Monday, 26 September 2016

The Politics of Pockets: The history of pockets isn’t just sexist, it’s politica

Much has been written about how sexism dictates whether a garment gets usable pockets. While class unquestionably plays a part, men’s clothing tends to have capacious, visible pockets; women’s clothing tends to have small pockets, if any at all. Content with their pockets, men have little to say about them, but women have been complaining about the inadequacy of their pockets for more than a century. "One supremacy there is in men’s clothing… its adaptation to pockets," Charlotte P. Gilman wrote for the New York Times in 1905. She continues, "Women have from time to time carried bags, sometimes sewn in, sometimes tied on, sometimes brandished in the hand, but a bag is not a pocket."

An historical reenactment of medieval bags. Photo: DEA / C. BALOSSINI / Getty
Truer words have rarely been written. A bag is not a pocket, and pockets — more than pants, more than ties, more than boxer-briefs, even more than suits — are the great clothing gender divide. Pockets are political, but probably not in the way you’d first expect.
Once upon a time, everyone carried bags. In the Medieval era, both men and women tied their bags to the waist or wore them suspended from belts; these bags looked very much like Renfaire fanny packs. As the rural world grew more urban and criminals more sophisticated, people cunningly hid their external pockets under layers of clothing to hinder cutpurses; men’s jackets and women’s petticoats were outfitted with little slits that allowed to you access your tied-on pockets through your clothing.

Hariette Wilson with Reticule. Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty
Only in the late seventeenth century did pockets make their move to become part of men’s clothing, permanently sewn into coats, waistcoats, and trousers; women’s pockets, however, failed to make the same migration. Lacking built-in pockets, women continued to hide their tied-on pockets, which were large, often pendulous bags. Secreted under their petticoats, panniers, and bustles, these highly decorated pockets swung heavy with their contents. You could fit a lot in those pockets — sewing kits, food, keys, spectacles, watches, scent bottles, combs, snuffboxes, writing materials, and money all found their place.
The French Revolution changed everything. While the mid-eighteenth century lavished in rococo, wide skirts that screamed decadence and wealth in their yards and yards of fabric, the end of the eighteenth century whispered restraint. Skirts pulled in close to the body, the natural waist crept ever upward, and the silhouette thinned to a slender column. This neoclassical look had no room for pouchy pockets, yet women still needed to carry their stuff. The reticule, a small, highly decorated purse, was born — and like a pernicious poltergeist, it has never really gone away. On the heels of the reticule, chatelaines— waist chains that resemble big, tinkling charm bracelets for the very busy — came into the consumer consciousness in 1828. Unlike purses, which hid everything away, these fashionable belts put women’s necessities on display.

A chatelaine. Photo: Heritage Images/ Getty
Writing for The Spectator in 2011, Paul Johnson offersa witty, thumbnail history of the sartorial convention of the pocket, and he caps his piece with a 1954 Christian Dior bon mot: "Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration." Tease apart that quote and you get a fairly essentialist view of gender roles as they play out in clothing. Men’s dress is designed for utility; women’s dress is designed for beauty. It’s not a giant leap to see how pockets, or the lack thereof, reinforce sexist ideas of gender. Men are busy doing things; women are busy being looked at. Who needs pockets?
This analysis of Western dress goes down pretty easy — maybe a little too easy. It’s not to say that pocket sexism isn’t true. It is to say that pockets are more than sexist: they’re political. One way to look at the transfiguration of women’s tied-on, capacious pockets of the mid-eighteenth century into the early nineteenth century’s tiny, hand-held reticule is to consider that this transformation occurred as the French Revolution, a time that violently challenged established notions of property, privacy, and propriety. Women’s pockets were private spaces they carried into the public with increasing freedom, and during a revolutionary time, this freedom was very, very frightening. The less women could carry, the less freedom they had. Take away pockets happily hidden under garments, and you limit women’s ability to navigate public spaces, to carry seditious (or merely amorous) writing, or to travel unaccompanied.
Pockets in women’s dress hit a watershed moment in the fin-de-siècle Rational Dress campaign. Founded in 1891, the Rational Dress Society called for women to dress for health, ditching corsets in favor of boneless stays and bloomers, wearing loose trousers, and adopting clothing that allowed for movement, especially bicycling. It hit its pinnacle just around the turn of the century, a time when men’s suits sported somewhere around 15 pockets — so it’s no coincidence that pockets abound in Rational Dress. An 1899 New York Times piece makes the somewhat tongue-in-cheek claim that civilization itself is founded on pockets. "As we become more civilized, we need more pockets," the piece says, "No pocketless people has ever been great since pockets were invented, and the female sex cannot rival us while it is pocketless."

