how do you get women leads?

Sydney now has a very strong culture of ‘anyone can lead or follow if they like, and it’s ok if you just want to do one and it happens to align with your gender ID’.

There are a number of reasons for this – a queer swing dance school who also run a big event; women leads on the floor; women teachers who teach as leads; people being publicly intolerant of anti-social behaviour; a growing ‘be good to each other’ discourse in event promotion, etc.
And where I write ‘women’, please include transwomen. I’ve noticed it’s easier for normcore folk to include transmen in their ideas of ‘men’, than it is to include transwomen in their category ‘women’.
It’s also been super important to see how welcoming and supportive our scene has been of people who’ve transitioned while being in the scene. ie they first presented as one gender, then transitioned to another. On the whole, teachers and dancers have been openly supportive, and more importantly, no-big-deal about changing pronouns, etc. It may have been harder for them one-on-one (all new things are tricky), but on the whole, it’s been ok. Not perfect, but ok. More work to do there.

Note: if a scene is ok with women leads and men follows, it is more welcoming to transpeople and queerpeople. Because a scene that has flexible ideas about gender and dance is a more welcoming, safer place.
If my leading has ever helped pave the way for a shy dyke lead or transwoman follow, then I feel very proud. It was worth it.

etc etc

One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed, is that this general trend has been working in concert with peer-motivated anti-sexual-harassment actions. ie women are more likely to say no when a creeper asks them to dance, and they will also step in and check in on other women if they see creepers maccing on them.
There’s also been a scene-wide ‘fuck that; we do not tolerate harassment or assault’ public discussion from teachers (even if the organisational policies haven’t been in place).

And _this_ trend has seen us get a more ethnically diverse cohort of dancers. In part because one of the main creepers was targeting asian women. Boy, did he get his arse handed to him. And because women of colour just get fucked off by carrying the double burden of racism and sexism.

I noticed that once he and his gross mates were absent from events, we saw an increase in men following. It seems that this racist creeper was also intimidating other men _implicitly_. And that the men who liked to follow also liked women who lead (or the women who’d had a gutful of that creeper).

So when we addressed all these issues – sexuality, ethnicity, gender, etc – at the same time, we saw a general improvement in the vibe of parties and classes. People felt more comfortable being themselves.

And then it snowballed, and we saw exponential improvements.

So if your goal is ‘more women leads’, you need to address a range of issues. You’ll get a bunch of lovely good results as a consequence.

But speaking as a woman lead, things that were important for me:
– Teachers who openly said ‘women are leads as well as men’. The importance of this cannot be overstated. I remember the handful of times I’ve heard teachers say it in the last 20 years. But don’t be afraid to be pro-active on this. Not just saying ‘anyone can lead’, but “Women can lead.”

– Teachers saying to me “Don’t ever stop leading.” A woman teacher said this to me quietly one night after class, and it was the most important thing anyone has ever said to me about dancing.

– Seeing women teachers lead socially.

– Seeing other women ask women teachers to lead them socially.

– Having women teachers ask me to dance (and lead)

Things I wish people had done:

– Stepping on students in class who say ‘you’re being the man/boy?!’ with surprise.
I’ve never heard a teacher say this, but it would be solid gold if they said “hey, follows, don’t say this to your partners. It makes them sad.”
I’ve only ever been at two weekend events where no one has said this to me. In 22 years of lindy hop classes and workshops. Each time someone expresses surprise and expects me to justify leading, it wears me down just a little bit. So a) fuck you women follows, and b) teachers, get your students’ backs.

– Never used gendered pronouns in class, or used gendered language and concepts to describe leading.

Things that shat me to tears:
– Male teachers who try to make me try a move as a follow in class, when I’m leading. Sure, it might help my learning, but would you ask a male lead to do this, even if you knew they followed? And also, whatever your norm is, do this thing: treat women leads like they are leaders, not follows who sometimes lead.

– Teachers who kept ‘forgetting’ to use gender neutral language.

– Teachers who use sexy jokes in class, because most of those jokes were heterocentric and/or relied on the idea of a lead being a straight man.

‘real’ tradwives of britain

Ok, so I’m taking the time to go back through this article properly.

