Friday, November 30, 2012

Fashion Meets Activism - Ruby Veridiano

When spoken word artist and Cultural Program Coordinator Advisor, Fong Tran, asked me to be part of bringing Ruby Veridiano to the UC Davis campus, I was thrilled! Her founding iLL-Literacy as a UCD student is legendary and her work with Glamourbaby Diaries has empowered thousands of young women of color nationally and internationally.

Since I have research on and curated an exhibit on the Vietnamese National dress, and teach a course “Asian Americans and the Political Culture of Fashion in the U.S. and Asia,” it made a lot of sense for us to collaborate.

It was clear from my early conversations with Ruby that possesses a spirit of an activist. One that sees wrongs in society and wants to tackle it head first. She goes about this struggle with such grace, dignity and a refined sense of style. She’s just sheer inspiration. Working on the project that she presented tonight was no work at all. We laughed, we signed, we theorized, we pontificated, and we shopped. Education should always be this fun.

The talk was like going through an amazing of self-discovery with Ruby. A journey wrought with many obstacles but always moving towards positive change. It is those personal moments that truly forms Ruby’s edgy ideas that challenge notions and images of femininity, strength, courage, and beauty. And she does this all with fashion as the center or core of her activism. 

Wonderful talk and I hope she returns to UC Davis to run her empowering workshops.


Chau Tran said...

Without a doubt, Ruby has made amazing achievements for herself and definitely has empowered young women of color through her programs. Her goal of redefining "glamour," that glamour isn't about fashion, but rather encompasses self-empowerment, body positivity, and social change, is very much an innovative way to connect with and empower folks with marginalized identities. I also appreciated how she mentioned that she wanted to dismantle the notion that fashion equals wealth because a lot of folks don't have the resources to be "fashionable" or "stylish," and that style is simply expression of yourself, in whatever way that means to the individual. However, throughout the event, I felt like this was very cisgender oriented. Indeed, she did mention that her programs don't only reach out to young women, but also "old women, young men and old men." Still, her comments about how the program is open to these identities were still very binaric. What about folks that don't identify as a man or woman? Yes, she did have an insert about a gender-bending male model and queer Japanese American model Jenny Shimizu, but I felt like the way that she brought up these two models and their queerness was tokenizing. Also, a comment she made that I really didn't appreciate was something along the lines of (and this isn't a direct quote), "For young girls, it's easy to turn to fashion, naturally right?" To be completely honest, I was so shocked when she said that and in my head, I thought, "Oh helllllll noooo!" Equating girls to enthusiasm for fashion is just so problematic! I know that she has done and continues to do great work for young women of color, but saying something like that can really distress a young person who doesn't fit into that oppressive standard of femininity or maybe doesn’t want to be identified as a “girl.” Lastly, I was a bit disappointed that she nowhere in her presentation mentioned sweatshops and its ubiquitous presence in the fashion industry, but I’m not going to delve into that, as my comment is becoming a little longer than I expected.

Nam Phuong Pham said...

I wasn't sure what to expect and I wasn't sure how fashion would've been taken seriously in context to issues like domestic violence and rape. Not only was I not sure of the relevance, I wasn't sure if it sending a right message to girls and women that fashion was an outlet for their problems because it's just what we do as the female sex, almost assumingly natural. However, as Ruby continued with her slides, I came to realize that she was standing up there with a power of authority not over us or anyone else but over herself; that she is the speaker for her own self and her own ideas and beliefs and this "outlet" that I had wrongly tagged her work as, was something personal and unique to her but it didn't define her. I realized it was both her ideas, her fashion and so much more that created what an amazing and influential person she is. I also came to realize that fashion is a big struggle of race and gender and it is definitely applicable to social issues. Fashion is what little girls see before puberty even hits and before their parents even tell them about what their sex is "supposed" to act like before the media does. However, I do agree with Chau that it doesn't work for everyone and the assumption that it does is unfair for people.

Fanny Wong said...

I really appreciate the opportunity to hear Ruby Veridiano present on her amazing work. I was very inspired by her road in discovering what she is passionate about and actually being able to do what she loves. As a college student, sometimes it is hard to discover what you are passionate about. I really admire her work because it is very influential to women of all age; however, I feel that it is more targeted towards younger girls. Ruby is very creative in terms of mixing self empowerment with fashion. Fashion is becoming a very popular in today's society. The way she distinguish between fashion and style really caught my attention. People tend to think of fashion as something that only wealthy people may have, but that is not true. Fashion differ to many people. Any people can be fashionable and have their own style. By mixing fashion and self-powerment, it really catches people's attention. Like Ruby said, people who come to her workshop thought it was only a fashion workshop, but indeed they have something in store for them. The video she showed during her talk was inspiring because hearing girls who are around my age talk about their experience resonate with me. I think it is important that we have more people like Ruby that will help lead girls to self-powerment and social change in the world.

Eddie Truong said...

I'm not a person that easily sees the value in fashion for any reason; in many ways, I viewed it as excessive and only accessible to the wealthy. After this workshop, I learned that fashion is more than just clothing, but it is a lifestyle that can be an empowering experience for anybody. The ideas surrounding symbols, representation and empowerment are major themes that should be closely examined. In the social justice perspective, fashion should be used as a vehicle for rewriting books, destroying media stereotypes and critically reexamining our bodies in light of systemic stratification. The ways in which society portrays womens' bodies reveals a sense of male-dominated societal ownership over female bodies and minds. It is a sense of entitlement that arises from this sense of ownership and individuals can use fashion as a mode of agency to challenge this rhetoric. I was very impressed by these ideas and I hope to learn more from it.

Edwin L said...

Ruby's talk was definitely very interesting and her work definitely deserves credit. I wasn't able to attend the whole talk due to conflicts with school schedule, but I do have one thing to comment when she talked about certain things regarding to men. If I recall correctly, she mentioned that men like women who are stupid and wouldn't argue with men. I cannot agree with her in this because I personally prefer intelligent women, and I know other men who would agree with me.
Overall, I would like to tell Ruby to keep up with her work and I hope she'll be able to restart her project.