Archives for posts with tag: Feminism

Trying to save the neighborhood park, I started thinking about public space, which is basically the urban space in which democracy was, and is, formed. All the genders, races, classes, and creeds mix there and regard one another, in the great Hausmannesque urban renewal which creates sidewalk promenades, flaneurs, and the Frankfurt school of Marxist modernity. The male and female gazes are formed in the sidewalk encounters of Baudelaire with his passing dream girl.
https://poesie.webnet.fr/…/charles_baudelaire/a_une_passante
That was the insight of the great Marxist urbanist Marshall Berman (1940-2013), who felt personal amputations of his anatomy when Robert Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway (1948-72) cut the beloved Bronx of Berman’s youth into two anaerobic slums, starving both of capital and community. The trench created the notorious South Bronx, which has been burning down since the ’60s, and from whose ashes both DJ Kool Herc and AOC arose.
Berman writes the eulogy for the vibrant Communist Jewish Bronx in which he grew up in his wonderful book, *All That Is Solid Melts Into Air*.
https://www.amazon.com/All-That-Solid-Melts-in…/…/0140109625
That Bronx — where Communist Jews in the garment trades built their Utopia in the famous Workers’ Coops, in 1925, with hammer and sickle over the doors and free libraries for all — the Edenic Bronx of the hardass vibrant working class Jewish body politic always struck me as the heart of Edenic New York City. The greatest city ever.
https://bronxbohemian.wordpress.com/…/finding-utopia-in-th…/
Probably because of my college boyfriend, law school Richie, Bronx High School of Science, ca. 1963. Probably because of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade survivor I interviewed there in the ’70s. Probably because of the hardass brilliant working class Jewish teachers I saw at Nick Monda’s high school graduation in Bushwick in the ’90s. Salt of the earth does not begin to describe the inspiration, the dedication, the belief in the power of literacy, and the nut-cutting street wisdom those grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, of Jewish immigrants brought to Nicky’s heroin and AIDs-ravaged Puerto Rican neighborhood. R. Kelly’s *I Believe I Can Fly* was the processional for Nicky’s graduation ceremony.
https://youtu.be/GIQn8pab8Vc
Berman, an Oxford and Harvard graduate, started teaching at City College in 1968, and was teaching there when he died. He wrote for the Village Voice. He was an upper West Side guy, a denizen of the Metro Diner ay 100th and Broadway, where he had his fatal heart attack.
He had a big fluffy Uncle Karl beard. His first book, *The Politics of Authenticity*, expressed his passion for romanticism.
https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/…/marshall-berman-1940-20…
The sinewy, urbane, steetfightin’ and modern reputation of City College penetrated even to me, and I longed to know more about the Bronx which engendered the metropolis as the organic entity the starry-eyed Jews of 1925 had built, with Marshall Berman and Jane Jacobs acting out their humane view of life on the sidewalks in turn in their generation.
Twenty-seven years after I first read Berman, I found the book which tells his autobiography, from Bronx Communism to City College to walking the sidewalks of New York as the central, organic, political and spiritual experience of a life.
It’s Vivian Gornick. A little older than Berman, and still pounding the pavements.
In the Bronx, in the ’30s, her mother was a party member and an organizer for the party-sponsored tenants’ councils. Every Saturday morning, Bess would go down to the party HQ in Union Square and get her instructions for the week. Her father, a presser in a dress factory, was also a party member. He read the New York Times and the Daily Worker every day, and died of a heart attack when she was 13. The women in her apartment building brought her up as her mother dissolved in an operatic performance of grief. This enactment of widowhood was the same romance which, Gornick later realized, every Communist she knew growing up held close. The plumber could be a poet, the seamstress a fiery political speaker; every Communist had, like a good Buddhist, a right livelihood and a right vocation. Bookeeper by day, rock star by night.
Gornick wrote an oral history book about the romance of the Communist Party members. And Jonathan Lethem, the other great writer about New York City as an organic body politic based on the dreams, and the long walks through the city, of its people, actually used Gornick’s characters to write his novel *Dissident Gardens*, about a Communist mother and her red diaper counterculture baby. He has become an acolyte as well, writing an introduction to a re-edition of *Fierce Attachments*.
https://www.salon.com/…/feminist_icon_vivian_gornick_still…/
And then the children of these passionate urban peasants, as she called them, made their way to City College, where as people of the word, they were electrified and transported by what their teachers gave them to read. The widowed Bess worked sadly at being a bookkeeper to help send Vivian for transubstantiation, and felt swindled when Vivian graduated without a teaching degree. This was what you went to college for, not talking all night with tongues of fire with other kids about books. The only other red diaper baby I know of is Carl Bernstein, whose parents lived in D.C., about whom he wrote his own memoir, *Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir*. It touches on some of the same passionate enmeshments Gornick struggled with all her life.
https://www.amazon.com/…/B01…/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i8
And so I had this idea of the city as Eden. And Vivian Gornick’s book has filled it in for me. Of cultured artisanal blue collar workers tearing pumpernickel with their white teeth, dark eyes, dark curls, burly forearms, masters of the great promenade, diddlybopping like John Travolta staying alive down the Grand Concourse. The Grand Concourse, confected in 1890 to make the sidewalks of the Bronx seem more like the ones in Paris.
https://untappedcities.com/…/history-of-nyc-streets-grand-…/
The red diaper kids like Vivian Gornick who came down to the Village and radicalized everybody from Dylan Thomas and the Cedar Bar denizens to the hippies of my generation. (I can still see redheaded Susan Kaplan lipsynching Janis Joplin in college. Rad.) Talking Faulkner all night long in the cafeteria at City College: Well, that would be America. My dream girl.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

