Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012

On fashion and ethics – transparency

Pucci Spring 2013

In Paris, Elie Saab and Giambatista Valli. In London, Christopher Kane. In Milan, of course, Dolce & Gabanna, but also Pucci and Alberta Ferretti. In New York, we had Marchesa, Jason Wu and perhaps Tadashi Shoji? I´m talking about transparency taking a major role in shaping what Spring 2013 will look like: sheer joy indeed.

Christopher Kane Spring 2013

Of course there is nothing new about transparency, as there is in fact something quite old about shoulder pads or fringes, but there is a fascinating phenomenon to fashion that is in fact what fashion is all about — something about the spirit of our times being captured in a specific way of self-presentation that translate into tendencies, that is, suddenly, all at the same time, everyone thinks transparent skirts and pants and crop tops are very now.

Alberta Ferretti Spring 2013

I think sheer bottom wears and mid-riff baring outfits have everything to do with our post online-social-networking times. In the 2000s, we started creating our public profiles, publishing online photo albums, even writing our own blogs. Some adhered to twitter at rather early stages, and our lives were out there for the world to see: we would sit at home or at work (if possible) and update some or all of those windows we decided to open for others to glance into a bit more of ourselves, and it was like we were lighting up a room at a time in a house that represented our lives: Blogger, then Flickr, then Facebook. MSN Messenger was on while we were at it (does anyone remember ICQ? It was all the rage in the 1990s).

Probably it was smartphones that changed all that into something more, just as cellphones helped destroy punctuality. The routine of having to *get somewhere* to check your emails or updating your status has disappeared. Twitter has become massive because you still cannot update a blog over your cell — but you can post a funny sentence and a link to something you just found really interesting. Instagram provided filters for the masses to produce some immediate beauty out of their ordinary lives (and plenty of pictures of one or many pairs of feet photographed from above, dressed in a variety of shoes and placed over a variety of sidewalk patterns, rugs, all shades of grass, and floors in general) even if they are eventually ill-equiped for actually taking a good shot. And Facebook now brings everything together — including the other things, such as random online services for which you sign up with your social network account. It also guesses the people you know that are members too and you really wish they didn´t find you. So now, you don´t get to light up a room at a time. In fact, there are no more windows: life is, or at least it can be if you don´t compulsively check privacy options, a glass-walled loft.

Transparency is a common philosophical trick for bringing about moral behavior — think Kant and the famous (ok, not so much, maybe?) categorical imperative: act as if your actions and motives were absolutely public. Our society has taken this idea one step further by making it possible for everything you do be ACTUALLY subject to universal scrutiny — no need for idealizing publicity anymore. And some are still very suspicious of those who resist being fully connected, even though YouTube has proven transparency in excess might bring only pain and trouble — how many people have been ridiculed by millions (MILLIONS) because a private moment of play (singing a stupid song, dancing a stupid dance, falling on their asses) has gone viral? I always wonder when confronted with a new fashionable video of such kind if their protagonists will actually someday be able to get new jobs. Maybe in the long term.

So if you are no longer private about the inner workings of your soul, your honneymoon or your dinner, it only makes sense for the next step to be no longer being private about any of your body parts, hence sheer pants, thigh-high splits and crop tops. Cellulite? Shouldn´t have them, just like you shouldn´t sing around if your voice is mediocre or have sexual intercourse with people that posess cameras on their cellphones (they might take pictures of you naked while you are sleeping and then publish them on their twitter). Let alone body fat or an abdomen without evidence of hard muscles sitting tightly beneath your (flawless) skin. Definitely shouldn´t have THOSE, you weak minded, lazy bum!

Having said that, I guess the best way to enjoy the beautiful and ever unrealistic proposals emanating from Spring 2013 Fashion Week shows is, as always, to select and adapt — just like you already probably do with your social networker life. I, for instance, have this blog, no Facebook or Twitter accounts, and have been in love for quite a while with a pair of Valentino sheer gauze top that´s sitting on the Outnet´s virtual shelves for months (and for a relatively matching pair of lace pants that have been long sold out):

Valentino Appliquéd jersey and gauze top @ the Outnet

Sheers!