1. It’s not very well written, and needs some solid editing. There are random threads that should have been snipped off. eg the bit about paleo diets. What did she want to say there? Was it a thing about the commodification of a mythic ‘essential human past’? Then why not say so?

2. She does not address ethnicity or race in any way. Fail. This is a substantial flaw, because most of the current day multi-generational families, home-businesses, and so on are are marked by class, and by race.

3. She says the ‘tradwives’ trend is dumb, because ‘tradwives’ want to be like the ‘wives’ of the 1950s. She says ‘why not aim to be ‘tradwives’ of the 1300s because it’s more legit?
I am struggling to get on board with this. I’m a fan of things like contraception and not being my lord’s chattel.

4. Her fangirling about the 1300s seems to be a response to a twitter thread defending the word ‘spinster’ as referring to single women who were economically independent that’s recently done the rounds, but which has since proved to be full of shit.
A cleverer response thread was doing the rounds, but I can’t find it right now. So here’s a post about a more accurate etymology of spinster.
The upshot is that it wasn’t that great to be a woman in the 1300s, even one working with her sisters in a shared workspace.

5. She continues, getting to the real meat of her piece: no more laws! They’re harshing our feminist collective mellow!

How, then, can a suburban family with a tiny garden transform their private home into a 14th-century-style household economy? The digital economy offers some help on this front: Pettitt herself extols the virtues of ‘tradwife’ while running a digital business from home. But more could be done to support a blossoming of tradewives (or tradehusbands).

She might have said ‘how can white ladies with white husbands and wee little white kiddies earn money from home?
Well, it’s not going to happen in Australia with our NBN. Or in rural centres in Australia. Or even, increasingly, in our urban centres.
To run an online business you need:
– good, and reliable electricity, and internet infrastructure
– reliable hardware (computers and so on)
– LITERACY – reading and writing – and NUMERACY
– to get that last one, you’ll need to have attended a decent school, to have been able to study at that school (and not stay home to work in your family’s business, or be waylaid by unwanted pregnancies or caring for other family members)
– you’ll need to have reproductive independence: access to safe and affordable contraception.
…and so on.

That’s all before we get to the actual business part of the business. ie the things you make, and the way you run your enterprise.

[edit]WE KNOW that reducing poverty is directly tied to the education and reproductive independence of women and girls. Get girls reading, get them on the pill (or otherwise able to control when and how they have babies), and they have more social and economic power. This is, clearly, not as simple as I make it sound. But we know that poverty in general is a direct result of capitalist patriarchy.[/]

But this lady is pretty sure it’s that interfering government getting in the way of nice white ladies forming child care collectives.

My DOOD. That’s some neoliberal bullshit right there.

She also thinks that it’d help to get rid of other forms of pesky government interference: the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is the one she latches onto.

She also has a thing about the restrictions of residential and commercial property use. It should be done away with! And why not?! Haven’t we all wanted a commercial meatpacker next door, or panel beaters across the street?

…at this point, I’m wondering if she’ll start talking about sex work, which seems the logical extension of her point: safe, collective spaces run by women, enabling them to work off the streets, and control their own incomes (and bodies).
But she doesn’t go there. She’s thinking about nice middle class white lady internet businesses.

This bit is just plain bucolic:

And surely it is not beyond the wit of policy wonks to come up with a means for tradewives to cooperate on collectives such as craft or market gardening, which could be done in the company of small children.

Such whimsy.
6. She ends by asking:

But if we can build on the emancipatory desires of women since the 1960s, taking our inspiration not from the 1950s but the 1350s, perhaps we could rethink the split between home and work and support a rebirth of the far older tradition of ‘tradewives’. We might even find this brings with it a renaissance of community connection and social capital across our struggling villages and small towns.

Ok, so we’re going to do some feminist deconstruction of capitalism and industrialisation. Sure. How do we do that, fren?

I’m not sure what she means, exactly when she talks about ‘community connection’ and ‘social capital’. She’s pretty sure she wants it, but what does she _mean_? Neighbours talking to each other? A return of incumbent lords and serfs with everyone knowing their place?
It’s not a good piece, and I don’t think she makes any good points. Besides a weak-sauce dismissal of 1950s ‘housewifery’.

