7.6.12

Heteronormativity 'n' shit

I recently wrote an essay, for an awesome paper I do on gender and sexuality in the media, on heteronormativity and the fetishisation of marriage in the fashion blogosphere. It was possibly the awesomest essay I've ever written, although I'm not gonna reproduce it here because it is full of boring academic references, and also it specifically analyses several prominent bloggers and their treatment of romantic relationships, and I'd feel weird about putting that on the internet. (If you want to read it though, feel free to email me, my address is on our 'about' page.) But god, I've never thought about blogging as seriously as I did while writing that essay. When you step back and take a look at personal style blogging, it's really, really weird. It's such a tight-knit little community, full of awesome people who love and support each other, but sometimes it's not all it's cracked up to be. It seems like fashion blogging in particular just creates its own conventions and norms, parallel to those in mainstream mass media that blogging is so often praised for being able to subvert and overthrow. There are definitely a set of observable patterns to the style blogs with the most readers, and I don't think I need to list them. I sometimes feel shitty and guilty for buying into them without actively making any choices- I am about as normative you can get in terms of the fashion blogosphere. And often when I mention my boyfriend, even just in passing, I feel a strange guilt for reinforcing heteronormativity in fashion blogs. But nobody should be made to feel guilty for being who they are. Including queer bloggers and individuals. Down with heteronormativity!

 One of my absolute favourite bloggers ever, who also happens to be queer, has spoken to me before about how the style blogging world can be isolating for her due to the whole fetishisation of the photographer-boyfriend (or husband) character. And I know she is not the only one. There is an expectation that extremely stylish bloggers will have extremely stylish boyfriends whose photographs and photographs of whom will feature in their posts, who will have an awesome bloggable life full of food that photographs well and an appropriately whimsical home. Marriage is fetishised to a huge extent, and the event itself is turned into a living blog post. And if you are heterosexual, that's great! And if you have an awesome whimsical wedding, that's also great! Power to you! Wedding posts make me cry for some reason! But there is a hazy sort of line where blogging about one's cute life can become isolating and alientating for anyone who doesn't include a heterosexual partner in their blogging routine- because they don't have a heterosexual partner, or because said partner isn't interested in featuring on a blog.

The assumption is made, both in the blogosphere and in any other aspect of life, that an individual is heterosexual and cisgendered until they say otherwise. And to identify as anything other than utterly normative in terms of gender and sexuality requires this whole process of interpellation and subjectification that is kinda ridiculous. I never have to announce myself as a straight person. But because fashion blogging is often intertwined with lifestyle, mentioning 'me and my boyfriend went opshopping today' is totally innocuous. But if a female blogger mentions she and her girlfriend, it's suddenly perceived as political, or making a statement. On a similar note- I found a reading (I've lost it, if you know the author please let me know because I can't remember) that talked about how interesting it was that we've decided the gender of the person you're sleeping with is what is the most important thing about them, or the most important thing about how we have sex. Nobody ever asks 'are you lights-off?', but 'are you gay?'. Somehow this has become SO important, yet so under-represented in the blogosphere. Studies have repeatedly shown (and I can give you sources, if you want) that members of the LGBT community read blogs and participate actively in the internet at a significantly higher level than straight-identifying individuals, so why is the LGBT presence in fashion blogging so weak? And why are there so many engrained conventions that prioritise heterosexual long-term cohabitation as the holy grail of all relationships in the grand hierarchy of what is legitimate and what isn't?

Speaking of heteronormativity, Kristin drew my attention to this post over at IFB about how you should make sure your blog makes you look smart, successful and sexually available, just in case a guy you're going on a date with googles your name. Because that is possibly the most important thing in the world, right? Also, this article assumes the entire audience is straight, and desperately want advice on how to snag and retain a man. Cool. As Kristin said, blogging is meant to be a place where we can represent ourselves however we want without having to think about being objects of the male gaze like women do constantly in other forms of media. Because we are 100% free to construct our own representations of ourselves, our lifestyles and our relationships, we have absolute agency over our identities as women (or non-women), which we should be using to challenge the way we think about fashion, not to make us look like marriage material. Instead of asking yourself if you would say aloud to 'him' what you have just written, reassure yourself that if he was a decent person he would think it's cool that you write about your passion and express yourself through how you dress yourself.