October 19, 2012

Fifty shades of very bad literature

What´s the buzz, tell me what´s happening — that´s what the apostles sing to the Lord in one of the first numbers on the semi-blasphemous rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, and that´s also the thought that started popping in my head as I read more and more distinct, even opposing reviews of the new supposedly erotic literary blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.

The reviews that got me particularly curious were those of some feminists who basically destroyed the book for (1) disguising the old quest for Prince Charming in some BDSM, (2) fantasizing about control freaks and confounding sociopathy with BDSM and (3) contributing to worsen self-esteem issues regarding the difficulties some women have to reach orgasm during sex. I found it odd that a book so theoretically forward in terms of its thematic could also be so backwards, and I decided to judge for myself. I now regret that decision, but alas: what is done, is done. Let´s make something of it.

Let´s go first for the literary aspects of the book : it´s horrendously written and it has given me the impression the author has had no meaningful emotional experience in her whole life, as if she was herself actually a teenager with the depth of a Beverly Hills 90210 character. The self-esteem issues the main character and narrator Anastasia has lack credibility; her inner dialogues and conflicts are unnervingly pathetic, as she spends the entire book in a bizarro struggle between her “inner goddess” (what the fucking fuck?) and her “subconscious” (WTFF 2), two aspects of her personality who in a television cartoon would correspond to a little sex driven devil on one side of  her shoulder and Larry David on the other.

The author has a very disturbing obsession with some awful narrative images she repeats over and over again throughout the seemingly endless pages of the book: the way Christian Grey´s pants hang from his hips, the sound of the condom foil packet being ripped open (she mentions it ALMOST. EVERY. TIME.), the way Anastasia bites her lip. All characters are very superficial stereotypes, all dialogues are poorly constructed, it´s all just so… sad! Yes, it makes me sad that a book as bad as this one has made the cut and attracted such a massive crowd.

Having reviewed the absent literary aspects of E.L. James´ work, I must say I also agree with the criticism regarding the backwards-pretensely-forward approach to love and sex the author develops in her book. The BDSM in the book is basically null, except for a lot of talking about it, objects in a red room that remain for the most part unused throughout the course of the events, and some spanking that scare the shit out of the girl. The rest of it consists of blindfolding, tying and conventional sex toys — sorry, that´s not BDSM, that´s almost not even particularly kinky sex anymore. Also, Anastasia, a 20 years old virgin, has countless orgasms in her first day of sex, including one during her first time — and she has never ever masturbated. What? All due to her being masterfully manipulated by sex genius Christian Grey. Virgin girls, please, believe me when I tell you, take responsibility for your own orgasms. Your partner´s ability certainly count for a lot, but there is much we must learn about ourselves first, and work to be done by us every time we have sex if we want to get there.

Grey is a spoiled, filthy rich control freak, and everyone encourages Anastasia to love it because it´s just so great to be the object of those wild displays of affection translated in new cars, phones, computers, clothes, airplane ticket upgrades and showing up without invitation or early notice… right? Isn´t that what every woman wants in the bottom of their hearts? Fuck, no. I like ridiculously extravagant gifts, but I also enjoy being consulted about their convenience from time to time, and most of all, I do not want to exchange my freedom for your expensive presents, thank you.

There´s popcorn literature, I accept that. It´s like Indiana Jones, but written. Popcorn literature, as popcorn movies, can also be brilliant works — think Mario Puzo, Ken Follet, Tom Clancy at their finest (I´d mention Harry Potter but I have not read a single line of it — did love every one of the movies, though, and do find the world J.K. Rowling has imagined a work of welcome creativity). Fifty Shades of Grey is not popcorn literature. It´s just bad, really bad.

October 15, 2012

She´s 50 years old and doesn´t need make-up — SO WHAT?

She does look amazing without make-up, by the way. So does my mother. And probably, so do you

I´m shocked at how popular have become the recent paparazzi pictures from Julianne Moore walking around in NYC without make-up. The reason for the fuss is, basically: wow, she´s old and she doesn´t look horrendous wearing her own face. WTF? Seriously?

Please, guys, just don´t pay any attention to shit like that. Lady Gaga is fat, and now Julianne Moore looks good for a  woman so ancient. She doesn´t need make-up. Who needs make-up, please? To walk around town with my husband? Do all women in your families wear make-up all the time? Not in mine, in fact, I am one of the heaviest users, and certainly not because I feel I need it — just because I like to wear different colors on my face, and sometimes because I have a more formal event to which attend at work — I think I average 4 out of 7 days a week with make-up on. My mother and my grandmother only wear lipstick.

