Friday, August 19, 2016

Eating One's Words

This is so awkward.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece on the blogger at This Victorian Life. She had recently been profiled by Vox or Vice or Vulture - one of those online magazine-like sites - and the profile itself didn't seem very fair. In addition, a lot of the resulting internet chatter about the whole situation of a couple deciding to live "like Victorians" (kind of) came off to me as wrong-headed, assuming that nostalgia for history and a desire to experience the past automatically meant thinking that all aspects of the past are better than the present, including historic racism, sexism, etc., and my contrariness and defensiveness kicked in, pushing me to post a rebuttal.

Recently, the blogger and her husband took a trip to Vancouver where they attempted to visit a famous private garden, the rules of which disallow costumes and wedding dress. In a blog post, the employees who turned them away were described as cruel, rude brutes who looked down on the couple, the horrible nakedness of other patrons in modern summer clothing was highlighted, and she asked readers to write to the garden and review them poorly online. This is something I look askance at no matter what the situation, but it later turned out that the situation may have been extremely exaggerated and that the rules were posted on the internet and known ahead of time.

I would really rather be posting something interesting related to the Dragonrose Historical Pattern Kickstarter right now, and normally I would just let this pass by without bothering to write a post about it. But because I did write those earlier, praising posts and because this episode is going around the costuming world online, I feel like I need to address this issue or it may be assumed that I endorse it.

Look, I think it's important to show people that Victorian and Edwardian clothing doesn't smother you and prevent you from moving. And if you want to live without most aspects of modern technology, that's really cool. But it is not okay to look down on other people because they aren't in historical clothing, it is not okay to try to force yourself in historical clothing into a space that doesn't allow it, it is not okay to emotionally misrepresent how you were handled by a business, and it is especially not okay to sic one's fandom on a business's online reviews or customer support. It's an ugly way to behave.

10 comments:

  1. I've been appalled at the behavior of the Chrismans in the wake of their ejection from Butchart Gardens. Yeah, it sucks to be told that you don't meet a seemingly arbitrary dress code, but to be offered multiple options for compromise, to still insist on making a scene, to flouncing out the door with more than just the cost of the tickets refunded, and then to go online and launch a social media campaign for your followers to pile on the facility by likening it to religious persecution...? No mas.

    I think the biggest thing that gets me worked up about all of this are the outraged cries of "discrimination" on behalf of the Chrismans. This is not a discrimination case because dressing like a Victorian is not a protected class. Maybe it seems arbitrary, or unfair, and fine, I'll agree to that much, but this is in no way equivalent to being a Muslim woman who is told to remove her hijab, or a black man who is asked to leave because of the color of his skin, or a trans* person who can't use the bathroom associated with their sexual identity because they don't have the "correct" genitalia.

    It's regrettable that the Chrismans felt they were poorly treated by the staff at Butchart Gardens, but their behavior in the aftermath has reflected poorly on themselves, their lofty values, and the rest of us, who dress in historical clothing. Do you think the Gardens are going to look at this and think, "Hm, we were wrong about people in costumes"? No, they're going to feel validated in their ban on costumes and double down on the next hapless person who wanders in wearing something a little too "costume-y" for their comfort.

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  2. I read a few twitter live-read-throughs of her corset book. And what I read BOTH made me never want to read the book, and reinforced that they are not-nice people. (And quite possibly an abusive relationship, if the husband is portrayed correctly.)

    I hadn't heard about this situation, but I am both saddened and unsurprised.

    Oh, they also hate costumers -- sometimes people take shortcuts, and no one is living in it day to day. Therefore, not as virtuous as the couple.

    And for what it's worth, I don't think your previous post was anything to apologize for. You thought there was unnecessary hate, and wanted to be a point of "maybe we should look at all the details first". That's a worthy thing to do.

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    1. Thank you! I wish I'd been able to read the book before I wrote (at least before I did the whole semi-interview thing), because I think I would have picked up on some of the things that were only vaguely hinted at online, but the only copy in my library system was in Alexandria Bay, I think, hours away, and not available for request for some reason. :(

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  3. I remember reading an article on them years ago, and I admit my first impression was negative too. I don't think there's anything wrong with dressing in historical clothes or anything (I wear fairly unusual clothes myself), but the article started with her comparing "being born in the wrong century" to being trans, and as a trans person I can say that that is most definitely NOT okay. It's ridiculous that they're trying to claim that they're an oppressed minority just for having a lifestyle that's at odds with how the rest of the world works.

    I agree that your earlier post is nothing to apologize for! Your opinions on this seem very reasonable all around, and "hey maybe we shouldn't be so quick to say hateful things" is always a good reminder.

    Also, I just had a look st their website and the page on antique clothes made me so upset. I hate it when people wear 100+ year old garments.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, the comparisons to oppressed groups to achieve legitimacy for their complaints are ... not impressive.

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  4. Personally, after reading several articles about this reprehensible pairs behavior, and having previously read about them, it just confirms my opinions about self-entitled hipsters (however they dress). If you want to live in costume, fine, I admire that kind of self control. I love modern clothing and the freedom it allows. I grew up in the 60's and gladly gave up my girdles for pantyhose! But to look down on people who choose to live in the modern era, and expect everyone to cater to your particular fetish (and that's what it is) is just as bad as expecting everyone to go nude because you're a nudist, not reasonable for most of us, or a particular religion believing every female should cover up entirely. You dress your way and I'll dress mine and we'll both be happily covered.

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    1. Yes, it really is the looking down on people who choose to live in the modern era that's the problem - if you want to live as a Victorian but be treated like anyone else, you should be prepared to extend that courtesy to everyone. I completely understand the frustration in being asked over and over again whether you're hot or having to combat the corset myths all the time, but judging others for being "almost naked" while being upset that you're judged for how you dress seems like blatant hypocrisy.

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  5. Where did you hear that the Chrismans exaggerated the story about what happened at the park?

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