Saturday 27 March 2021

Trailer trash feminist

Continuing my critique of Degendering Fashion, by Emilia Bergoglio, published in Seamwork magazine #76, 2021.

I think Seamwork magazine #77 Balanced, may be published. It will contain the 2nd part of Degendering Fashion, but at this point I haven't been able to read it so what I've written today refers only to part 1, from Seamwork #76.


 Questions to ask........

What would the response to Degendering Fashion have been if it appeared in a publication for tailors and male hobbyist sewists? 

What sense would it make to an audience completely of men? 

Would it make sense to a woman in Guatemala who takes pride in and makes a living from making clothes with the lavish embroideries her female predecessors taught her?  

Would it make sense to a woman in Mali who makes traditional mud cloth? 

What sense would it make to a Hmong hill tribe woman in Thailand embellishing fabric with traditional cross stitch?

link to an article that expands on this idea

Missonary Feminism


Would a man wear this?...and why not?

Considering Degendering Fashion in a historical context

In all of human history clothing has never been degendered. There is no culture in which all genders wore the same clothes. So I think if degendering clothing was a desirable thing humans wanted to do it would have happened before the last 10,000 years.

I agree with Emilias view about "unisex" fashion in their article. It is de-feminised clothing made to appeal to females who prefer masculine styling. It was never intended to be marketed to men as something desirable to wear.

If there is any gender that could benefit from the essential message of Degendering Fashion  it is men. I think they are the ones we should be urging to wear a full range of colours, prints, dresses and skirts. Rather than suggesting the way to degender fashion is by women wearing more blazers and trousers I think we should be educating men about the comfort and pleasure of wearing dresses and skirts. 

Men in Indonesia and Sri Lanka understand this and the traditional sarong is worn everywhere as commonplace, everyday attire. They would probably be baffled if men of other nationalities told them it signifies feminine and not masculine.



Same old, same old shaming

In the next paragraph all phrases in inverted commas are taken from Degendering Fashion

Degendering Fashion suggests that it is women who must change their ways of dressing in order to achieve the goal of "gender neutrality". Emilia suggests that a good way to begin is to "eliminate binary nomenclature in fashion" by erasing terms such as "bust darts" and "fitted bodice dresses". Coming from a person who defines themself  not-woman and binds their chest to appear flat I can understand why gender neutrality is something desirable for them. However, personally I cannot understand why adopting less gendered clothing, by wearing clothing that is less feminine, is a way forward for women to gain more equality and empowerment. 

The view that women are complicit in their subjugation has been taken up no less enthusiastically by high status, privileged women in the 21stC. Ever since the feudal system was created to control, exploit, and keep the peasantry oppressed women of the superior classes have always policed the unruly female underclass demanding they behave better, work harder, keep your home cleaner, drink less alcohol, buy more stuff, wear these clothes, don’t wear those clothes, educate yourselves better, have more/less babies – endorsing whatever is the prevailing need of patriarchy and its capitalist agenda. 

Back in the day those women would have been from the aristocracy and gentry and the wealthy mercantile, land owning class; in modernity the former mistresses have switched to be high status, tertiary educated, professional, white or light skinned, independently wealthy women taking up the same role. From the podium of their Manolo Blahnik stilettoes they shame, harangue and blame women for not being more free and happy. They imply it is our personal fault not having achieved power and agency in our lives because of having babies too young, being without a male partner (or choosing a low status one) or for choosing to wear fitted bodice dresses.

High status women cannot conceive of how the machinations of privilege have given them access to successes more by accident of birth and nationality than as a personal achievement. High status women already have all of the things low status women need – a home, education, birth control, careers, personal wealth, regular income, safety (most of the time) from male violence – and they believe all these things came to them through their own striving on the level playing field of society.


Clothing choice as societal signifier


In Degendering Fashion Emilia touches only briefly on how clothing is a “signifier”. 

In simplistic terms this refers to what a viewer reads about a person by how they present themselves physically. This takes into account not only the chosen clothing but numerous other things such as age, height, weight, hair styling, etc. Emilia only discusses how clothing choices can be a signifier of gender, they don’t examine how clothes also signal class, status and wealth.

Here is a little quiz to help explain how visual signifiers work. 