The media is talking about how incredible it is that almost dead Julianne Moore can even be looked upon without make-up, but the fact is we hear this pathetic stuff about women in her 20s, 30s, 40s — should it really be amazing that Rihanna looks good without make-up? Should it be like, news? Are we lacking news, for christ sake? Someone please get pregnant or cheat on someone or something.

People do not look as perfect as they usually do on the cover of magazines or at parties (and most of us up the ante at a good party, not just celebrities). The thing is that´s OK. Chipped manicure, or no manicure at all, or that moment between shavings/waxings, our hair just before we wash it, a little wrinkle or some purple around the eyes — that´s just how life, is, right? Please do not demand from me to look my very best every single minute of my life. Do not demand that from anyone, especially yourselves. Life is so much more than perfection.

October 8, 2012

Edinburgh and Rio de Janeiro — a tale of two international film festivals

So, being in Edinburgh on vacation was really not something I would have had planned about a year ago. I had a somewhat professionally related matter that would take me there, and from that incentive resulted a very, very nice time off.

While in Paris a few days before reaching Scotland, I had dinner with a chatty couple from the UK who kindly informed me the correct – native, say – way of pronouncing Edinburgh is actually Edinbourough, with a very strong “r”. And so it is indeed, and that´s how I think of this word´s pronounciation when I´m writing it.

I stayed at a great spot — the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket area were really close by — and could enjoy a lot of the city during my time off, including the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The Royal Mile

I don´t remember having seen any red carpet appearences from celebrities attending this festival, although I saw a large bunch of very exquisitely dressed people leaving the exclusive Opening Gala session for what would probably be a cool party. I myself attended the  public Opening Gala session — Killer Joe — which was very organized (specially when Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, which is still going on as I write, springs to mind in all it´s chaos), but did not feature any real gala item (such as booze and food) except for candid opening speeches by the artistic director of the Festival Chris Fujiwara, the main star Gina Gershon and the director of the movie, William Friedkin. People were randomly dressed — from black leather pants, gray silk tank, Stella open toe translucid sandals and a olive green wool blazer (me) to, you know, Converse, ugly jeans and t-shirt, to actual party wear.

I couldn´t buy my ticket for the premiere online, which sort of upset me — the online box office simply did not work — but it was possible to do it over the phone. I didn´t enjoy sharing my credit card information on such old fashioned basis, but alas — I could make a seat reservation in advance and that´s the most important thing, I believe. Had to grab my ticket on the ticket office over Lothian Road, which was a little far (not a lot, though — nothing is very far if we are talking of Edinburgh´s city center) from where I was staying and from where the film would show — the Festival Theater, a beautiful glass building equipped with state of the art screening equipment and an amazing, vintage showroom that takes you back to the early 20th century.

The Festival took place by the end of June, so, supposedly, the weather in Edinburgh should have been warm(er), but it was actually rather… weird — cold and then not and mostly windy and rainy. Well, I believe weather has been weird almost anywhere on Earth, throughout the whole year (in Edinburgh´s defense). I must say it mattered little: the fact is that medieval-turned-contemporary-and-friendly vibe of the city even gains in scenic appeal when the day is foggy and Carlton Hill is partially covered in mist. The camera never finds a reason to stop working in there — beautiful images can be produced from every corner, from magnificent ruin-like monuments on top of the green mountains to the amazing Edinburgh Castle and the thrilling Holyroodhouse Palace, to the lovely stone buildings from many centuries ago and the beautiful contrast between the gray walls and the wooden doors painted red.

visit – you should not, in any circumstance, not walk the entire Royal Mile up and down, and enter the domains both of the mighty Edinburgh Castle and the fantastically charged with history Holyroodhouse Palace. While you´re at it, just forget where your patriotic allegiances lie and allow the scottish pride to take over your heart. Let the unstopable bagpipes under your skin and allow the Stone of Scone enthrance you with its amazing story that runs back almost for a millenia — it was stolen by the English in the 11th century and placed under the cerimonial throne where all the Kings and Queens of England and later of the UK were coronated — UNTIL OUR DAYS. After years being kept at Westminster Abbey — by years, I mean, until 1950, that is, around six centuries  — the Stone was finally returned to the Scotts, and is kept at the Castle with the scottish Jewels of the Crown, with one condition: it must be temporarily returned to London when the next King or Queen is coronated, maintaining the centuries old tradition of having it under the ceremonial throne.