She has not looked into the everyday lives of women who _do_ work from home.
She provides no real evidence that ‘tradwives’ is even a thing. Yes, there are lots of blogs by women deciding to stay home and knit sweaters for their home schooled kiddies. But most of them have husbands in very well paid jobs. And most of them are white living in north america. And there’s a hashtag. But I’m going to need more research, mate.

She doesn’t look at the live of migrant women in Britain working in cosy ‘domestic collectives’ supplying garments for the garment trade, doing phone sex (or sex work generally) off-site, or flogging cleaning products for Amway. There certainly aren’t any brown women in her stories, and there aren’t any already struggling with poverty and racism.

So, in sum, I declare this article:
Rubbish.

Jazz fandom in Australia failing again

I’m part of the AUSTRALIAN JAZZ LOVERS fb page, all-caps because ok boomer. It’s generally a pretty unpleasant place to be, because it’s sexist, racist, homophobic, and generally full of shit.

I did notice recently that members of the group’s community had booked two women from the Shake em Up Jazz Band for the Australian Jazz Convention (an event that was first held in my own suburb of Ashfield, Sydney in 1948). But even that couldn’t convince me to go to this whitest of white man events.

I was really surprised to see this on their page today:

The logo for the 2019 Australian Jazz Convention shows a line drawing outline of seven musicians. It seems wrong that, especially when two women musicians from New Orleans were special guests, all the musos shown in the official logo are men – no women in the band. I didn’t notice on the badge – too small – but it was obvious to me on the large posters in the Albury Club on New Year’s Eve.

(link)

There was nothing but shitposting for this comment. And because I am bed-ridden and bored in the Swedish winter, I responded. Of course.

Ken Farmer wrote at one point in the thread:

Ken Farmer But it IS gender specific. I’m sure the artist didn’t think, ‘I’ll be gender specific: men only’, but has done this without thinking. This is culturally imbedded prejudice, stuff that happens without thought and is usually not noticed. It takes time to change, and we must all try to notice, and remark on it when we do.

And I agreed. And I pulled out this reply:

Agree.

To do an old school textual analysis of why the figures in this image ‘read’ masculine:

  • The figures’ ‘hair’, even in silhouette looks ‘short’. This isn’t _always_ a masculine trait, but it is _commonly_ associated with men and masculinity in white Australian culture;
  • The musculature of the figures, particularly around the shoulders, reads ‘masculine’ (broader than a woman’s), another characteristic which isn’t _always_ masculine, but is often used to denote or depict masculinity in white Australia;
  • One of the figures is wearing a brimmed hat, more particularly, the type of hat that men wore in the ‘jazz’ and ‘swing’ eras, and is preferred by fans of this type of music. It’s also coded ‘masculine’ by white Australian culture, but also be a wealth of images depicting ‘jazz’ culture and masculinity;
  • There are no vocalists or singers in the image. In the modern jazz world most women participate in jazz as singers. Again, a gendered and not particularly great trend (because women and girls are discouraged from playing instruments by various social factors). But it does suggest that because there are no ‘vocalists’ in this image, singers and vocalists (women) are not important enough to draw in a logo.

As someone points out elsewhere in this thread, it’s a common trend for an (inexperienced) designer to use iconic photos as source material for a simplified human image. The repetition of this theme – that we can use iconic photos of humans playing instruments, all of whom are men – repeats the idea that ‘all humans who play jazz are men’. It’s not said explicitly, but it’s implied through this repetition. The point that no one has commented on this before, and that so few people are supporting Ken’s original observations suggests that the primary audience for this image accept this normalised idea of jazz = masculine.

It might not seem important to not have figures clearly identified as ‘women’ or ‘girls’ or even anyone who is not an adult man. But a logo is, literally, an abstracted image designed to represent a whole brand. In this case, the logo is intended to be a quick way to identify a flyer or picture or film or website or facebook group as ‘about the australian jazz convention’.