Women riding 1880's bicycles. Photo: Mondadori/ Getty
Side by side with the Rational Dress Society was the New Woman, feminism’s first wave that included suffragettes, bluestockings, graduates of the Seven Sisters, and sundry other radicals who believed that women should have equal political and financial standing with men. Fashionable fin-de-siècle female clothing had fussy, tiny, impractical pockets that weren’t designed to hold anything. Rational Dress, however, allowed women to swagger with their hands in their pockets, a point that shocked one writer for period mag The Graphic in 1894: "The pockets of the ‘New Woman,’ admirably useful as they are, seem likely to prove her new fetish, to stand her instead of blushes and shyness and embarrassment, for who can be any of these things while she stands with her hands in her pockets?"
Advancing the notion of pockets as distinctly masculine, one 1895 designer of women’s bicycle "costumes" even included pockets for pistols. "Not all of them want to carry a revolver," says the anonymous tailor quoted by the New York Times, "but a large percentage do and make no ‘bones’ about saying so. Even when they do not tell me why they want the pocket, they often betray their purpose by asking to have it lined with duck or leather." You have to hand it to the pistol-packing women riding turn-of-the-century bicycles in their bloomers and split-skirt suits. The Nineteenth Amendment was still 26 years away when these women were practicing their Second Amendment rights.

Female friends enjoying their pockets in 1926. Photo: Davis/ Getty
"Plenty of Pockets in Suffragette Suit" reads a 1910 NY Times headline, and pockets aplenty is what you’d expect for a woman with polls on her mind. The suit, the piece explains, has seven or eight pockets, "all in sight and all easy to find, even for the wearer." This last bit about visible, straightforward pockets hints at the lingering anxiety over women’s clothing, privacy, and property. It’s not merely that women will strut with their hands in their pockets, on point to challenge men; it’s that women’s pockets could carry something secret, something private, or something deadly.
In the intervening century between suffragette suits and Susanna of Beverly Hills, the go-to bespoke suit-maker for women CEOs, presidential nominees, and television judges, much has changed for women and for women’s clothing. Not much has changed forwomen’s pockets, however. The easy explanation rests in the fact that as long as clothing designers make women’s clothes without pockets, women will have to buy purses. The ‘vaya-nya’ is nature's pocket," Ilana asserts on Broad City, but few women will be using theirs to hold their Metrocards and lipsticks.

The pocketless Democratic nominee. Photo: Robyn Beck/ Getty
So what’s the takeaway when we look at Hillary Clinton’s suit — for it’s not merely the white suffragette suit that makes Clinton the woman she is. The pantsuit is Hillary’s brand; it’s on t-shirts; it’s on her Instagram; it’s even the name that Hillary’s coder gave her website. Clinton’s choice of pantsuit is nothing new; just as she has been keeping hot sauce in her bag (swag) since the 1990s, so too has she been wearing pantsuits. These suits have tended to tonality, a slow unfolding of jewel-like blues and reds, of succulent berries and luscious mango, of desert greens and stoic greys. But they are also united by a near pocketlessness.
Proper as a prelate, Clinton’s suits could not be more respectable. They are the answer to what women can wear to convey relatable power. Seamless and sealed, these suits present Clinton’s body like a saint’s. Nothing goes into the suits, nothing comes out. There is nothing to hide in Clinton’s pantsuit, for there is no place to hide it. Whether voters understand the history of this message is something else altogether.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Hillary Clinton: "This is the work of my life, and I’m not stopping now"

It was great to be back on the campaign trail yesterday. As you may know, I recently had a cough that turned out to be pneumonia. I tried to power through it, but even I had to admit that maybe a few days of rest would do me good.