Match the pictures of people to a letter that best describes how you would rate their power, status and privilege.

a)              a) professional, well educated, high status job 

               b) career person in their workplace, well educated, waged

               c) working class, low education, low wage

               d) low status, low education, not waged

               e) high status, tertiary educated, rich


I hope this helps illustrate how clothing choices (and skin colour) put people into stereotypes where we make assumptions about them. Does the woman above look like she has a tertiary education and owns the factory where she is labouring? Perhaps that is more likely one of the women in the 6th picture down? Or perhaps those women are the company accountant or marketing manager? Perhaps the woman in the 5th picture down is so rich she is a shareholder in the clothing factory and doesn't need to manually labour to get a wage?
Have you noted that the people wearing trousers and suits are always the more high status and waged? That the women wearing more colourful, patterned and "ethnic" clothing are more likely to be identified as low status, low wage and low education? 
That is why I think suggesting women should dress more like men, or as Emilia puts it "gender neutral", serves more to keep women oppressed than making us free. It is true the clothing worn by women is a signifier of low status, power and privilege. However, I think it is masculinist culture that needs changing, not the clothing preferences of women. Degendering Fashion judges and stigmatises women of other cultures who have long, proud traditions of textile art and making clothes. 

Degendering Fashion comes from a hegemonic, highly privileged view of cultural mores and could not be instigated outside of the global north. If its not good for all women why would it benefit women of the global north?

Here is an Instagram I follow that I think presents a genuinely revolutionary take on degendering fashion and deconstructing signifiers.


Wednesday 24 March 2021

stitching my mouth up

Developments in csf.

Email sent by me to Meg Stively, editor of Seamwork magazine 23/03/2021

Dear Meg, I am reaching out to you again as you kindly asked if there was anything else you could help me out with.

I am appealing for you to stop blocking my access to Seamwork Instagram.

I wish to recover comments recently posted there by myself and to keep following the comments being made by others about the Degendering Fashion article.

As a Seamwork subscriber I feel it is unfair to limit my ability to participate in the community. Stopping my interaction implies my views are not respected or held as sufficiently valid for others to decide themselves.

Publishing Degendering Fashion in Seamwork #76 indicated openmindedness to a newly emerging cultural identity that is to be applauded. Non-binary and trans people in the sewist community are bravely stepping forward to talk about their experience. I wholly support this. As bi-queer myself I am part of the LGBTQI+ community and have read widely in the area of gender politics and ideology over decades. Reflections from me aren’t coming from an ignorant, misinformed or prejudiced position.

Yesterday I published the first part of a critique on my blog and plan to keep following up as the 2nd and 3rd parts of Degendering Fashion are published. Believing in the validity of my counterpoint view I plan to seek out other sewist forums who are open to presenting a balanced range of views.

I am appealing to you to allow me to participate in Seamwork Instagram. Going forward with my critique as subsequent parts of Degendering Fashion are published it will be relevant for me to hear the comments made by others.

As a feminist it’s my belief that all speech is political speech. Having had my participation in Seamwork Instagram stopped I feel it signals the position of Collette Media is to believe gender identities are not contested territorities, but have arrived at a place where they are now fixed and cannot be challenged, examined or deconstructed. That it requires policing, censoring and denial of interacting in public forums would seem to contradict that.

Please note that I don’t regard my correspondence with you as confidential and may choose to publicly share what your reply or possibly non reply is.


 Email sent to me in response to message above from Meg Stively

Hi Pearl,

Our community guidelines are stated on our website and our online community. You did not follow our community guidelines. Here they are in case you need to reference them:

I have also attached a screenshot of our community guidelines in graphic form. 

Thank you for reviewing these guidelines.



 Email sent by by me in response 24/03/2021

Hi Meg

Thanks for response. I read the community guidelines and are no more clear which one/s were contravened by me.

As I have already monopolized your time a great deal and being sure you have a more important job to do than engage with an irritating, misbehaving person, I won’t ask for it to be clarified what guideline was crossed. Will just ruminate over the mystery.

I wish to strongly state my total support for people who are non-binary and trans gender. I absolutely support that they have the right to choose gender, perform it how they wish, that they have a right to a voice in the world to outline their views, politics, feelings and ideologies. I believe they are a vulnerable community that is largely misunderstood and actively discriminated against.

The only thing I am disagreeing with Emilia about is their view that the language of dressmakers and seamstresses is a problem that should be changed. To disagree with that view is not an attack on non-binary and transgender people, though many people seem eager or silly enough to conflate it as such.

I hope you might look at what I write on my blog in the coming months as the next parts of Degendering Fashion are published.