The other day my boyfriend and I were talking about something and he mentioned my blog and I was like 'hey now, you've never even read my blog!' and it suddenly occurred to me why he doesn't care (in the nicest, most caring way possible) about my blog. He sees me and talks to me every day, he sees what I am wearing, asks me where I got that dress, is often with me when I bought said dress. Why would he have any interest in reading it too? He doesn't care what I write about, and I don't think any of my friends, nor my brothers, nor my parents, nor my cousins particularly do either, although they've all read this blog at various times. Also IFB is pretty shit actually, does anyone else agree? I was thinking that perhaps me and some Smashies (you know who you are) and maybe some other awesome feminist bloggers could probably start a pretty good blog for queer and feminist critique of the blogosphere and fashion world, anyone keen?

I can pretend all I want that this blog has potential to be super famous and successful, but I don't have any money, let alone enough to compete with the likes of... y'know. My home will never look like Elsa Billgren's, as much as I would like it to, but we do have awesome space-print curtains we got for a pittance on Trademe and some great paintings and novelty-print pillowcases from opshops. I am utterly content with my life of picking up furniture on the side of the road and freezing half to death in our rickety, over-populated flat, despite its lack of 'mainstream' blog-ability. And I think I might start being a bit more vocal about being an unemployed and very poor student living a very studenty life, because it's one of the very few things that sets me apart from the majority of young professionals in the blogosphere. I don't need to pretend that I have lots of money or quietly gloss over the fact that my savings are rapidly depleting and I am beginning to get anxious about my future, because maybe that's one of the things that could become a bit of a ~selling point~ of my blog entries? I don't know.

Congrats if you have got through all of this. It doesn't really have a thesis statement, just a lot of feelings I have about blogging. I guess this will be my last post for a few days because Jack and I are going to stay with his parents for a while, for another intense runaround of every single opshop in Taranaki and various other districts between there and Wellington. For your time, here are some pictures of my wardrobe rail thing from the other day. I think all the fabrics look so great together.

36 comments:

  1. Georgia! You are so wonderful! All of your words are so good. I'd really like to read that essay :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a really interesting idea. The conventions of blogging get me down. It can be rather disheartening seeing all the DSLR girls with their representations of their perfect lives. I just want to see real people, and what they really wear you know?
    I am totally keen to read your essay.
    Also, would love to hear more about studenty life, and living in Wellington and stuff.
    Thanks for provoking thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your emails and comments, I really appreciate them. I think the balance between 'real' and audience appeal is definitely a tricky one.

      Delete
  3. Of course I love this and would love to read more about YOUR life in whatever form it takes at any given time.
    Always down to collaborate if you guys want to write more about this sort of thing! Let me know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will perhaps write up a proposal or something in the next couple of weeks and email it to you and some others!

      Delete
  4. This is one of the best posts I've ever read. Thank you for drawing my attention to something I hadn't really considered before. I was really appalled at both the article on IFB (I hate to think what Virginia Woolf would think of all this...) and the lack of understanding from other readers when people raised the issues you've described. I would really love to read your essay. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! The idea that I've made even one person think about something differently is really awesome. Sometimes blogging hurts my feminist sensibilities so much, I should make a shrine to fierce ladies I admire and perform a sacrifice to them every time a female blogger expresses internalised misogyny.

      Delete
  5. Hello, new favourite.

    I'm banging fists about and shouting HEAR HEAR (or here here? When will I look that up), basically.

    That, and eyeing that green polkadot and the pale pink with striped cuffs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks!

