On Wednesday I had the pleasure of giving a keynote at my alma mater, Simmons College, during their Bread and Roses event for the Women and Gender Studies department (one of my minors in college). I was able to talk about my passion for community building and intersectional activism in relation to my decision to start this project, FEMMEVIOLET. While writing my remarks I was reminded of the goals I have for this blog and the type of content I hope to feature more often on FV. The beginning of 2016 I had a lot of uncertainty about this blog’s future, but after Wednesday night I am inspired and excited for what’s to come.
So, I thought it would be interesting to hear feedback from you, the readers, because this blog is really here for you. I want to know what content you want to see more of, and I want to feature more amazing femmes!! Below you’ll read a transcript of my speech. I hope it resonates with you.
In 2014, I started a project called Femmeviolet. Femmeviolet is a fashion blog tailored for femme queer people, by a femme queer. Honestly, I just wanted a space to showcase my outfits, but as I started to explore the idea of a fashion blog I also started thinking about all the ways in which fashion is closed off to so many people. Fashion as an industry is dominated by men. It is very heteropatriarchal. And as an industry it enforces the notions of acceptable gender expression. Think about it. What it means to be feminine and masculine are heavily connected to acceptable forms of dress. The tradition of women specific and men specific clothing is enforced by an industry that continues to hold power over us by shaming individuals for not adhereing to the strict guidelines it has set forth. Style is governed by the industry and then commoditized and sold to us as instructions on how to act, dress, and look overall.
Femmeviolet is my way of pushing back against the industry, so to say. My goal with Femmeviolet is to create a space that showcases individual style, specifically femme queer style in a way that hasn’t been done before. Now there are several blogs out there on the interwebz for masculine and masculine-of-center people. There’s Qwear, DapperQ, Tomboyish, to name a few. What there hasn’t been is a space for femme people to express themselves. Now I know what many people think when I say that. They think well fashion is already deemed feminine, therefore why do you need another blog about feminine dress?
And my answer is, well, because feminine people aren’t all heterosexual, and they are most definitely not all women-identified. Fashion is seen as feminine, but that femininity has been denied to people because of their gender and sexuality, and in many times because of their race. When I walk into a fashion-focused space, such as a runway show or an agency and introduce myself as a queer fashion blogger I get a lot of confused looks and comments such as “well you’re not what I imagine queer to look like” or “well you don’t dress like a lesbian.” In the similar vein, I hear from many queer people of various genders who have emailed me, tweeted at me, or commented on my blog about how they may identify as “femme” but don’t feel like fashion is something open to them because they don’t look like what people expect feminine to look like.
And this is my answer; femmes deserve a space to express themselves that will view them as beautiful and as stylish.
And there are a lot of femme-specific topics to cover. One of my most popular posts on Femmeviolet is titled “Power Dressing: Fashion as Armor” in which I talk about the concept of using fashion as a means of security. And I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about. It’s the feeling of slipping on a leather jacket, or a spiked studded accessory, or my personal favorite a pair of ridiculously high platform heels.
For some people clothing is armor, it’s creating a barricade between yourself and the world. It’s creating that “you can’t touch me” vibe. I once had a man on the street tell me my blue lipstick made me look scary, I told him that was the point.
Queer fashion is some much more than sexuality and gender expression, it’s also incredibly body positive and validating of different levels of ability or disability. Queer fashion is literally flipping the industry on its head and breaking all the rules.
And that brings me back to activism. My activism when it comes to the fashion industry, is about opening it up to everyone. It’s about changing the ideals of who can wear what and what beautiful looks like. For something to change, you have to embody that change. People’s perceptions of what is socially acceptable are based on who they’re exposed to. And if queer fashion continues to push boundaries and propel itself to the forefront of runways, of magazine, or more importantly the streets we walk down, then people are about to be exposed to some fabulous, stylish queers.