The first big issue I’ll address on my blog is how a small number of high status, privileged white, tertiary educated, independently wealthy, career advancing and progressive identifying women in global north society take the high handed attitude that their views represent those of all women. Or should, if only the lazy lower classes would educate themselves appropriately. In many respects this group of high status, privileged white women replicates the way “upper” social class has always deployed over history to monitor the wrongful views of the working class by shaming, criticizing and implying we are incapable of understanding complexity and morality. Upper class women of past eras (some names for them…nobility, aristocracy, landed gentry or from wealthy capitalist classes) have always felt it is their mission to drag up the kicking and screaming rabble to their level of superior understanding and morality.

The community guidelines you forwarded me are a wonderful explication of how rules will be applied to keep rabble in their place.

 Huzzah and adieu

Pearl Red Moon

Monday 22 March 2021

The political dressmaker


Firstly I am apologising for my blog of 2 days ago when I referred to Emilia Bergoglio as “her” and “she”. Emilia states she is non-binary, therefore does not identify as either male or female and asks to be addressed as they and them. My use of wrong pronouns was unintentional. It’s extremely difficult for me as woman of 63 years to change a lifetime of programmed thought processing to get it right consistently. It has only been a year since I first encountered people who state they want to be referred to by unconventional pronouns. I uphold their desire and will personally endeavour to respect it.

However, its not a switch that is instant or simple for me, I have to work at it. When I make mistakes and people sneer or make weaponized accusations that I’ve done it to purposely offend, they are wrong. Some graciousness in allowing older people to adapt would be an act of human kindness.




In the studio

In July I’ll be having a second exhibition at Newcastle Art Space, 8th – 18th. The show will be called Garb/Age and the same as last year I’ll be showing textiles and garments made entirely from used fabrics sourced from thrift shops and garage sales.

My book illustrating the garments made for last years show “Thirty Coats” is available in my Etsy shop

Boho Banjo Etsy shop

I was in Newcastle last week visiting Newcastle Art Space Gallery to sign the contract and saw that the exhibition space had been hugely expanded from my last show. Immediately I saw the possibility to show not only made up garments but to display lengths of embellished textile hanging down the walls. Buying a length of art textile has many options; it can be hung on a wall as it is like an artwork, or the buyer could make it into a garment, or even commission me to make something wearable!

I have a number of dresses finished ready for the show. Initially I’d planned to have at least 30, like last year. Now I’m thinking it will be 16 dresses and 12-15 lengths of textile.

This is the first length of textile I’ve started working on. This is a strip of off white 100% cotton sheet that I first printed with black. Yesterday I started adding sewing on appliques.



Did anyone go to that link I gave to the BBC Arts Hour in my previous blog?

This is the exquisite Wendell Berry poem that was referred to

The peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry



In my blog of 2 days ago I said I would be critiquing Emilia Bergoglio’ article in issue #76 of Seamwork magazine, called “Degendering Fashion”. It is the first of 3 parts and is titled “What is Gender”. Initially I thought it could only be accessed by subscribers but a kindly person sent me this link so everybody can read it.

 Degendering Fashion in Seamwork magazine

I read it when it first came out a few weeks ago. I knew why it made me feel uncomfortable and have been ruminating the issues since then. Emilias Instagram was given at the end of the article so I started following. A few days ago posts from @Seamwork were coming up in my Instagram and I could see the comments and feedback readers were giving in regard to Degendering Fashion. 

I would like to quote directly the response I made but I’ve been blocked from following Instagram accounts of both Emilia and Seamwork so cannot recover the exact comments made. If anyone goes searching and they are still there, please let me know, but I would be pretty certain they have been deleted.

My comment was something along the lines of “I think a problem is being made where there is none. I don’t understand why the specialist language women dressmakers created over a long period of time is a problem that needs changing. Women have different body shapes from men and we created a commonly understood technical language for being able to sculpt fabric around our particular body shapes”.

That comment got quite a lot of response and I had made a number of replies to several people when I got a direct private message on my phone from the editor of Seamwork magazine asking me to stop commenting. I must have misunderstood her becos I got the impression she was willing to consider I could make a published response to Emilia in Seamwork magazine, outlining a different view, if I would stop commenting, which I did. A day later she wrote to me saying she did not intend to give me a forum.

This blog is becoming way too long long and I have to do some artwork today. In finishing up by publishing the letter I wrote to Meg, editor of Seamwork.

