21.1.09

In Which I Vociferously Object To Internet Snobs


It isn't exactly breaking news to anyone who's been to Chictopia in the last couple of days, but I was really rather kicked to know that three of the site's users (Karla, Melissa and Linda) had been picked to feature in an American Apparel campaign run in collaboration with Chictopia. I'm not a regular user of the site, but there's no denying that a lot of the girls on it are really incredibly well-dressed, and (as with most personal/streetstyle sites out there) complimentary comments on the outfits invariably follow. And the fact that a lot of bloggers use it as a way to share outfit pictures makes it a fun site to browse- I haven't really see Go Fug Yourself-ish fashion criticism on anyone's pictures. And although American Apparel has more than its fair share of controversy (esp. regarding sexual harassment charges against CEO Dov Charney and their rather, erm, risqué adverts), there's nothing about the Chictopia-collaboration shoot- or what's been seen of it, anyway- that makes me think the images are exploitative, or otherwise suspect.

Which is why I was more than a little surprised to find this post on Jezebel- longtime anti-AA stanceholders, if I remember correctly- with the enlightening caption 'American Apparel Now Sponsoring Bloggers And Porn Stars'. Turns out the 'porn stars' bit of the title referred to some ads run by AA in December, featuring three girls who actually were porn stars, in a rather more advanced state of undress/non-dress than the average American Apparel ad. And I'm not even going into the whole objectification-of-women argument in that particular part of the post, so I'll just (finally) cut to the chase and bang on about why that post irritates me so much.
Simply put, the answer is that it's bloody patronising. Please do tell me if you could read the following lines any other way:

"Chictopia, a fashion social networking site whose genius idea is that users can upload pictures of their outfits for other users to comment on so everyone can feel comfortably supported in her precious online fashion-maven status
"

"Chictopia is one of those places where the internet telescopes and distends to the extent that being on Chictopia for other people to comment on and rate becomes prima facie evidence of supposed fashion expertise, which supposed fashion expertise becomes a reason to be on Chictopia for other people to comment on and rate. "

"The entire vain and mindless feedback loop was aptly (though unwittingly) summed up by Mashable, which noted newly minted American Apparel
model, Chictopia girl Karla "is a beautiful stylista actively pursuing her passion via Chictopia and creative expression on her own blog." Actively pursuing, people!" "And just as blogging and uploading self-taken pics of your original hipster creations is an ersatz kind of fashion activity.."


"It's unethical to paint this experience as some kind of entrée into fashion modeling. It's just another chance to get your kit off for Dov Charney, only now to even do that, you're expected to be an internet Somebody who can write a gushy post about it."

I suppose the writer really intended to call out American Apparel for exploiting women in its ads (and I can see her point there), but the wording of everything I've placed in italics is just IMO horrible, snobbish and when taken in conjunction with the title, misleading to boot- the post was illustrated with two sets of NSFW photographs of the AA ads featuring porn stars, with no images of the Chictopia shoot- so anyone reading the post could probably assume all the images were like that, if they wanted to. And outfit photo sharing is nothing new- TFS, MyStyleDiary, Modepass and a whole range of sites including personal fashion blogs have long been places for people to do exactly that.

But what really surprised me was the snarking about the Chictopia participants themselves- none of whom were directly quoted (even if someone else's gushy post about Karla was used as evidence that Karla needs to be snarked about, too). That, and the bitchiness about Internet outfit-sharers. Apparently our vain, mindless feedback-loop-stuck wannabe hipster fashion-maven selves (wow, we wear a lot of hats don't we? though I must admit, I'm no outfit sharer) haven't any business engaging in 'ersatz fashion activity', and somehow active pursuit of one's interests via a blog isn't really active pursuit, or any kind of creative expression, at all. By the time I got to the middle of the post (which is where the last line quoted came from), I was wondering just why the writer sounded so bitter- and then I scrolled up and discovered that it was Tatiana, The Anonymous Model, Jezebel's (it's self-explanatory, really) anonymous contributor who is in fact a real-life fashion model.

To be honest, it makes a whole pile of sense that someone who is a professional model would feel annoyed that a bunch of regular girls with nothing more than their cameras and computers, are doing something that resembles her job (posing and making clothes look good) and doing it well enough for a large clothing company to sit up and take notice. Sure, maybe no one's getting a modelling career out of this, as Tatiana pointed out, but it's well and truly possible that no one even assumed that this was going to lead to anything of the sort. And IMO it's rather blindingly obvious that the 'ersatz fashion activity' Tatiana seems to hold in such contempt is intended to stand- at least, so the article seems to imply in direct contrast to Tatiana's own- more legitimate, by inference, given her professional status- 'genuine' fashion activity, the kind girls with cameras don't (and shouldn't, is the feeling coming off this) get to engage in.

I'm all for questioning suspect professional ethics and the objectification of women, and sexual harassment in the workplace is not cool AT ALL. But frankly, Tatiana's post on Jezebel seems to direct more bile at Chictopia and at the bloggers from there who participated in the campaign, than at the murky workings of American Apparel- and I don't buy the bullshit that any of it was somehow cool, or feminist in any way. I've enjoyed many of Tatiana's behind-the-scenes accounts of what it's like to be a model and a girl working in fashion, but this time, really, shame on her, and shame on Jezebel.


picture from Chictopia

29 comments:

Desperately Seeking Awesome said...