I’m not great at taking it easy, even under ordinary circumstances, and sitting home was pretty much the last place I wanted to be with just two months until Election Day.

But having a few days to myself was actually a gift. I talked with some old friends and spent time with our very sweet dogs. And I did some thinking. The campaign trail doesn’t really encourage reflection, and it’s important to sit with your thoughts every now and then.

People like me—we’re lucky. When I’m under the weather, I can afford to take a few days off. Millions of Americans can’t. They either go to work sick, or they lose a paycheck.

Lots of Americans still don’t even have insurance—or they do, but it’s too expensive to actually use. So they toss back Tylenols, chug orange juice, and hope that cough or cold or virus goes away on its own.

And lots of working parents can’t afford child care. It costs as much as college tuition in many states, so millions of moms and dads have no backup if they get sick—they’re on their own. I’ve met so many people living on a razor’s edge—one illness away from losing their job, one paycheck away from losing their home.

Events like these are mere bumps in the road for some families—but for others, they are catastrophic. And that disparity goes against everything we stand for as Americans.

Some things shouldn’t come down to luck. Some things should be within reach for every American, no matter what—like financial security, affordable health care, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that if something goes wrong, your family will be okay.

That’s why I got into this race: to fight for everyone working hard, often against the odds, to support their families and contribute to our country. I want to tear down all the barriers standing in their way.

I’m running for the factory workers and food servers who on their feet all day—and the nurses looking after patients all night. I’m running for the young people who dream of changing our country and world for the better, and I’m running for all the parents and grandparents supporting those dreams by dedicating every dollar they can to their education.

Now, we’re in the final stretch. There are just 53 days left. I'm going to be campaigning hard all the way until Election Day, talking about my ideas for our country everywhere I go—from reining in Wall Street to creating good-paying jobs to, yes, guaranteed paid family leave, so that no one in this country ever has to choose between taking care of their family (or themselves) and a paycheck.

We need a president who’s spent years fighting for these issues, and who has a plan to support all families, in all their configurations. And if I have the honor of serving as your president, no one will fight harder for your children and your families—because this is the work of my life, and I’m not stopping now.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Why did Clinton hide her pneumonia? Because she’s a woman

She didn’t want to say she was sick.
Hillary Clinton, that is, who recently has suffered coughing fits followed Sunday by a near-collapse during New York’s 9/11 memorial ceremony. She left the ceremony early, claiming overheatedness, and appeared to weave, lose her footing and pitch forward as she approached her car, as captured on a cellphone video.
Later in the day, Clinton’s campaign announced that the Democratic candidate has pneumonia.
Most by now are familiar with the fallout — speculation about her health, concerns about her transparency in not reporting her illness sooner — all amid the furor over Clinton’s weird comment at a fundraiser about half of Donald Trump’s followers belonging in a “basket of deplorables.”
Say what?
Other than being one of the strangest combinations of words ever uttered, where did Clinton come up with such verbiage? Here’s the partial quote in question: “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”
Since when does she like to use such words, which don’t sound at all like Clinton? She’s too studied and cautious to randomly toss out a phrase that, in addition to being offensive and inevitably problematic, has a somewhat poetic edge. A-tisket, a-tasket, are those deplorables in your basket?
Perhaps the phrase, certain to become a campaign metaphor for “uh-oh,” evolved during a brainstorming session with folks who wouldn’t dare censor their boss: Basket of deplorables, hilarious! OMG, you should use that!
Clinton’s basket may as well have been delivered to Trump with a bottle of champagne and a bow. As she began apologizing for speaking too broadly about too many Americans — suffering the inevitable comparison to Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” — Trump glided along the unfamiliar terrain of the high road.
Rather than harp on the already popular trope that Clinton isn’t physically strong enough to be president, he said he hopes she recovers soon so that they can meet in debate. About this, Trump didn’t have to feign sincerity, figuring he’d have a better shot at defeating Clinton than he would Joe Biden, Tim Kaine or some other sudden substitute. But mainly, he calculated — or had been instructed — that attacking a woman when she was literally down would get him nowhere.
Then again, it’s hardly necessary to point out Clinton’s physical frailties, temporary though they are, when the woman is so plainly suffering. Replay after replay shows the coughing fit and then the weave-and-bob of her 9/11 episode. Anchors and commentators hit auto-pundit to produce the question du jour: Can this woman handle the presidency? Please. This woman has a bad cold. She needs rest. She’ll be fine.