We can make further observations about the logo and what it means by where we see it in context.
The Australian jazz scene (particularly this part of the jazz scene) is predominantly older, white, and dominated by men. If you keep an eye on the feeds from various Australian jazz fan pages on fb, you’ll see that 99.9% of photos of musicians, comments by fans, and fb posts are by men or featuring women. There are only very occasionally pictures of women. A recent post about ‘banjo women’ was notable because it was so unusual to see women – _older_ women! – featured on the page, let alone playing instruments together in a group!

I was actually stunned to see the women from the Shake em Up Jazz Band featured in ads for the event. They are a hardcore feminist jazz band, who also have serious jazz chops. They are incredible musicians and hardcore professional arse kickers. Frankly, I was surprised to see them associated with an event like this. I last saw them in the Swedish countryside at a huge jazz dance event, where they spoke directly about dealing with sexist old white men in the jazz world.

But. These two rare images of women in jazz on this page, and associated with this event made me consider this event as something I might like to go to.

However, the responses (all of whom are by men, but three) in this thread have reinforced the event’s image as not only male dominated, but also actively sexist.

This particular comment was openly sexist and derogatory to women and girls, and the lack of condemnation for this comment by other posters further suggests that this place (this event) not only devalues women, but supports and endorses sexist and sexualised derision of women.

At a later point in the discussion, a woman noted:

I’m not sure who Shaye or Marla are/were but presenting an image of Jazz as all male certainly perpetuates the myth that only men can play it.

And I replied:

For your listening and viewing pleasure, these two artists are part of the Shake Em Up Jazz Band: https://www.shakeemupjazzband.com/

This band draws on some of the best and most influential modern new orleans jazz bands for its membership. All of whom are women. They are truly incredible live – see them if you can.
They are also openly feminist, and engage with issues of race and ethnicity, motherhood and professional musicianship. Their album ‘A woman’s place’ makes this very clear: https://shakeemup.bandcamp.com/album/a-womans-place

They write in the notes to that album (source):
With A Woman’s Place, New Orleans-based Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band pays tribute to women composers and lyricists. We put this album together with the intention to celebrate these artists and their contributions to the music we love and play daily. The album title, an abbreviation of bassist Vivien Garry’s composition “A Woman’s Place is in the Groove” suggests a more inclusive history of jazz, reminding us that as progenitors of early 20th century music the legacy of women extends well beyond performing, but also includes arranging, composing and influencing this music since its earliest days.

Lovie Austin and Lil’ Hardin Armstrong were both pianists with formal music education who were integral to the Chicago jazz scene of the 1920s. Hardin played piano and arranged for both King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and Louis’ Hot Fives and Sevens. She contributed some of the most memorable tunes of those sessions, two of which are presented here: “Skid-Dat-De-Dat” and “My Heart,” the very first recording made by the Hot Five in 1925.
Cora “Lovie” Austin, perhaps best known for writing the Bessie Smith hit “Down Hearted Blues,” can be heard on recordings accompanying many of the great early blues singers, notably Ethel Waters, Ma Rainy, Ida Cox, and Alberta Hunter. Austin’s own recording unit, the Blues Serenaders, included various prominent Chicago jazz musicians, among them New Orleanians Johnny Dodds, Kid Ory, Jimmie Noone, and Tommy Ladnier. Represented in this album are “Charleston Mad” and “Traveling Blues,” a variation on the New Orleans warhorse “Weary Blues.”
The Boswell Sisters (Martha, Connee and “Vet”) who are well-remembered for their seamless and intricate vocal harmonies, are represented here with their original “Puttin’ it On,” which features compositional elements such as shifting tonalities, tempo changes, and contrasting sections that make Boswell Sister records so enthralling.
Lyricists are also represented on this album: Lucy Fletcher contributed the lyrics to Clarence Williams’ “Sugar Blues,” while vocalist Alberta Hunter is credited with the music and lyrics to “The Love I Have for You.” Both Lovie Austin and Lil’ Hardin accompanied Hunter in Chicago during the 1920s.

Ragtime composer May Aufderheide, who wrote “The Thriller,” “Blue Ribbon Rag” and “Buzzer Rag,” among others, is represented here with “Dusty Rag,” a tune known to many revivalists through Bunk Johnson.

“In The Gloaming” is the oldest tune on this album (1877). Meta Orred wrote the lyrics of this tune, which were originally a poem. The music was composed by Annie Fortescue Harrison.