      They are two of my favourites that I don't wear anywhere near enough. I might whip out the pale pink sailor dress tomorrow in your honour.

      Delete
  6. WOW! Beautiful dress with amazing colors..:)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Super interesting stuff to think about. Specifically with respect to the IFB post--her basic take-home point seems to be a combination of "write to impress" and "keep in mind that real-life people can read you!", so...why the focus on mansnaring? And even if you want to use the date-Googling-you example to get at the issue, EXPAND OUTWARD AFTERWARD! Also, don't! Everyone has already written about it!

    On the less-generous other hand: under the ways-to-manproof-your-blog heading, listing "humor" and linking to a post that includes the advice "Hang with the guys. I don’t want to be a traitor to the fairer sex, but let’s be honest about something real quick: guys are funny"?

    I would definitely be happy to hear more about a) penniless student life (since I'm deep in the throes of it myself) and b) these sorts of meta-blog issues! I'm glad someone in this miniworld is talking about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I can see where she was going with that post but I think she got way off-course with her ideologies or something. 'Write with an intended audience' is a good idea, but 'write to impress hot dudes' is terrible, atrocious, borderline-offensive advice.

      Thanks for your support! Definitely gonna start being a little more open and representative of my lifestyle and, uh, financial means/lack thereof.

      Delete
  8. ALSO, if you ever want to use a bad pun for the title of an article about this, i would like to offer up "straight expectations" free of charge.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am definitely e-mailing you for that essay! This is something I think about a lot. Blogging is something I want to do a lot of once I'm out of school, & even though it's a crafty blog, I find myself thinking about how much of ME I should be putting online. I'm a sex-positive, not-straight feminist -- maybe none of that "belongs" on the blog, but I feel like it should be included somehow, because I really don't want to be like all the other bloggers I read about if I'm just NOT. There's so much pressure to be perfect & trendy & normal. I don't blog much at all, & I'm not a fashion blogger, so I don't feel the brunt of it just yet -- but I still sense it. In fact, I think the fact that I don't have a nice apartment or great clothes is what KEEPS me from blogging more. I don't fit, & I should embrace that.

    I would absolutely be up for helping out with a smasher blog in the future, even if it's just background work or the occasional something! I sort of miss our zine. It would be nice to have a new project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is difficult to decide what 'belongs' on a blog, I guess it's up to the individual to decide that. I don't want to pretend I don't have a heterosexual partner, but I don't want him to be Mr. Velvettes either. I think you should 100% embrace the things that don't make you fit. The best blogs, in my opinion, are the ones that stick to their guns and are the most quirky or unique in their lifestyle or writing or anything. You've gotta have something that sets you apart as a blogger, and I say go for it. I definitely don't have a nice apartment either. It's actually disgustingly messy, rickety and moldy, and has twice as many people living here as there are meant to be. I'd say my rent is less than most people spend on food a week. And I'm gonna start banking on that, hah!

      Delete
  10. georgia, you are the friggin best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are too, girl. So good to have other bloggers on my side, haha.

      Delete
  11. I'm a new reader of your blog, but I'm excited to know that there bloggers out there who aren't afraid to talk about smart things and not be all lollipops and rainbows all the time. Full disclosure: I like lollipops and rainbows (but I like intelligent conversations/posts a bit more). This is something I've struggled with in my own posting especially because I have an awesome partner and I cringe at the idea of posting anything that is overly heteronormative, but there are definitely normative patterns in our lifestyle that we can't deny.

    I'd really love to read your essay.

    Trina, midwestisforlovers AT gmail DOT com.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE lollipops and rainbows. My life is like 60% whimsy and florals and adventures and romance and all that bloggable stuff. But I know what you mean about trying to find that balance when it comes to mentioning your partner.

      I will email it to you now!