The green hills, the castle and the mist

Unusual view of Edinburgh, from the Castle

On your way down the Royal Mile, heading for the Holyroodhouse Palace, do visit the lovely Saint Giles Cathedral, with its beautiful blue ceilings, vitrals, stone halls, flags, and the Chapel of the Order of the Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s great order of chivalry.

The Holyroodhouse Palace, on the other hand, is just really thrilling with the fact the Queen still lives there for a part of the year and that so much palatial intrigue — culminating of course with the story of Mary Stuart, to whom the Scotts are more gentle than others usually are — was lived in that same environment. I guess the most fantastic of the place are the ruins of the Holyroodhouse Abbey — it is just so amazing to be faced with such a powerfully old structure, even if it has fallen apart.

Holyroodhouse Abbey

eat – go to pubs and have fish and chips. Fish and chips at a good pub with good beer is a must in the UK. Oh, just go anywhere it´s not crazy full, and that´s basically it. The place that stuck to my heart was not about fish and chips, though, but mussels and steak instead. Literally, it is called the Mussels and Steak Bar, and it´s in Grassmarket, a corner away from the Royal Mile. I stayed true to the mussels everytime I went there. Absolutely delicious. A three course meal (including half a kilo of delicious mussels and fries) will set you back in around 21 USDs (13 pounds).

art galleries – do hot dismiss Edinburgh´s fine art collections at the National Museum on the Mound — live music session among Italian Renaissance Masters included in the free visit, in my case, a very good jazz singer accompanied by violin, piano and harp — or at the Galleries of Modern Art. Good temporary exhibitions pair with great permanent ones and aside the great samples of representative European works, this is a chance at exploring the good art produced in Scotland.

glasgow – if you have enough time, just stop by Glasgow for a day — it´s about one hour by train from Edinburgh, and it´s a much larger city. Go visit the GoMA – Gallery of Modern Art: it´s really close to Queens Station (where you arrive from Edinburgh) and it´s both a beautiful building and a fine collection. Next, head for architecture, lunch, tea and some delicious dessert at the Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street, designed by the great (and most beloved) Charles Mackintosh. The art decó interiors speak much more loudly than the exteriors (a little too battered perhaps) and are definitely worth the visit. And have dessert. Indulge.

Second floor @ The Willow Tea Room

Especially if you have kids with you, try the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It´s not very far and its very oriented towards bringing art and history to your child´s attention (adults will enjoy it too). There´s more Mackintosh there as well, by the way.

Moving on across the pond and the Ecuator, Rio de Janeiro´s International Film Festival is still happening as I publish this. It’s spring in there and an unusually warm one, although temperatures are still delighful — just a tad warmer then they should be at this time of the year, enough for a beach in the morning (stay in Copacabana or Ipanema; Leblon is very nice but a bit too far from the rest) without having your skin melting in sweat as you work in actual clothes as the sun peaks up during the day. As usual, I was working, but again I find time for leisure (I swear I don´t run from my professional commitments to play the tourist).

About the festival — good selection of movies, but truly disorganized and upsetting. I gave a try at Moonrise Kingdom (later learned it was already available online and watched it: very candid and lovely) just to find myself not being able to purchase a ticket and choosing sort of impromptu the next available movie showing nearby: Quelques Heures de Printemps, a vastly different sort of experience (although I did enjoy the movie — a study on how our family relations are about what our own maturity make of them, and will only change by means of our wills to change them, and not due to external dramatic events that should supposedly bind all together in chants of love and joy in being in each other´s company). Seats could not be purchased in advance, nor were marked, which implied in huge lines at the ticket offices and then, at the showing room´s door (that if seating with your friends and with a comfortable view of the screen are listed among your cinematographic concerns). Sessions were often late and I had to get my money back for Monty Python: A Liar´s Autobiography  because there were no seats available anymore when I made my way to the room (they were overbooking the theater!). I then fled to try to catch Argo, the new Ben Affleck spionage venture in the early 1980s Middle East with a kitschy spin and the plus of being a true story — a very nice choice, I might add. Go watch it too. The movie theaters at the Botafogo neighborhood were by far the most chaotic and crowded, and the restaurants in the area (not many) were coping sufferably with the long hours of work due to the unusual masses of hungry people around (do try however the café at Livraria Prefácio, nearby the theater at Voluntários da Pátria street — nice food, cheap but interesting choices, the fried fish fillets with mustard sauce is honestly delicious and serves up to two very hungry people. Dessert is also nice, and their cacao cake is extremely relevant. Be patient with their service though).