Elizabeth Cotten is better known to folk music audiences, though her song “Freight Train” has made its way into jazz performances throughout the years, including a recording by Preservation Hall. Represented on this album, “Shake Sugaree” was written in her later years with the help of her grandchildren.

Although we know little about the life of blues singer Geeshie Wiley, her name is familiar to fans of early blues and especially among collectors of 78 RPM records. “Last Kind Words Blues” — with guitar accompaniment by Elvie Thomas — is one of only six sides she made for Paramount Records between 1930 and 1931. Adding to the allure of the original performance is the fact that only three copies of the original 78 record are known to exist.

Rather than being the impossible task of an exhaustive survey of early 20th century American female composers and lyricists, this album is much more intended to be a celebration of these songs and the women who created them, and more could be said and learned about each of these songs and artists.

We hope you enjoy listening to A Woman’s Place as much as we enjoyed making it.
– Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band, 2018

Ease is a matter of privilege

“‘The difficulty is the point’: teaching spoon-fed students how to really read” by Tegan Bennett Daylight

I gave up a career in academia about ten years ago. It was a difficult decision; i love teaching, and i’d loved working in a place all about thinking. But over the previous ten years i’d been working in universities in Qld, Vic, and NSW, things had changed. Some changes were good – student cohorts had burst into diversity and were a heap more interesting. Some changes were not – the pay had gotten shit, and we couldn’t give students the contact hours or libraries or time they needed.

This article is good. It echoes some of the things i saw. But at the same time, it’s bad. I remember a moment i had teaching intro cultural studies at VU. The first generation of families to finish high school, let alone go to uni. Mothers, refugees, kids who’d used TAFE to get into the university system. So different to the privileged young people at UniMelb or UQ I’d taught.
With these students i noticed i was suddenly talking about critical thinking as a tool for dismantling disempowerment. I could see them leap onto Stuart Hall – black, migrant, working class – and his thinking as a weapon. They ate him up. They saw how he was useful to their lives in the working class suburbs of western Melbourne.

I’ve never seen students work as hard as these. Nothing they were doing was easy.

Ways climate change is affecting lindy hop in Australia

– We don’t run events in January and February as it’s too physically hot, and December is on the way out.
This means that we’ll lose a quarter of the calendar year for big weekend events;

– Musicians can’t make gigs because they’ve lost their homes in bushfires.
This means that our world standard jazz scene is losing talent and experience, and dancers are losing potential bands and musicians;

– Bushfire smoke reduces air quality to the point where it’s dangerous to dance in unfiltered air.
This means that regular classes are cancelled, and dancers must reduce practice schedules and venues;

– Classes are cancelled during heat waves.
This means that interruptions to the class program loses students, and reduces the number (and diversity) of people in the scene;

– Public transport (ferries) is cancelled due to smoke haze.
This means that people need to drive to class, or find other modes of transport;

– We can no longer use spaces that don’t have air conditioning.
This means that we have to move into more expensive venues, often ones working within Clubs Australia with gambling and precarious hire arrangements, and we lose our smaller local venue relationships.

– Flights are cancelled because of extreme storms or reduced visibility.
This means that dancers and musicians have their flights rescheduled so they miss events. This in turn reduces numbers at events, band cancellations, and costs attendees in lost registration fees and missed competitions.

– Bushfires and dust storms decrease the lifespan of sound equipment.
This means that gear needs to be stored in safer (more expensive) storage, and needs to be replaced more often, draining the coffers of organisers and societies.

Grey recently asked on fb ‘Ok, Feelings on bell hooks?’
And I got caught up in my response.

bell hooks was really important for me as a young feminist in the early 90s. At that stage, most of published women’s studies literature was by white women, and the women of colour who were getting published (primarily in journals, then in books), really shook up my thinking about class and identity. At the time, it really made me understand the intersection of class, race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc, though at the time it wasn’t called ‘intersectionality’. I was a young, white woman in a working class suburb of a politically corrupt state. People like hooks just blew my brain. It was thrilling.