      Delete
  12. Really interesting post! I had never even thought about the gender/ sexuality issue in terms of fashion blogging. I think the thing to remember is that many of these (successful) bloggers have carefully branded and marketed themselves. They create the illusion of a lifestyle which I don't think necessarily reflects their own entirely. They don't talk about the fights they've had with their partners, that they only had a coupe of dollars in the bank last week (although chances are they have a lot of advertising which pays for their lifestyle) or put up outfit posts that aren't worth bragging about. And let's be honest, we don't really want to hear about it either! We use these blogs as a form of escapism and dream about the wonderful lives we think they have. I know I do! And then I feel all envious that my life can't be one bright, beautiful, positive snapshot after another. I also think that if we disagree with somebodies blog or the image they are presenting then we always have the option to not follow them. I know that I have unfollowed bloggers who were always complaining and moaning about their lives, I felt like crap every time I read a post by them.
    Phew, after that rant please don't think for a second that I'm not agreeing with your post. You have made some extremely valid points. I think that the article on IFB is very sad and I sincerely hope that nobody feels they need to stoop to those levels. In the end my opinion is that we always have a choice in what we do, read, eat etc.
    x
    P.S I hope you have a great little holiday and score lots of awesome op shop pieces.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Malayka! I love how many interesting and insightful comments I'm getting on this, it's so good to hear other people's opinions. I agree completely about the illusion that blogs create, in my essay I talked a bit about performativity and I guess blogging is highly performative. Because we have absolute control over how we present ourselves through blogs, we can perform our lives (and relationships, and gender, and lots of other things) as optimistically or otherwise as we want. I think there is definitely a balance in blogging between glossing over bad things and just being extremely negative, which nobody really wants to read about.

      I may have included a bit in a first draft about this, about how I truly believe if a thin, rich, white, 20-something, cisgendered woman with some spare time put her mind to it, she could be a successful/popular fashion blogger with a devoted following in a week, no sweat. Which is kinda sad for those of us of more humble means who put a ton of effort into reading and commenting on blogs, building up blogger friends and an audience, and so on.

      Delete
  13. I have lots of feelings about this, obviously. Too many to put in a comment but I'm really glad you wrote this. I think that blogging is not the equalising and inclusive thing that the media likes to pretend it is. Most of the blogs that don't fit into the mainstream have their own little blogging communities but are not read by people that aren't themselves from those communities. Like, on tumblr there are a whole lot of queer fashion blogs but most of their readers are also queer. I'm really happy that they exist and I like reading them, but I don't really relate to them because their style is not remotely like mine. On the other hand, lots of the fashion blogs that have the types of clothes I like/wear are really heteronormative which I don't relate to either. It's not that I have an objection to either kind of blog but as a femme I feel like I don't fit in with either of them.
    That IFB article is horrible and most of the comments are even worse. I don't read IFB generally because I find it just tries to reinforce all the "rules" about being a good blogger. A blog for queer and feminist critique of the blogosphere and fashion world sounds amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw yay, your approval means so much to me and I mean that honestly. Queer blogs definitely seem to occupy a niche in the blogosphere which sucks, it seems like it's hard to be a queer AND fashion blogger and occupy more than one niche.

      Would you be interested in contributing to said blog if it came to fruition?

      Delete
    2. Exactly, it's like people have to choose if they're one or the other.
      I'd definitely be interested in contributing.

      Delete
  14. i really enjoyed reading this. as someone who previously blogged and had a boyfriend who had an internet presence and who i mentioned and posted photos of frequently, and who then went through a fucking horrendous break up with this guy, it often crosses my mind how these beautiful girls who i honestly admire and think are wonderful, would cope if they went through what i went through. not to assume that they never have before, but i just wonder how it would affect certain blogs if their owners had to try and maintain the same level of posting every other day while being heartbroken and not having their boyfriend to take outfit photos of them anymore.