Rio is still a chaotic city if compared to other large European or American metropolitan centers, but is has definitely improved both in matters of public transportation and overal citizen safety throughout the years. Do not expect time tables on subway stations or bus stops — when it comes to the latter, it may be actually quite hard to even find out which bus you´re supposed to take to get to where you need to go. The streets are still too dirty for my liking (but passable on most of the interesting spots), and so can the beaches be by the end of the day, which might be rather frustrating. These are the city downsides — from here, we only go up now.

Rio de Janeiro is probably the most beautiful large city in the world when it comes to the interaction between human intervention and nature. The location of the city is blessed, between green hills and a lovely shore, with an amazing park — the Aterro do Flamengo — and a lovely Lagoon to raise the bar even higher.

If this is your first time in Rio de Janeiro, you might be both curious about the local gastronomy and afraid of choosing “touristic” (meaning “poor quality, ostensively priced”) places out of your own lack of knowledge. Here goes a list for all sorts of foodie moods: from unforgettable (though drammatically expensive) experiences to some smart and more casual choices, here is a list of places where you will get a nice taste of Brazil in this wonderfully chaotic city:

where to spend heavily – I would say your first choice must be Le Pré Catelan, the finest French choice in Rio, I dare say. French? Do not be fooled by this title — this is Brazilian-French, my mate, specially if you get what you should: one of the special menus the chef Rolland Villard prepares based upon local ingredients, such as the unforgettable Amazonian menu or the more recent Rice and Beans menu (an entire 10 course meal prepared with dishes containing both ingredients presented in a variety of forms). Brief introduction to Brazilian food so you will understand this menu´s brilliance: rice and beans are a must on a daily basis and will go with mostly anything in a dish, but preferrably fries and a nice steak. Chef Villard, however, turns the combination into snacks, entrées and even desserts, entirely different among themselves in flavor and texture, by combining the local combination of ingredients with techniques and traditions from around the world to create a complete dining experience. You might spend at least 300 USD per person if you choose such menu, so be prepared. Le Pré Catelan is also furnished with an unfair trick under its sleeve, or, more specifically, outside its windows: a breathtaking view of Copacabana beach.

Deconstructed, mollecular feijoada @ Oro.

One option second to Le Pré Catelan should be the restaurant Oro, by chef Felipe Bronze. A five-course menu including the exquisite wine pairing by attentive argentinian sommelière Cecilia Aldaz should cost you around 150 USD per guest and will also not disappoint. Ask for the crayfish with pistacchio cream, hearts of palm and artichokes paired with the most dreamy Gewursträminer from Alsace — tears of happiness may burst from your eyes. On our right, check out their deconstructed, and even poetic approach to the classic feijoada (sort of a Brazilian version of French cassoulet, but with black beans instead of the lighter variety and sometimes enriched with some of the obscurest cuts of pork, such as the ear, as well as the most popular ones). Decoration and attention to detail are at very high levels at the Oro.

Rua Dias Ferreira: you will find many cool (and crowded) restaurants in this lovely street at the Leblon neighborhood (the most upscale in Rio). Head for Sushi Leblon for great japanese, Sawasdee or Mekong for a blend of Asian flavors or Quadrucci for nice italian food. If you are into a very heavily crowded environment and a typical carioca bar experience, head for Chico and Adelaide on the corner of Bartolomeu Mitre and indulge in fried manioc and shrimp dumplings with cold beer.

where to eat downtown – weather your visit is business or leisure, you should come accross the difficult issue of eating downtown Rio de Janeiro. The majority of the most important companies in Rio have their headquarters there, and most of the city´s greatest museums are there as well.

