DISMANTLING THE PATRIARCHY OF STREETWEAR
I find myself struggling with the word feminist these days, probably because - in the words of Roxanne Gay - I’m a Bad Feminist.
I want equal pay, but I also want my dates to pay for the bill. If you suggest going “dutch” I will probably pour the remaining Pellegrino on your head and walk out of the restaurant. The word slut is one of my favorite words to call my beloved girlfriends and sometimes myself. It comfortably rolls off the tongue. I count L’il Kim and Heidi Fleiss as some of my personal heroes.
And so I wonder if most women would label me a Bad Feminist.
I blast rap music with words like “BITCH” in the title, and the verses, and the chorus while my daughter and I dance our asses off in the living room singing along. Like a Bad Feminist, I ignore the words “hoe, thot, bitch…” they have become completely normalized to me. Men with huge social media followings routinely use these words to describe women - recently on twitter from DJ Akademiks refered to the actress in Eminem’s new teaser for River, calling her “A THOTTY caught Eminem LACKING!!! Should he have had her delete the footage?? Or na f*ck it keep deez hoes down”. Akademiks thought enough to use an asterisk when using the word fuck, but didn’t bother to edit himself when he used the words hoe and thot to describe a woman. A few commenters mentioned something, but for the most part - no one found what he wrote that offensive.
In July of 2017, I boycotted Nike after a video surfaced of Bari, from the worshipped ASAP MOB, engaging in what just about anyone would agree looked like sexually abusive behavior. Bari had a multi-million dollar deal with Nike for his VLone brand, and I was expecting and hoping Nike would release a statement saying this type of behavior was unacceptable, and announce they were severing ties - because Nike is all about women, aren’t they?
No statement was released, no announcement was made; so I started my self-righteous boycott of Nike, and then ended it after 3 weeks because like I said, I’m a Bad Feminist.
And this bitch can’t live without her AF 1’s.
Anway, Nike eventually silently stopped fucking with Bari, and no VLone Nikes were released after that. I decided to call Nike out on Instagram, and felt like there wasn’t much more I could do. A week later I went to Agenda to speak on a panel, and ran into one of my colleagues - a brand owner / designer who had his own very popular line with Nike - he said “good for you for calling Nike and Bari out,” I said “Thanks, but you have such a bigger following then me, you should be doing it, too.” He looked at me like I was out of my fucking mind. But he also had shame in his eyes, and he mentioned his “people” told him not to get involved; maybe he was still doing business with Nike.
I stood there listening and shaking my head, as if I was trying to let him know that I knew how things were when you were trying to work the hustle in our business - but what I really wanted to do was call him a pussy, and to tell him he wasn’t a real “man,” and explain to him that maybe - if he had a daughter - he would understand.
But the truth is, the world of streetwear has always been a toxic place for females. And sometimes it seems like it’s only getting worse.
I remember being in the back of my friend’s shop in 2003, when Supreme released their calendar with Terry Richardson. It was being passed around and the crew of guys were ogling it. When it finally got handed to me, I can still remember one image that sticks with me till this day - it was an extreme close-up of a woman’s vagina and backside spread wide open. Her finger was shoved deep inside of her vagina, and only a ring with the word Supreme spelled out in diamonds was peeking out. The photo shocked and disturbed me, and made me feel completely uncomfortable.
I am not a woman who is scared or shy about sex, my sexuality, nudity, or anything of that nature, but that image was too hardcore even for me. It reeked of a completely misogynistic attitude that depicts women as being nothing but just a pussy to fuck.
Like most of Supreme’s products, their calendars quickly became coveted items. Larry Clark did one in 2005, it featured women’s vaginas fully exposed next to skateboards and skaters - and of course the notorious red box Supreme logo was everywhere.
Thirteen years later, Supreme poster boy Aaron Bondoraff AKA A-Ron - someone I consider a longtime friend and colleague - stepped down from his art gallery and clothing line Know Wave amid multiple claims of sexual assault. A lot of people were fucked up over this. Some people I spoke to felt bad for him, some were happy to see him finally fall off his cool guy soap box, others were triggered and reminded of their own sexual assaults by friends of his.
In that moment, I realized how easy it is to villify someone when you don’t know them - but when someone you actually knew for a long time, and this kind of stuff comes out, it’s hard to see them as a monster. I found myself having a small dose of empathy for Aaron. Like I said, I’m a bad feminist, and like every other living breathing human, I can be hypocritical.
As staggering as this is, in the United States, asexual assault is commited every 107 seconds, and only 2-8% of rapes are falsely reported. When Ian Connor was accused of rape by about ten women, his reaction was telling. The high-profile stylist to Kylie Jenner and “Creative Consultant” to Kanye West immediately took the low road and posted a photo of one of his victims on hit twitter account in an attempt to shame her publicly. One of Connor’s tweets from 2013 reads: “If I Eat You Out or Buy You Something You Have No Choice but To Fuck Me. I’m As Serious As Can Be With This One”. Connor went so far as to threaten one of his accusers’ friends through DM (she posted copies of the correspondence). But despite all of that bad behavior, Connor now has a shoe line made up of knock-off Vans that retail for $300.00, and his Instragram account still has over 1 million followers.
When I think about the streetwear culture that raised Ian, Bari, Aaron, me and all the rest of you, I can’t help but thinking about how this type of behavior hasn’t just been tolerated, it’s been accepted, normalized, glorified, and literally merchandised.
I’m not trying to rationalize or excuse all of this abusive behavior - and please don’t get this twisted and assume I am in anyway victim-blaming. What I am trying to say is that the culture of streetwear needs to be held accountable for its impact and effect. If things are ever going to change, we need a lot more to happen than for a big corporate brands to silkscreen “The Force is Female” on a t-shirt, and think that is the same thing as standing up for us or empowering us.
For real change to happen, we need the companies, the creatives, and the influencers and the artists who create our culture to take responsibility,and stop tolerating and glorifying sexually absusive attitudes and abuse towards women. If we embrace sexual harrassment and sexual assault as a part of our art, then we’re letting it become a part of our culture - and once it becomes a part of our culture, that means we’re accepting it as part of our behavior.
And that is - as my therapist-mother Bunny would say: fucked up.
So as a self-admitted Bad Feminist, I’m taking this moment to make a commitment to try and be a better one.
I learn a lot from you and appreciate your honest perspective. Was surprised you had any association with American Apparel as they seem more like a company you would call out for the (then) sexual harassment culture. Maybe today you would… Regardless, thanks for speaking out. More of us need to.
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