I’ll be hugely impressed with myself.

-Putting together a steampunk costume from sketch concept to finish: I have an Alice’s Tea Party-themed wedding to attend in March of this year, so I’ll be documenting the whole process from sketch to finished project as a sort of project journal for anyone interested in creating elaborate costumes but not sure how. As an added bonus, the venue of a wedding gives me the opportunity for a more modest costume than my usual style.

Long term:

-Speaking of weddings, I got engaged this past week. This doesn’t mean the blog will turn into Brides-R-Us. Quite the contrary; I hope that documenting our planning process will provide a DIY-centered, thoughtful contrast to the Disney-princess-fueled insane wedding bullcrap that dominates Pinterest boards and Netflix suggested lists. A wedding is a celebration and a formalization, a ritual to enter into a new stage of life, not spend-a-thon fuel for a money-hungry industry. All that being said, I’m super excited to design and draft my own dress, and probably something for the Compatriot-fiance as well.

-I also want to start drafting patterns, and offering a freemium plan: download the pattern/use the tutorial for free or a voluntary donation, or buy handmade from me. We’ll see about this, as I am notoriously bad at keeping a tight schedule, and most of my focus has to be on my freelancing clients in 2014.

What do you have on tap for 2014?

The Leather Dilemma: Environmentalism vs Vegetariansm

Such a loaded topic for today! Let’s jump right in.

I’ve been a vegetarian for a little over six months now, with some exceptions. Like the couple of times I’ve eaten sushi. And the one time I absent-mindedly ordered a “works” pizza instead of a “garden” pizza while in the midst of a 12-hour solo work binge. Still ashamed of that one. But, except for that one, glaring oversight, I haven’t eaten anything with a complex brain in a good long while. Good for me, good for the environment, good for the well-being of creatures great and small.

Mostly, avoiding animal products as much as possible is good for the environment, and environmentalism and vegetarianism dovetail nicely. With a huge, impossible-to-ignore exception: textiles.

If you’re careful, you can source ethical wool and silk, where the animal is treated nicely and basically just has a day job of providing wool or silk or hair. Fine and good, find companies that love their sheep or their silkworms or their rabbits or what have you. Yay, problem solved, right?

But then there’s leather. Here’s the thing about leather substitutes and polyester. They’re completely unsustainable. Rayon is sort of sustainable, when it’s minimally processed and… you know what? Let’s leave rayon out of this for now, because it’s kinda complicated.

So just leather substitutes and polyester. They’re pretty bad. For one thing, they’re often less durable than their natural counterparts. For another, they don’t keep you warm the way natural textiles do. They smell funny, and they feel kinda gross against the skin.

But most importantly, they’re non-renewable. And that’s just not OK.

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What’s Height Got to Do With Anything? Alternate Title: The Stigma of Short and Tall

Recently, a group of friends were sitting around idly looking up silly things on the internet, like you do, and the topic ofMr. Shaquille O’Neil’s girlfriend (current? Ex? Not sure)came up. More specifically, her (notable lack of) height. This took us to all sorts of unfortunate places on the internet (Like celebrity news sites. Hisss.) and led to borderline creepy scrutiny of a couple none of us know personally. Such is the burden of celebrity.

Suddenly, my 6-foot girl friend blurted, “I kind of hate when that happens. It just seems like such a waste of a tall guy.”


But before I could even process that, a guy friend chimed in to agree. “Yeah, it’s hard. Because you can’t date someone the same size as you.”

Double what?

“Yeah, your dating pool is fairly small, being six feet tall, huh,” came a third opinion.

Soon, the general consensus was reached that women overwhelmingly prefer much taller guys, and guys prefer much smaller women. Not being one to sit in awkward silence (it’s great to have friends you can disagree with), I responded that I like being almost the same size as my Male Compatriot, we had a brief conversation about personal preferences, and turned to other matters without a fuss. But it stuck with me.

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My “Slutty Halloween Costume” Feminist Statement

If you’ve read any of this blog, you know I’m a huge fan of personal expression and choice. Around this time of year, out come the claws regarding womens’ Halloween costumes. The sheer amount of vitriol is amazing.

I truly appreciate projects like Take Back Halloween. If you haven’t heard of them, seriously check them out. They’re full of awesome costume ideas and patterns that differ from the “sexy watermelon” trope. I am so happy that this dialogue can happen, and that there’s pushback against the mass-produced polyester monstrosities of lazy costuming. I get that there’s pressure to be a sexualized being on Halloween, and I’m happy that there’s a refuge for those who prefer more modesty.

But I don’t think that revealing costumes are really the problem. The problem is choice. And I think the biggest problem with the current status quo is that gender-specific versions of the same costume are so wildly different, not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Leg Avenue.

Please, bear with me. What, exactly, is wrong with slutty costumes? Is it that there is exposed skin? If you’re against that, please never go to the beach or a swimming pool ever again. Sincerely, non-hypocrites.

Is it the appropriation of things that were never intended to be sexual and sexualizing them, particularly since one gender is overwhelmingly expected to engage in this appropriation? Hmmm, I think we’re closer to the mark.

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Graphics, body shaming and Pinterest, oh my!

Been a while, hasn’t it? I promise I have some crafty posts in the works. But today my hackles have been ruffled, umbrage has been taken (not the Harry Potter Professor Umbridge, the actual word — great for Scrabble), I must retrieve my goat from whoever has it, and my metaphors have been mixed. I’m all aflutter, atwitter, and making much ado about feminist nothing,*  in other words.

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Why I pity Michael Jefferies. Alternate Title: Obligatory Abercrombie and Fitch post

What kind of fashion/feminism/philosophy crossover blogger would I be if I didn’t write about the “controversy” around Abercrombie and Fitch? Of course, there’s the whole “all publicity is good publicity” risk, but I feel like most of the attention they’re getting at this point falls into the “actually damaging” category. And Michael Jefferies is single-handedly to blame for this.