Downtown Rio de Janeiro is filled with OK-but-overpriced choices (this is of course a personal opinion) such as the Eça, charmingly (and meaningfully) situated underground below (and inside) an H. Stern jewelry shop at Avenida Rio Branco, next to Rua da Assembléia, or the Giuseppe Grill — look for it at Rua da Quitanda, near the corner from 7 de Setembro. Those are fine if someone is paying your bill, but if you are on your own, perhaps you will prefer some other ideas:

Firstly, there is the Ateliê Culinário @ Odeon Cinema. This is your go-to place if you are attending the Film Festival, as the Odeon is where most of the gala events are held. This is a fully preserved early 20th century movie theater, façade and all. A few international celebrity shots were taken on the red carpet there, such as this one of Kylie Minogue published on the Red Carpet Fashion Awards blog. The tigelinha de moqueca — a bowl of light white fish stew cooked with local spices, bananas, ground coconut and a choice of whole or white rice — is quite heavenly, and so are all the salads (fresh greens, gorgonzola, pears and walnuts with balsamic vinegar or shrimp, sweet tomatoes, lettuce and mango with guacamole are my favorites) and the deserts (please do order the warm dulce de leche with cheese ice cream, freshly ground parmesan cheese and smashed peanuts).

Bistrot The Line @ Maison France-Brésil: this is a great choice if you are visiting the museums on the other side of Rio Branco Avenue: the Paço Imperial, the CCBB and the gallery at the Maison France-Brésil itself. There is also an antiques fair held nearby on saturdays (at Praça XV). It´s not expensive and the food is varied and honest. A nice feijoada (again, the feijoada) is served on fridays, saturdays and sundays for about 13 USDs (25 Reais).

do not miss – a nice stroll at the Aterro do Flamengo park, ending in a visit to the Museum of Modern Art (MAM), a beautiful building with an amazing garden by Brazilian architect Burle Marx, great views from Guanabara Bay and an interesting permanent collection of local artists, plus great temporary exhibitions such as a recent one of Giacometti;

Burle Marx’s garden @ MAM Rio

…the CCBB, on the other end of the downtown area, might also be having a nice temporary exhibition — it is worth checking before dismissing, and also checking out the other previously mentioned art galleries in the Candelária area: the Paço Imperial, the Casa dos Correios and the Maison France-Brésil (really nearby, mere two to five minutes away from each other by foot); a walk in the early morning from Leme all the way to the Fort at Copacabana, where you should arrive about a quarter to 10 AM in order to get a table for breakfast with an amazing view of the beach and the cityscape surrounding it;

Breakfast is only commencing at the Forte de Copacabana

…a walk at Pista Claudio Coutinho at the Urca neighborhood, where you should definitely try (if you have an able guide — could be a local friend) climbing the trail that gets you to the top of the first, lower hill that comprises the Sugar Loaf — you can get the bondinho from there to the higher hilltop and then back all the way down, or just take in the view from righ there and descend through the same trail for free; delicious caipirinhas made of intriguing fruits and combinations (try cocoa and rosemary) at the Palaphita Kitsch, a bar with breathtaking views of the Lagoon.

Palaphita Kitsch – didn´t have any good picture of mine, so click to find the source of this one

Robert Morris and the Theatro Municipal

So there it is, a tale of two very distinct cities — the misty Avalon Edinburgh Edinbourough and the sunny chaotic lovely Rio de Janeiro, bound by my own very personal experiences of not so red carpet popular but locally relevant international film festivals. I could have thrown in this post a third city by narrating my experience of Sundance Film Festival as well (and that would be it, in what international film festivals are concerned), but that was too long ago, when I was still a poor student working at the chairlifts of a ski resort in Park City in order to ski for free in my days off (eventually, on workdays as well) while at a long winter break. Well, aside from holding a chair for Robert Redford, there was not much more to it, really. Also, a third city would spoil the Dickens reference, and how cool IS a Dickens reference, ahn? A lot, right? A lot.

P.S.: A few more pictures of Rio are on the way. Stay tuned.

P.P.S.: Kept my promise — nice Rio de Janeiro pictures were added to this post. Hope you enjoy.

October 4, 2012

Freedom and fury: about being able to respectfully disagree

You have not really ever met anyone who is naturally as skinny as this girl? I have.