I really enjoyed your response, and I bet Tatiana would enjoy it too!

WendyB said...

Great post. I stopped reading Jezebel as part of my New Year's resolutions...too negative. They're unhappy with everyone all the time.

Natali said...

I had the exact same reaction. Usually I agree with most of what Jezebel's writers churn out, and it provokes thought. But that particular article was illthought out.

susie_bubble said...

I smell serious sour grapes.....

evie said...

I've never read Jezebel before but if this article is any indication of what I can find there, then I'd best avoid it. There's enough negativity around us as it is without having to also read such catty comments...

JuliAM said...

wow. haters lol

deep_in_vogue said...

Well said and I agree. But you know, Chictopia has been generating a lot of attention and some of it is bound to be negative. There is an opinion expressed in an article. I think that's better than throwing negativity around in the form of comments and such when it's much more personal..

The Clothes Horse said...

Bravo to you. Jezebel just came off sounding like the unpopular girl in school who went "carrie" at prom...

Connie said...

Well put. I agree with you wholehearted, and I think that Jezebel's good intentions have blindsighted them--especially when it comes to traditionally "feminine" domains like cooking and fashion and child rearing. Just because we've established that NO women are not inherently meant to excel at these things, it doesn't mean that they aren't legitimate.

My thoughts are posted here:
http://prettylegit.tumblr.com/post/72023646/i-love-jezebel-ive-always-loved-jezebel-i-love

The_UndeaD_ said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Bf-7PxQ894&feature=related

Meg said...

Yes, it's funny how they had to back up their argument with pictures of the 'porn models' rather than the girls in question. I think they knew what they were saying was weak, insubstantial and basically slander, I fail to understand the point of Jezebel most of the time, they're too judgemental.

Meg said...

Also, so glad to have you back!!!

A dreamer said...

this is a great post.
i've never read jezebel...everyone says they're negative?

anyway, i've given you an award on my blog.

fashionaddict said...

*applause*

Well put, and I concur. American Apparel ads annoy me too, but it feels like she was ranting about all the objectification of women as a cover for her actual purpose, which was to diss fashion bloggers. Why all the hate? She might as well have said "back off, who do you think you are?"

That Student said...

I had the same reaction as you when I first read the article. Personally, I still really like Jezebel because they do share a lot of stories and initiate a lot of conversations that are extremely relevant to women. However, I find some of their stances contradictory, especially those regarding sex. But I guess a lot of what might be perceived as negativity is just part of the complexity of the issues they discuss.

The Vancouverista said...

awesome post
I agree 100%

Savvy Mode SG said...

great post. it's just fun, what's the big deal.

Giselle said...

I think its awesome that those girls got a chance to do something like that, and sad that someone is so offended by something that really had nothing to do with her. Ah well...whatevs I guess.

-Giselle <3<3<3

Liberty London Girl said...

If the piece was written by a model then of course her stance wld be anti. Shame on Jezebel: that's hardly objective reporting. LLGxx

Anonymous said...

Amen sista! Ooh I wonder if Jezebel is the one leaving all those nasty comments on fashion blogs...

Paige said...

Never been to Jezebel before but definitely not interested in it. Sounds altogether hateful and uppity. No thanks!

Your post on the other hand...? Very well-written with good points. Nicely done!

-Paige

Anonymous said...

jesus, people actually write something on blogger, i just use it to bookmark and make a comment...

Queen Michelle said...

People like her just hate when 'ordinary' people start thieving their jobs, even it is just for AA.

dreamecho said...

This was an undoubtedly excellent post, and I completely agree that Tatiana is unfairly and misleadingly conflating the porn stars/objectification of women with the bloggers. The Chictopians featured in the AA ads aren't exploited, at least in a visual way. (One could argue that these girls are being exploited in other ways, or in the larger sense of the brand.)

However, I have to be the lone voice of dissent here on the subject of ego stroking. Many of the kids on Chictopia do seem to be engaging in a closed loop of complimenting and seeking reassurance, and while compliments can be positive and well, a lot of that activity seems based on insecurity and a need to belong. You have the popular kids getting big in the head and the kids clamoring to fawn all over the cool kids. It's the same thing we deplore about the stereotypical high school experience; the fact that it's online and in the realm of our passion (fashion) doesn't make it any more acceptable.

And while I do sense a bit of annoyance towards on Tatiana's part towards newbies doing something akin to her job, I don't see so much of that bitterness in contempt of such. If anything, I see her bitterness directed towards the culture that's been cultivated by Chictopia, towards AA's exploitation of its models and the Chictopia girls' mutual participation in that (regardless of how they appear in the ads themselves).

I do take issue with Tatiana's "And just as blogging and uploading self-taken pics of your original hipster creations is an ersatz kind of fashion activity, posing for American Apparel is an ersatz kind of modeling." While modeling for AA is of questionable veracity, we fashion bloggers have proven that our passions, talents and skills are real and powerful.

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Start losing weight said...

hello i which vociferously objects to internet snobs i think that the thinks in internet are prety in style.

Maria said...

Nice post

Nicole said...

I know it's been years but I agree with your post wholeheartedly! I read Jenna's post when it was initially published and I just found it so snobby and offensive. It popped into my head today and I decided to search Jezebel's archives to see if it was as bad as I remembered. Lo and behold, it was worse. Jenna has written similarly nasty things before and she rarely seems to get called out on it. Good for you for crafting such a thoughtful response.

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