By now those of you that pay close attention to the fashion world heard about Nina Ricciâ€™s door crashers. Two Ukrainian women, upset about the sexualization of the fashion industry, decided to jump on stage topless and assault one of the models. Normally it wouldnâ€™t be worthy of mention on a plus size fashion focused blog. But since this is the year of plus size protest, with Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoriaâ€™s Secret and Lululemon under fire, itâ€™s worth discussing both the role of protest in advocating cultural change and basic technique.
Protestors really havenâ€™t changed their methods much since the 1960s and unfortunately, it shows. No matter how good their cause, the usual end result is not the social change they seek: itâ€™s apathy. Anyone who has somehow landed on a liberal side Democratic Party email list knows what Iâ€™m talking about. Thereâ€™s much shouting and sign waving over more topics than I can reasonably focus on at any given time. My email is loaded with panicked, outraged, adrenaline charging subject lines that really do damage the health of those who read them.Â This is literal and metaphorical â€“ we all have THAT friend, who canâ€™t stop with the political outrage social media posts. The shouting has gone so far that Iâ€™ve sunk into the type of apathy that victims of repeated abuse retreat to, as well. Ultimately, all this shouting about how much x protestor cares over and over does not make me care: it brings me to the point where I no longer give a shit. Thus, with the emotional retreat of myself and thousands of others, the cause fails, the shouter goes on about how no one cares and continues on doing the same thing again not even realizing that s/he is what creates all that apathy. Waving signs and marching are big guns for major crap going down â€“ they should not be first-try go-tos. They apply better to overarching national conditions.
When Iâ€™ve questioned the technique of modern protesters, I get the same responses back: â€œIt raises awareness. â€œ â€œIt gives us exposure.â€
Certainly these women got some exposure. They got themselves entire shirts full of exposure. With that, they set whatever their message was back by quite a bit.
Raising awareness is fine â€“ when thereâ€™s space for awareness. We donâ€™t really have space â€“ we have the illusion of space. If you want your cause to be heard, youâ€™ll get better attention and retention in a calm space of reasonable discussion.Â You must adopt the attitude that there is room for everyone, even those who are opposed to your views. This is very, very difficult to do. Yet in the practice of achieving social change, it is only those who take a â€œroom for itâ€ attitude that ever succeed. People are more willing to change their minds when they feel like there is room to do so. That means you must take a few characters out of the crowd: moral judgment, absolutism and any need to win whatsoever. Get them out of there. Those bastards make it hard to breathe.
Itâ€™s not the people screaming in megaphones or jumping people in fur coats with a can of spray paint that see successful change. If anything, they cause people on the fence to take the side against them â€“ better to kill a cute animal than to be an obnoxious fuck.
The women that jumped on the runway failed on multiple levels to get their message across. It isnâ€™t clear what they were trying to achieve â€“ it seems to be â€œbecause feminism.â€Â There is also absolutely no excuse for grabbing a model; if itâ€™s true she punched them she was well within rights to defend herself. People that you literally beat into agreeing with you never actually agree with you â€“ as the Egyptian government found out the hard way. (Now there was some protest with cause â€“ that until then did not happen very often, so it was worthy of full attention.) PETA protesters are an example of such continued failure: assaulting people doesnâ€™t make them agree that killing animals is wrong; it just makes them want to kill you.
Another failure of the protestors worth noting: Nina Ricci is far from the most sexualized of all designers. If they were really paying attention theyâ€™d stage a protest at one of Tom Fordâ€™s show â€“ dude hates women to a serial killer degree.
No, really, think about your protests and why youâ€™re doing them. Old school protest is for government stuff.Â When corporations are involved, waving signs does very little. They hire people explicitly into tricking you into complacency, make you feel like youâ€™ve been heard and promptly do either nothing or just enough to shut you up for awhile before going back to their plan A. Since support of these industries is voluntary (most of the time) voting with your dollars is ultimately your only legal plan A. For those who might go anyway, the only other choice is to offer a viable alternative. Corporations are masters of distraction â€“ learn from them about how to create your own distractions.
For example, starting your own plus size design boutiqueâ€¦