In another day or two I’ll be back to continue my critique of Degendering Fashion.

Dear Meg

I’m writing today to request the right to respond to Emilias articles published in Seamwork. 

They made a really thought provoking argument for examining why we have specialist nomenclature for garment making. I have some ideas about that, many of which are in agreement with Emilias opinion, and some that aren’t. I hope that holding in mind the journalistic principles of fairness and balance I’ll be allowed similar access to discuss my different view.

In regard to Emilias contention that there is a problem with nomenclature in the world of dressmakers and seamstresses I react as a woman who is strongly defensive of female culture and the safe places we constructed for ourselves over millennia. Until recently patriarchy defined all the places women were allowed to occupy and there were very few outside the domestic sphere. Huge changes happened since the first wave of feminism, such as women being allowed to own property, get access to tertiary education, birth control and have the right not be raped by their husbands. Women wearing trousers in the 1920s were often arrested and fined, even imprisoned.

I completely endorse and agree with Emilia stating everybody should be free to dress in whatever way they please. Absolutely. In my persona as radical feminist and subverter of fashion I have frequently worn completely outrageous outfits to thumb my nose at those mores. I support all humans to have the right to choose gender and how to perform it. Those who are outside the gender conforming mainstream have every right not to be discriminated against in society or law. They should be supported and given access to platforms where they can advocate to dismantle prejudice.

The only part of Emilias premise about nomenclature I disagree with is that the words that were created by dressmakers and seamstresses are a problem and should be changed. Having the power to be the one who “names” things is highly political. Essentially, whomever names it pretty much owns it. Just like people who discover stars, new insects and plants, they get to name them and are forever recognized in that way. As a feminist and a proud female identifying sewist I instinctively want to resist what I interpret as a political act of appropriation in a culture that was created by, for and owned by women. It increases my anxiety and fear greatly that it is being done by a person who does not identify as a woman, in fact they are a person who declares being called a woman is offensive and disrespectful to them.

I might be an annoying shouty woman who wants to take up a lot of space but above all I love women – our resilience to systematic oppression, our creativity, our boundless ability to give of ourselves in love and healing – I hope you can empathise with me when I say it is hard not to react with fears and anxiety at such an approach. It feels analogous to a home invasion, with people busting in the door and demanding that the furniture be re-arranged for their comfort as the present furniture is not fit for their purpose and offends them. The people who built the house and who have lived there forever are left speechless as it is deemed “centering yourself” to ask why.

It is difficult to negotiate dissent and diversity of opinions with respect and delicacy. If I put my questions directly to Emilia on their insta they will ignore me and refuse to engage. Their friends have explained to me that putting my questions directly is regarded as disrespectful and offensive, and remind me I have no entitlement to ask them anything. I cannot resile from believing this – If you identify as an activist/advocate and publish political views, ideologies or premises in widely circulated media then I believe you have a commitment to be open to receiving the full gamut of reactions and feedback (except outright denigration and threats of violence). 

As a person who has made a living as a sewist for 44 years and has been active for decades in sewist communities I find it deeply disturbing that their view is I have no place in the community, deserving only to be cancelled, silenced and discarded.

I’m impressed at your courage in publishing Emilias articles. Gender identity issues have been bubbling away in many online sewist communities for some time. Many mainstream people, who probably have never questioned the orthodoxy of heterosexuality for themselves or the wider community, are deeply curious to find out more of what it all means and how this might affect them interacting respectfully in online communities.

For myself, I have several intersecting identities that are relevant to how I present in the online world. Like the onion skins I’ll start at the outer – woman, radical feminist, artist, sewist, person advocating for sustainability and ethics in the clothing manufacturing industry, person advocating for justice and the end of genocide to the Uyghur people of China – a large number of them being in forced slavery picking cotton and in sewing factories, I am a member of the Greens political party and activist movement Extinction Rebellion, I am large bodied, bi-queer and a person with a cognitive disability, Aspergers.

The opportunity to talk with people through Seamwork how these multiple identities are the foundation of how I construct a worldview would be a privilege for me. Ultimately I hope to foster more understanding for mainstream people how people with alienated identities negotiate their existence and politics.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to put this case to you. Even if you decide not to give me a forum I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge this correspondence as it has taken a great deal of my time to compose it. As an extremely low waged person - I made $15 yesterday - time is precious to me and I beg your respect for that. 


huzzah and adieu

Pearl Red Moon