I wish I was more politically active than I actually am, at least in terms of writing. The fact is I am not only a hard worker but also, a little shy and somewhat afraid to express myself, because I am on the fringes of the conventional and as such, also of the unconventional (maybe most of us are? or not? that´s beside the point, though). I hate the word “minority” — seriously? Some of those deemed “minority” are far from actually being so. I also dislike labels, so that turns my defending some causes rather difficult, but here´s what I believe in a very summed up manner: everybody is just as much as equal as entirely different from each other, and that should be taken into account in any discussion about human rights.

Categories deny the fluidity of individuality and of life itself and in my opinion, they might propel even more discord — say one person is born and raised in India, from European parents — what is that person? Should one be categorized in terms of juridical nationality, of patriotic inclinations (if any — I don´t have any), of ethnic roots (if any is predominant, anyway), childhood cultural environment, mother tongue? How can I defend this person if he immigrates to the U.S.? Oh, as an immigrant, think of him as an immigrant. An immigrant, yes, but I haven´t heard of Sting having had any particular issues being a legal alien in New York, and remember, our guy probably is caucasian, although he might have a foreign accent, and well, let´s say he comes from a rich family. Not he — she, because our guy is a girl — he has undergone a sex reassignment surgery from male to female. Transsexual, then? Well yes, but let´s not forget she is also gay; more precisely, a lesbian? Well, she enjoys sexual and romantic relations with girls. She also firmly believes the USA should not close their facility in Guantanamo Bay and enjoys strictly monogamic relations.

Very few would admit to disliking freedom — of speech, of choice. One believes a particular conduct should be entirely forbidden when one deems that conduct unacceptable or damaging to society. Some of these unacceptable conducts are more or less universally shared as unacceptable, such as stealing or murder, but already with significant differences in how unacceptable they are. Others seem to be in the path of consolidating themselves as granted rights, but still provoke a lot of hate and questioning from many, even if not as openly or as much as before, such as having homosexual relations and relationships. Freedom of movement is a strongly debated issue with radically opposed opinions, and I see no path to consensus anytime soon — regional arrangements acknowledged. Freedom of gender? Well, the first ever genderless human lives in Australia — originally born a male, Norrie May-Welby has undergone sex reassignment surgery and then also felt a void while being categorized as a female, having pledged — and won — the right to declare being of unspecified gender. What about freedom of appearance? Can one be overly fat? Can one choose to be overly thin? What is overly anyway, and to whom? Sometimes yes, your body weight can result in health issues.

My approach is usually this: does it concern anyone but me and my happiness? If yes, what do you care? Is it about my body, my life choices, my love and sex life? I do not feel I have the right to impose on anyone my personal choices regarding those issues and I demand to be reciprocated. And even though I am a heterosexual female who is not uncomfortable with the original gender assignment, I do fight for a lot of what I consider being my rights: to go out for a drink alone with a guy without having him think I am necessarily willing to have sex with him; to be relaxed in a room with a lot of heterosexual men and not have to listen to piggish commentary about women and being called a feminazi when I ask them to stop objectifying women and finding it very normal. To live in the trenches of conventional is just as difficult as being entirely unconventional — there is actually no difference at all, which, I think, validates my point when it comes to _not categorizing_.

My point is, there is no standard profile to anyone and there is very little to be taken for granted in any struggle for any sort of freedom, and that is why I firmly subscribe to courtesy and dialogue when it comes to defending or arguing against anyone´s position. This is not only about humility, it is about freedom too. If the idea is to change what seem to be a strongly shared value, there is no point in imposing authoritatively to your readers or listeners everything you believe in. Can a feminist defend monogamy or enjoy cooking for her family? All gay men should vote for Obama? Can I still diet and try to lose weight even though I don´t think Lady Gaga is fat, nor that it should matter? Am I obliged to conform to the “movement´s” expectations about my behavior to be a part of the “movement”? Will I be attacked or banned from a feminist forum if I say, and that is what I believe in, Karlie Kloss was being as bullied for being “too thin” as Lady Gaga was for having gained weight? It is not the fault of some beautiful healthy skinny ladies that other girls harm their bodies to reach a particular ideal of beauty…

Honestly, no consensus will ever be built on fury, even if that fury is geared towards supposedly defending freedom. News flash: everyone defends freedom. The only difference is if it is my freedom or our freedom. And if it is our freedom, then I should respectfully hear what you have to say, and if I do, disagree in the same fashion.

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