I remember reading her work, and the work of Ruby Langford Gibni (Aboriginal Australian woman), Audre Lorde (black american feminist), Rita Mae Brown (American lesbian), and then Stuart Hall (queer black British cultural studies king). They were essential to my understanding of identity politics. Because I was a cultural studies person, I was also really influenced by film makers like Laura Mulvey (white British feminist), Lizzie Borden (black American radical), Tracey Moffatt (Aboriginal Australian artist), and by a bunch of authors.

I was lucky enough to be doing my BA in a huge english department (before media studies and cultural studies existed as disciplines), and that department included a lot of politically active feminists, poc, queer peeps, etc etc. So I was able to do subjects across a range of thinking within my BA. Goddess bless Gough Whitlam and the 1980s Australian university arts degree. I remember doing a lot of multiculturalism reading (in a postcolonial context), queer reading (a library full of books about sex!), and getting access to first nations activism. We had brilliant lecturers who were also activists in a lot of cases, and were culturally diverse. Nothing gets you fired up like a koori woman pointing at you and asking you what you’re bloody doing sitting there when there’s a rally to get to?!

All these people in the 80s and early 90, and their critiques of university-based white women’s studies (which was distinct from a lot of the feminist activism of the day), helped me understand that feminism can’t just be about gender. It has to address class, race, sexuality, etc, and it has to engage with institutional patriarchy. I was also influenced by Nancy Fraser (white American feminist) and her concept of ‘pragmatic feminism’. She argued that women’s studies had to have a practical, activist component (feminism) or it was just shoring up the academy.

But that was 20 years ago, and feminism has moved on. The lack of trans voices in the ‘feminist canon’ of that second wave is particularly telling. Even queer voices were marginalised at that moment. I personally think that the rise of trans politics within feminism has been the most radical change of this wave. And that’s no doubt why TERFs have so much trouble with it.
I think that these writers are important for understanding the history of feminism and gender studies, and for understanding women and activists of that generation (who are in their 60s an 70s now). But there are problems with them as well. And the nice thing about modern feminism is that it has moved on, adding new voices and thoughts to the discussion.

As a side note, I’m getting quite interested in Hannah Arendt and Seyla Benhabib at the moment. Old school feminists, but powerful thinkers.

Black activist men:
Straight up, my most favourite thinker is Stuart Hall (queer, black, British man). His work on class, race, gender, and sexuality in culture was the most influential work I read when I was doing my MA and PhD. I love the way he wrote, and his ideas really resonated with me.
I was also influenced by Paul Gilroy (another black British thinker) for his radical black politics.

And I’m a big fan of Tommy DeFrantz (queer black American dance history scholar), who I met while I was doing my PhD. He’s a dancer and scholar, and the way he talked about black dance and media culture, as well as being a dancer himself, part of a dance community, shook me. Plus he is a kind man, and just the right influence I needed at that stage in my own work on race and dance.

I came across Raúl H. Villa and his work on the latina public sphere in LA in the late 19th and early 20th century and was fascinated (partly because it overlaps with the zoot suit riots stuff). I also got into Michael Warner (white American queer)’s work on the queer public sphere.

This then led me to another thought…

Academic journals and magazines were really important in that 70s/80s/90s moment, because they were often published by collectives, or by groups of scholars who had shared interests (and politics). They’d publish special issues, or articles with the latest thinking, and then in following issues authors would respond to those articles or issues. That meant you could see the thinking happening at the time in a particular journal.

So, for example, ‘Screen’ published Laura Mulvey’s article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (Autumn 1975) in vol 16, issue 3 (pg 6–18), but people got so worked up about it (it was influential) that the next issue was themed, and all in response to her article.

There were also some really great magazines and journals published outside universities that gave marginalised writers a voice. eg On Our Backs (a sex positive lesbian erotica magazine) was a response to Off Our Backs (a feminist mag that was often anti-porn). For more.

When I first got to uni, I remember being kind of crazed by access to so many huge libraries. I would just sit in there reading everything. So. Many. Journals. I’d never even heard of things like feminist magazines or journals.
I know there are special collections of these things here in Australia eg Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.
The language was exciting: very RISE UP! and radical activist.

And of course, at this point, it’s important to point out that Grey’s research and thinking can be read in Obsidian Tea, one of the most important publications in the modern lindy hop and blues dance world.