 Another question also arose, at least in many women’s minds: Would anyone ask the same question about a man under similar circumstances? Here’s the more pertinent question: Why do women feel they can’t admit to being sick? You know the answer. It’s because women fear showing any sign of weakness lest others presume the worst — that she’s not as good as a man

As the weaker sex, which is only true as concerns upper-body muscle mass (about 40 percent less) and significantly less testosterone (hence less invading, marauding and pillaging), women tend to hide anything that might suggest “weaker sex.” This is absurd on its face, but it also happens to be true.
Thus, Clinton soldiered on, trying to keep to schedule despite probably feeling awful, and paid a high price for denial. Her silence about the pneumonia wasn’t so much a lack of transparency, as news-gazers have extrapolated, as it was a valiant attempt to stay the course and preclude exactly what happened. People began to wonder about her health. Critics found it easy to conclude: She’s weak; she’s frail; she’s a woman, after all.
When did it become a liability to be sick, which all of us are from time to time? For women, it began when they entered the male-dominated workplace en masse a generation ago and worked twice as hard to be as good as a man. This likely is why Clinton would rather suffer in silence than endure further scrutiny about her ability to serve — a deplorable reality deserving of its own basket.


The Fix: Why CAnother question also arose, at least in many women’s minds: Would anyone ask the same question about a man under similar circumstances? Here’s the more pertinent question: Why do women feel they can’t admit to being sick? You know the answer. It’s because women fear showing any sign of weakness lest others presume the worst — that she’s not as good as a man. linton’s health incident isn’t going away

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 The Fix's Aaron Blake explains the incident during which Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton fell ill on Sept. 11, and why her health is likely to remain a subject of discussion. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

You don't need a goddess body to be a Goddess

Archaeological excavations in the Central Anatolian province of Konya’s Çatalhöyük, headed by Professor Ian Hadder, have unearthed a well-preserved female figurine from the Neolithic era of 8,000-8,500 B.C. 

The figurine has all parts of its body intact and has been defined as “unique.”

The 17-centimeter and 1-kilogram figurine was not found in a garbage field as usual but under a platform along with volcano-made glass.

With the shape of head, hair style, hands under chest and small feet, the figurine is a typical Çatalhöyük artifact, but is distinguished for its fine details.

Çatalhöyük is one of the earliest large human settlements in the world and provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration.

Indigenous women in Peru combat climate change and boost economy

To combat the impact of climate change, the indigenous women of Laramate in Peru have turned to ancestral farming techniques with support from UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality. In addition to healthier crops and improved incomes for the community, the programme has boosted indigenous women’s participation in public spaces and decision-making.