By now you’ve probably heard that the CEO went on record saying that he only wants people of a certain size, shape, and level of perceived coolness shopping at his stores.

And while I freely admit that I shopped there once or twice when I was a teenager — I did, and do, fall into their “acceptable size, coloring and level of fitness” range — I decided that I don’t really like wearing a label on my chest that proclaims a company allegiance. Besides, while I wear size 0-3, even in Hollister sizing, I need some ass room. And Hollister jeans are very much against trunk junk. (Seriously, if you’re not designing for women size 0-12, and you’re not designing for women size 13 and up, who the hell are you designing for? Exclusively preteens? Probably.)

All that being said, I get the company model. It’s a self-reinforcing thing. Make brand appeal to “cool” kids. Splash brand name on everything so there’s no doubt about who’s wearing your clothes. Kids then buy said clothes because other cool kids are wearing them, and they think that will make them cool, too. The kids make the brand cool, and the brand makes the kids cool. And the cycle goes on.

It’s not a bad business model for a culture where youth fetish reigns supreme and name-dropping brands and liquor in music fulfills the same cyclical reinforcing function as slapping a name on your clothes. And they’re far from the only ones; it almost seems a shame to punish someone for being up front about how awful they are, while continuing to support other companies that obviously hold the same views but dance around openly stating them.

I said at the top that Mr. Jefferies is single-handedly to blame for the fact that all this publicity is damaging instead of boosting. What I mean is this: Would people be as upset if he were a younger, suaver, cooler-looking guy instead of the undeniably unattractive mess he is? I can’t help but feel that if he were an attractive man, most people who do fit the Abercrombie & Fitch model would roll their eyes and shrug, or even tacitly support his statements. There would still be outrage from the people who have been insulted, but I doubt the backlash would be nearly so universal. Such a controversial statement, coming from a beautiful man, would probably even boost company allegiance in the target audience.

And that’s where the pity comes in. I believe that Mr. Jefferies has made a huge error. It seems like he was going for a charmingly arrogant beautiful person promoting the kind of club mentality that packs Vegas nightclubs night after night. Instead, he came across like a bridge-dwelling troll casting aspersions on people who he has no right to judge. (Of course, that in itself implies that if he were good looking he would have some kind of right to judge, which I in no way believe.) Sadly, that error lies in his own appearance. The poor guy is getting screwed over by the very culture that he is trying to push and be a part of.

I commented about this on Harsh Reality, which inspired this post, and I have to repeat part of my comment here, because it does sum up how I feel.

“He looks like someone who may have once been one of the cool kids, is getting older, and is trying desperately through plastic surgery to hold on to that fleeting impression of “cool” because to him that’s the only valuable thing.
I guess what I’m saying is that I suspect people are outraged because the whole thing is a highly-visible microcosm of exactly how toxic certain segments of our society are, and how it screws with both the customer and the pusher of that society. It’s easy to get upset by blatant, easy-to-pinpoint examples of what’s wrong with certain aspects of wealthy youth culture.”

Ultimately, I just can’t work up the feminist/humanist outrage to get angry at this guy. I wonder how it feels to realize that you have been betrayed by the very culture you want so badly to be part of and to help shape. It can’t be a good feeling, even if you’re making millions.

On a different note, of course I’m upset by their environmentally unsustainable practices. Burning clothes instead of donating them is horrifyingly wasteful, even if it makes sense from a warped business perspective. And I’m glad that the internet has the power to let people know about things like this. Hopefully there will be a huge backlash on that point alone.

But as for the rest… I can’t help but feel more pity than anger.

This week on the Five Fs: 7-day vegan challenge

Readers, it’s that time of year again. Summer has arrived abruptly (I slept with my window open for the first time last night) and the call of nature… calls.

There’s fresh food everywhere and the renewal of my commitment to striving for a healthy, sustainable, kind lifestyle.

Unfortunately, I’m at that age where everyone eats out all the time. And while I like cooking, it’s easy to fall back on chips and bagels as means of nourishment. I also struggle with kindness in eating sometimes; it’s hard to verify that all the meat I eat is ethical, and there’s so much societal pressure to ignore the realities of our food. It’s easy to be disconnected from our food and our bodies, and hard to stay mindful.

Enter Leo Babauta’s 7-day vegan challenge! I love reading his blog, zenhabits; if you don’t already read it, you should. And while you’re at it, try the 7-day challenge with me! I’m more of a bursty person than a sustained activity person (I’ll go crazy and clean the whole house, then not do anything but the most basic chores for weeks and weeks, for example), and I enjoy short, intense challenges like this one. And, of course, blogging about it.

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Today is a Day For Living Close to Home

2009-01-01 00.00.00-140 (JessieMartin's conflicted copy 2013-04-16)

I was really on the ball this week, with a post planned for Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But I’m a news editor, and tragedies cross my virtual desk quite often. Usually I just don’t post on the days when I am overwhelmed, but silence isn’t really a solution.

Bombings in Boston and Iraq, a huge bus crash in Peru and other stories of violence, coupled with stories full of reminders about all the tragedies of this past year, kind of piled up yesterday and today — there will be posts later this week, but for today I’m going to enjoy the first two flowers in my backyard and reflect.

The globalization of society can lead to greater empathy and knowledge of our fellow man, but so much information about tragedy around the globe can also lead to nihilism and hopelessness. It doesn’t really seem like a day for posting refashions or pictures of food, but a day for making food and refashions, sitting quietly and walking barefoot in the grass.

Today is a day for living close to home. Namaste.