Be bold. Stand out.

Aletta linked up this great article on fb yesterday: Cut From The Same Cloth by Myfanwy Tristram.

I was a teen 1987-1993, and fully into a punk/‘alternative’ aesthetic. Docs, shaved head, op shop clothes, etcetera. I started making my own clothes when I was about 22, because I couldn’t find what I wanted in shops. These days I make almost all my own clothes.
It’s been interesting to learn about pattern drafting and fitting techniques and applying them to my own aesthetic. Much of which is informed by the practical requirements of lindy hop.

As a seamstress, I’m really inspired by independent designers, but I really pine for the skills of high end fashion. Most of which are about making things by hand. It’s DIY (very 90s), but with the power and budget of high end fashion industry. And I’m always struggling to avoid bullshit gender norms.

Kenneth D King (source)

I’m very inspired by Kenneth King’s approach to fit and mechanical skills (he’s all about comfort, and fitting/cutting to flatter all bodies), and the Black American women sewers on instagram, who are all about COLOUR and confidence, and a non-m/s body shape.

Thebe Magugu  from South Africa (source)
Tufafifi from Nigeria (source)

Of course I’m excited by contemporary African fashion design (Thebe Magugu from South Africa, Tufafifi from Nigeria, etc). Inspired by tradition, but with modern sensibilities and politics.

Babarra Designs (source

And I’m a serious fan of contemporary Aboriginal Australian fabric design and printing (Australian Indigenous Fashion is a great source for this stuff).

I like artists like Peggy Noland, who makes huge, saturated colour models. Her work with Wacky Wacko is right up my alley: bold colours, confronting images (tampons! Body hair! Condoms! Gay!), men in frocks, fat chicks in tight mini skirts.

Wacky Wacko (source)

The irony is that by the time I have leet sewing and construction skills, I’ll be way old.
I have wondered a couple of times lately, ‘Should I worry about bring ‘ridiculous’ for dressing like this at my age?’ I usually tell myself not to be silly.


(pic by Hillary Mercer of course)

Something I’m really interested in at the moment is how to dress/dance on stage as an older, fatter woman. I’m experimenting with things like creating discomfort in the audience: revealing cellulite thighs, getting a skirt caught in my knickers, a too-tight bodice, an exposed bountiful bosom
I can feel the audience wriggling in their seat, and i really enjoy the way it fucks up the gender norms of the lindy hop world: skinny young white women with long limbs and long hair and no boobs. If you’re in a comp, people _have_ to watch you. They’re not allowed to look away. Cellulite or no.


Dancers like Sing Lim, with her fully sick sense of fashion, are my inspiration: be bold. Be clear.

This idea of discomforting the viewer is part of a punk aesthetic: piercings, torn clothes, spikes, and acidic colours. It’s also part of my feminist praxis: discomfort a male gaze. Disrupt a gendered norm. Enjoy it. I like using this as a tool in my sewing as well. I love power clashing, bold colour palettes, and mixing full, flowing sleeves with fierce colours and silhouettes. And as an older woman, who society is busy telling should be invisible, I’m beginning to really enjoy wearing clothes that demand attention. The difference now, is that my practical construction skills have increased. I know how to cut a woven fabric so that it fits as comfortably as a knit. I’m also a fan of complex construction techniques, using traditional techniques to make weirdarse garments.

Fun lindy hop routines

This is the performance from Camp Hollywood I keep coming back to.
Choreographed by Bethany Powell & Stefan Durham, performed by lovely Swingin’ Denver people. I love their costumes (Delilah inspired, I’m guessing), I love the song (The Stuff is here and it’s mellow by Cleo Brown), and I love the routine itself.
Typically Bethany and Stephan, it’s informed by history, but it’s also new and innovative. The way lindy hop should be.

The Swingin’ Denver people do lots of interesting stuff in their home town, including working with live bands, pushing on safe space policies, and getting involved in fun stuff like the Montreal Swing Riot street style battles.

APPROVE.

linky

Should every lindy hopper know these people?