Magaly Garayar works on her farm in Laramate, Peru. The indigenous women of Laramate use ancestral farming techniques intended to yield more nutritious and weather-resistant crops than modern methods. Photo courtesy of CHIRAPAQ
The indigenous farmers of the Laramate district in Peru know what climate change looks like. They saw their crops shrivel in drought and rot under untimely rain and frost. The production suffered and their children were malnourished, until the indigenous women of the farming communities of Atocata, Miraflores, Patachana, Yauca and Tucuta turned to their ancestral techniques of choosing and conserving the seeds and cultivating the land.
The result has been astounding. The fields are now lush with potatoes, olluco, corn, vegetables, fruits and grains, such as kiwicha. The yield is higher and more diverse, the crops are more resilient to frost and drought, and the products are more nutritious.
The women select healthy seeds, rotate the crops to recover soil fertility and irrigate the land more efficiently, using the methods of their ancestors. Since they no longer use agrochemicals, their products taste better and last longer.
“Our land is the only legacy we have. We take care of it as our ancestors would, sowing seeds, but also letting it rest for periods of time,” says 37-year-old Magaly Garayar, resident of the Atocata community and President of OMIL (the Organization of Indigenous Women of Laramate), which is supported by Centro de Culturas Indigenas del Peru (CHIRAPAQ), a grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality. CHIRAPAQ strengthens the capacity of indigenous women in the district of Laramate, provides them with training and assistance to improve their economic condition.
Lucia Rupire, also a resident of Atocata and member of OMIL, has memories of her father and grandfather fertilizing the soil with manure from cows, sheep and alpaca. “I started doing the same after the trainings because I understood that the techniques of my ancestors respected the environment while improving fertility of the soil and improving our health. Now we have learned to prepare even better organic manure…my husband is astonished by what we have harvested!”

2. As President of the Organization of Indigenous Women of Laramate (OMIL), Magaly Garayar, advocates for the rights of indigenous women. OMIL helps indigenous women commercialize and sell their products in local markets. Photo courtesy of CHIRAPAQ
Improved yield has led to better economy and health for the indigenous families in the area. “In the past we only sowed potatoes, we just ate a bit of wheat… We couldn’t afford buying anything. Now I grow my own vegetables and our food is better because I combine it with vegetables. Part of what I sow, I cook for myself and I sell the rest to earn some money,” shares Carmen Tenorio from the Yauca community.
Magaly Garayar leads a group of 110 women in OMIL who are advocating for the rights of the indigenous women. “Machismo remains present in our communities. Most of the time, men didn’t allow us to participate in events, activities or workshops…Men were the only ones who made decisions. But now our women are speaking out, our authorities listen to us and our opinions are taken into account,” shares Ms. Garayar.
As part of the programme, “Indigenous women defending the Motherland: Economic rights and empowering in Latin America,” funded by UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality and implemented by CHIRAPAQ, OMIL has also helped indigenous women to commercialize and sell the products in local markets. It has secured the commitment of the local government to support the organization of an agro-ecological fair every month to boost their economy. In addition, the organization helped set up an all-women local dairy business in the Andean region of Ayacucho that has developed a popular brand for cheese, yogurt and other products.
“This programme shows the resourcefulness and resilience of indigenous women. Through the combined use of collective economic structures and appropriate technical support, they have managed to mitigate the impact of climate change and expand economic opportunities, using environmentally sustainable means of production and consumption. This initiative has not only boosted women’s incomes, but also their self-esteem and sense of empowerment,” says Elisa Fernández, Chief of the Fund for Gender Equality. Between 2013 and 2015, the programme has impacted more than 400 women in Peru, increased women’s participation in public spaces and their capacity to influence policies on indigenous women’s economic rights and ending violence against women.

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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Ouided Bouchamaoui:The Voice of Women

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ouided Bouchamaoui: 
"No culture of peace if the voice of women is not heard"

 Born in 1961, Ms. Bouchamaoui is a Tunisian businesswoman who since 2011 has been leader of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA). 
As leader of the organization she took from 2013 part in Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet which led the latter organization to receive the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.
The French news magazine Jeune Afrique has identified her as 
one of the Top 25 Business Women in Africa.