https://untappedcities.com/…/history-of-nyc-streets-grand-…/

https://www.amazon.com/Fierce-Attachments-Memo…/…/0374529965

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I’m very interested in y’all’s take on granny chic, or, as my sharp-eyed London friend stipulates, The New Frump.

To sum up your insights, a combination of crowdsourcing comment from my private blog and FB:

  • wearing skirts is a backlash against the boomer feminist Hillary pantssuit
  • no real granny would wear droopy cuffs, as they interfere with her “generational duties” — this, I think, emphasizes the fashiony and slacker/pixie aspects of The New Frump
  • it’s a scenester look pegged, at least in London, to drinking too much, not eating enough, and having a cool dead-end job
  • its untidy hair and orthopedic shoes connote disability, perhaps of slacker origin
  • the twee is manipulative rather than sexy
  • the sexy aspect of hand-crafted clothes is partly based in feminist, peasant, artisanal, upcycling, frugal/poverty-stricken origins of the proletarian women’s work the punk knitters are honoring, and
  • its heroic, art-therapeutic properties for its makers to
  • enliven, dignify, classify and nationalize prole surroundings and their bodies with signs of their artistry
  • the sexy/manipulative range of motion much depends on whether the look is defiant (clothes as armor) or insouciant (clothes as vulnerable/flirtatious).

I think the twee is armor, manipulative, and not sexy. Think about Warren Jeffs’ 50 Mormon wives in identical, baby girl/Jordan almond colored, dresses, with sexy, shiny, pinned-up hair in big Elvis quiffs. I think they’re definitely clothed for Eros and scrubbing floors. They have anti-feminist agency. And are probably sexier than The New Frump girls, who seem armored and yet insisting on disability, as if they were playing dumb blondes and their fingernails are too long, and too crusty, to type. The twee thread of Granny Chic — the manic pixie dream girl aspect — also subverts feminist agency — no second-wave feminist pantssuits for me — without substituting corn-fed prelapsarian Mormon randiness.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2024150/Warren-Jeffs-trial-Paedophile-gets-life-sentence-50-brides-photo-emerges.html

Whussup? Y’all are being very smart about these readings. I think there are a couple of threads: the difference between

  • the New Frump and the 50 year trend of vintage wear;*
  • the New Frump and artisanal punk hand-crafted/upcycled/retailored “granny” wear
  • the twee pastiche vs. the polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel pastiche
  • the defiant, Mormon granny/prairie sexy look vs. the twee/disabled/slacker/manic pixie dream girl manipulative look.

I have to add the heroin chic aspect that mitts, sleeves (tatts or textile), cuffs, shrugs, all hide needle tracks and the tecatas, at least in New York City, all have an entire wardrobe of shrugs. This was one of the fashion messages of Rent.

Heroin chic: Daphne Rubin-Vega and her latex sleeves in Rent: Rock that navel but never ever reveal your brachial arteries.

Am I getting it right? Tell me more. I’m also getting the strong sense that the twee is partly anorexia armor, its droop calculated to replace secondary sexual characteristics in the way polychrome Old Babe wear asserts a third gender, if not a third age.

What is the New Frump’s art school claim? It is carefully curated, people.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

Polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel. By Chester Higgins Jr., The New York Times

___________________________
* For example, early ’60s body con modernist vintage, tailored, well-groomed, knee-length, now all the rage on account of Mad Men, is also called Granny Chic:


http://glamcanyon.blogspot.com/2008/11/i-heart-granny-chic.html

There’s a permutation known as Grampa Chic, which has to be thought through on its own terms. Depending of course on whether it’s a girl or a boy who’s wearing it.
http://www.etsy.com/search?includes%5B0%5D=tags&q=grandpa+chic&page=1

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