    i hope that doesn't sound bitter because i don't mean it like that at all, but i just notice that almost all of the most successful blogs i see have a girl as the face of them with an obliging boyfriend or husband photographer. which is just wonderful for those girls/women who are lucky enough to have someone special in their life, but as a single woman who gets absolutely no assistance in terms of the photographs and content on my blog i definitely think it's harder. but i guess most things in life are harder when you're single, but that's just how life is.

    i know that's a total side note to the real issue you're discussing which is the place of the LGBT community in blogging, and i hope it doesn't sound pathetic and totally anti-feminist of me, because clearly i am a strong, independent single woman who can take care of herself, but as times i do feel marginalised in the blogging world because i'm single.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It absolutely doesn't sound pathetic or anti-feminist, I understand exactly what you mean. Going from having a photography assistant to not having one would be difficult, I went through a similar thing when I realised my brother and I were moving to different cities meant he couldn't take my blog photos, and I panicked. Obviously it's much harder losing a boyfriend, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that any event that changes your blogging routine means you have to rethink how you post and take photographs.

      It's funny that you should mention that about prominent blogger breakups because last night I was going through my Google Reader in a post-assignment haze and found a post from a few days ago, from a very prominent blogger who I have read since maybe 2007. It was about her boyfriend breaking up with her recently, and it made me cry lots because she was so sincere and honest about it. There was no sugar-coating or whimsy filters, she was just a real person who had really been heartbroken and was trying to deal with it. I went to check her blog today and it seems to have been deleted or something, which I totally understand.

      The blogging world definitely puts heterosexual romantic relationships on a pedestal, so I understand how it can marginalise anyone whose relationships don't fit into that niche. But please keep being the awesome blogger you are! Yours is honestly one of my favourites and I really admire your photographic and styling talent, with or without a boyfriend.

      Delete
  15. "Also IFB is pretty shit actually, does anyone else agree? I was thinking that perhaps me and some Smashies (you know who you are) and maybe some other awesome feminist bloggers could probably start a pretty good blog for queer and feminist critique of the blogosphere and fashion world, anyone keen?:"

    Yes, please. I am bi, for lack of a better term - I've been with a guy for 4 years but before that was with women at least another 7 or 8 years back. I also really valued being single when I was single so it drives me insane that so much straight coupledom (and so so little independent "doing") is revered.

    I think the driving force behind IFB is a smart cookie but at some point it turned over into a lot of very consumerist editors for the Links a la Mode posts and I just got so tired of reading about how to be a pro blogger (although I get this is what their focus is and always has been). I appreciate all their work re informative copyright and skill-based stuff but so much of it now is fluff.

    Anyway, thank you for posting this. These conversations are so great when they pop up.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ah, I definitely would love to read your paper! I wrote a paper about gender, crafting online, ecommerce/etsy a few years ago, and reworked it for my grad school applications this past year. I did a lot of reflections about what I do online as a female blogger and gender roles.

    I guess I started blogging because I traveled so much, and wanted to keep my friends and family updated on my daily life. I think the fact that my friends and family still read my blog helps me keep it real. But like many young women, I do wish there were extensive photos of me in sweet outfits taken by my boyfriend. But because of my travels, I wear same things every other day and wouldn't really want extensive photos of my broken walking shoes! I see fashion blogs of women who travel in beautiful stilettos and endless lovely vintage dresses, and wonder how they do it. It must be blog magic!

    Here's an old livejournal, and now blog, friend of mine who takes lovely self-portraits and writes about politics of fashion from a feminist perspective: http://alagarconniere.wordpress.com/

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow thank you for such an insightful and honest post, I've often felt there's a dark side to the fashion/lifestyle blogging world in that it can inadvertently breed insecurities in people (well, in me anyway) and does make you feel like you're existence just isn't up to scratch in comparison, even for a straight person with a photographer boyfriend like me! :) I have nothing clever to add, I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading it, Khrystyna

