To take a brief moment to discuss the vintage phenomenon.
This is something that I’ve been bothered about/worrying over for some time. I don’t think that, by the end of this post, I will come to a thesis about this issue, but perhaps I will be able to open this can of worms in a way that I will be more able to navigate this issue in a future post.
So, vintage has been “in” for a while. I personally have always been a fan of old-school big band, indeed, I am listening to it right now. I was raised on old movies that I rented from the library on VHS (by “old” here I mean Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers old), and have been swing dancing since I was in middle school. Along with swing dancing, I sew and knit, I love to cook my own meals, and since turning 21 I’ve noticed that, along with the traditional drinks (rum and coke, screwdriver, and gin and tonic), I thoroughly enjoy a well made Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet. (This drink in particular has gone out of style but was very popular in Wisconsin in the 40s; it is also a Plouff family drink, as I found out at Christmas.) I would say that, without trying to be, I am a person that is continually drawn to the vintage aesthetic.
But what does it mean to re-write the past in the context of a performance of identity in the present?
Because while I am drawn to the vintage aesthetic, I am also a pretty hard-core feminist, not-exactly-straight, not into racial hierarchy, or the current class structure. I’m fascinated by post-modern and post-post-modern literary/cultural theory, and I am a media geek, if not a technology geek. I think these parts of my life are more important to me than my hobbies, and I try to approach my hobbies through the critical lens of these ideologies.
I recently had a conversation with a close friend about how to truly create a non-violent culture, and about how irony is still buying into The System of Oppression. That’s a topic for another blog post, but if you’re interested now, here’s a link to tide you over: Hipster Racism.
Anyway, in that conversation, we came to the conclusion that becoming truly non-violent is incredibly difficult, due to personal stress levels. We had defined violence very broadly, as in “the intent doesn’t matter, it’s whether or not a targeted group feels oppressed by something” and “words entail violence.” The conversation then turned to what happens when people make mistakes due to stress in life, slip up, and don’t realize the effect of their actions. To remedy this, we decided that it was best to approach all aspects of life from a very loving, open, and meditative stance. Over the years, I’ve found that this approach to life has been very, very helpful not only in feeling less antagonism toward others, but also in feeling more contemplative and in feeling that my actions match my intent better.
That being said, this conversation inspired me to think about the ramifications of identity performance, and in particular, my own identity performance.
As I stated at the very beginning of this blog post, I identify with a vintage aesthetic. It has become a part of my identity, as much as feminism, anti-racism, being not-exactly-straight, and other social justice stances. Vintage is also very clearly a performance. There is no way in hell I am actually a vintage girl. My interest in vintage is only apparent if I have a physical indicator of it (wearing a vintage dress to class, vintage-style make-up, if I am knitting in public, etc.), and that performance of vintage comes with certain cultural expectations.
For instance: I find that when I am wearing a vintage dress, people are more likely to open doors for me, to flirt with me, and to tell me I’m pretty. I would need to do an experiment with this to see if that’s true, but I am fairly confident in its truth.
When I wear makeup in a vintage style, I feel at the same time more confident and more worried that people won’t be able to listen to what I’m saying. Does this truly empower me? Sometimes. In certain settings.
But what is it about particular decades in the 20th century? I would argue that nostalgia for the 1940s is different than nostalgia for Victorian England, or medievalism. There is something that brings these forms of nostalgia together, an aesthetic wishing for a different time. But the meaning of the particular time evoked in the collective imagination of those interested in this time period/revising the time period in the light of contemporary thought.
This post is getting far too long, and far too complicated, for me to continue at this moment. It’s also quite late, and I’ve been massaging this post for a couple of days now.
There’s another post coming soon. Topic: Feminism. In particular, something that has been nagging at me for a while.
There will be more updates about nostalgia. It’s something that my research this summer hinges on, and though I will be studying medievalism rather than nostalgia for the 40s/another era in the 20th century. Still, I’m sure I’ll continue to attempt to puzzle this out.
No other real news. Most of this week has been working on my internship. I’m taking some time to myself while I can; from here to the end of the semester, it’s going to be hellish.
Ta ta for now, more posts soon.