Art Kane’s famous photo of jazz greats, titled “Harlem 1958”; approved for one-time use only. MUST CREDIT: Photograph by Art Kane – courtesy Art Kane Archive NOTE: this is a downsized low-res photo for web use

I feel a bit preachy saying “These are some band leaders every lindy hopper should know”…. but then, shouldn’t every lindy hopper eventually get to know Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, Chick Webb, and so on… ? It doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it?

I mean, isn’t it kind of part and parcel of learning a historic dance form, that you learn about the people who made the music that they did this dance to?

And if we namecheck the OG band leaders, surely they’ll also start asking why we don’t have many women band leaders on those lists? And if they don’t, shouldn’t we point it out?

And if they see pictures of those band leaders and realise so many of them were black, and then look at the band leaders on stage in their local scenes and see that they’re all white, surely they’ll ask some questions about that?

And if they see that jazz was born in black working class neighbourhoods, won’t they start asking how come jazz is a middle class white people thing now?

I don’t want to get all Revivalist Evangelical on the kids, but I do think those kids should learn about the elders and custodians of this knowledge of jazz… #blacklindyhopmatters

(photo of course ‘A Great Day In Harlem‘ by Art Kane in 1958)

Things to take to Herrang

Each year I forget something. So I’m going to write a list of stuff.
Most of my stuff also has to travel to places like Seoul and other cities before it gets to Herrang, so it has to be multi-use.
I’m usually in Herrang for two weeks, and I assume I’ll be staying somewhere where I’ll need to bring sheets and towels.

Before I leave on a long trip….

  • back up laptop files in triplicate, one online, one on hard drive, one in a third format
  • notify bank of countries and dates of travel
  • cash in Swedish kr (budget $AU50 a day + private accommodation rent + deposit for a bike)
  • cash in other local currencies for trip

Electrical stuff

  • laptop
  • power cord for laptop
  • power converter with usb plug point (Au -> Eu)
  • sound card
  • headphones
  • headphone charging cable
  • headphone input cable
  • phone charger
  • phone charging cable
  • external battery and cable
  • kindle and charging cable

Clothes

  • raincoat
  • jeans or cold weather trousers
  • thick cardigan or jacket for cold weather
  • short legged pyjama bottoms
  • long legged pyjama bottoms or tracksuit pants
  • sulu
  • hot weather cotton dress
  • a nice dress or fancy outfit for slow drag night
  • a nice dress or fancy outfit for Savoy night
  • clothes for workshops
  • clothes for parties
  • 12 x pairs socks
  • 12 x underwear
  • sports bras
  • fancy bras
  • belt(s)

Allow for a laundry that washes with hot water (and shrinks clothes) and tumble dries aggressively.

Linens and stuff

  • 2 x towels (so you can wash one while the other is in use, or use one for the beach and one for the shower
  • 2 x queen sized sheets (can be used as top and bottom sheets when one is in the wash)
  • 2x pillow cases

Random things

  • travel washing line
  • travel cup for coffees and teas
  • tea bags or special teas and drinks
  • special food or drinks (eg spices, instant noodles) that will make you feel at home in Sweden, land of no-flavours
  • presents for friends (from your home town, or your travels)

Shoes

  • thongs (or flip flops for non-Australians), for use in the communal showers, or in wet weather or just generally shlepping around
  • sandals for warm weather
  • 2 x sueded (or ‘fast’) dance shoes (these get used night and day, so just one pair will never dry out, and will get grooooss)
  • 1 x sticky (or ‘slow’) dance shoes
  • tap shoes

Medications and bathroom stuff

  • paracetemol
  • pain killer with codeine
  • anti-inflamatories
  • 2 x cold and flu tablets
  • prescription medications (enough for the entire trip + extra)
  • if you get a feeling you’ll be unlucky this trip, bring some anti-spew and anti-poo medications too
  • Bring copies of all your prescriptions, and letters from your doctor explaining what you take and why. Things like codeine are controlled drugs in many countries.
  • vitamin E cream
  • general moisturiser
  • 2 x deoderant
  • toothpaste and toothbrush and dental floss
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • nail file, nail scissors, tweezers, nail varnish, etc

Other things that people like to bring

  • make up and perfume
  • jewelry
  • alcohol from duty free
  • random costume things
  • musical instrument
  • promotional postcards for promoting events