    ReplyDelete
  18. This was such a great read and wonderfully assessed a conveniently skimmed over aspect of the wonderful blogosphere, in a way that was honest but not forceful. Kudos to you. If you're interested in my own humble opinion I'm running a week-long series (for lack of a better, less-fancy word; really it's just a discussion) on various aspects of feminism.
    Katia
    www.katiapellicciotta.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. Boooo I can't believe I've only seen this now despite my railing for you to blog about this! I am with you on every point. I don't really post pictures of myself on my blog because I have a pitiful camera, I usually balance it on a pile of books, the only time of day (when I have dressed up and look nice) I have time to take a picture is in the evening when I am tired and sweaty, and the only photo friendly place is in the corner of my parents sitting room, lololol living the dream aye? I don't have a handsome boy who happily accompanies me on whimsical day trips and take snaps of me while I simper in a nice dress. I don't know, sometimes I feel like that's making an excuse? Maybe I should keep taking those pictures - they're never going to get attention, I'm not going to be a featured blogger anytime soon, because by not aligning yourself with hetronormativity, you're being political, and that isn't ""safe"" to get featured in any magazine or whateverrrrr. Its hard asking other people to take photos of you because it seems almost vain somehow, while it'd seem acceptable for a boyf to be snapping pictures of you if you're a cute couple.

    Anyway I love all of this so much, and cannot get over how RIDICULOUS that IFB article is?!

    PS. can you mail me your essay? and those LGBT/blog readership stats? x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ps. that blog/critique thing sounds really good, it could even have a one off zine potential? you know where we right about our ~feelingz

      Delete
  20. This. Is. Great.

    I've just stumbled across your blog, I've fallen down the internet hole of NZ fashion/sewing/vintage bloggers. I was just thinking about how great it is because I can identify a lot more with you guys than with some of the other fashion blogs I've found - I'm Aussie, but ya know. Similar part of the world, same seasons, same terrible Spotlight. I was thinking about how you and Camelia Crinoline are similar age to me, and have similar fashion sense and budgets and prose style. Like Camelia says, there're a lot of queer fashion blogs on tumblr but I don't follow most of them because I don't find them personally inspiring. I follow a few of the fatshion ones because it's good for my mental health to see photos of people who are my size or larger, but still a lot of their style is not mine. Partly because it's real hard to dress vintage style of you're larger!

    I'm queer, but in a het relationship. Actually the one significant group of people I'm not out to is my blog friends. Partly because it's not something that really fits with what I talk about on my blog, partly because I started blogging before I really had my identity worked out (I knew I wasn't straight but didn't really have a word or a concept for that).

    My boyfriend doesn't live with me, and I don't have a camera with a remote, so a lot of the time I just don't blog about things I've made or bought, because it's just too hard to get nice photos. Or even decent ones. It's actually something I think about a lot, and I admit to feeling a bit bitter about people who have professional photographer boyfriends. Which is hardly fair, I'm sure they and their boyfriends are lovely! I'm not really in it for the devoted following of your earlier comment, but I would like a blog that I feel proud of, a documentation of my efforts and style, and a community of like minded people. But I don't feel like those things are in reach for the amount of effort I'm willing to put in.

    I have a couple of photographer friends, and I asked one to take some FO photos of me, but it means getting a bunch together at a time and organising a session. And I feel really weird about that - partly because I don't like to ask for anything at all, but mostly, I think, because I see fashion and sewing and clothes as 'trivial' things, not worth bothering a man with a 'real' hobby about. Which sentiment the man in question would mock me for, one of the reasons we're friends is that he loves and respects crafts and fibre arts. But I still have that knee-jerk reaction of it not being 'worth' the trouble, in general, and of my own body, style and the products of my labour not being worth it. I think if I were thin and rich and trendy I would have less problem thinking my outfits were worth documenting and sharing with the world.

    Sorry, this turned into an essay!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for commenting! If you require a specific answer to a question, you can find our email addresses on our 'about' page. xo

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...