It’s May again , and in the sewing sphere this means one thing: me made May! I started following this tradition a couple of years ago, and met many new people this way. This year, however, I decided to forgo daily posting in favor of weekly roundups mostly because the never ending list of suits on my feed was getting repetitive haha. You all know I wear the same things all the time, but still.
Anyhow, this is what I wore this week. This week was a short working one thanks to Golden Week. On Monday I wore the Viki Sews Adelina in VBC Covert cloth, which I covered on the blog here, and Cornell Shirt by Elbe Textile in silk noil.
On Tuesday I wore an uncharacteristic femme outfit (nothing wrong with being femme. Femme is great. I’m just not very femme lol) with a vintage pair of Levi’s and Style Arc Blaire Shirt, with no overlay in silk, and on Wednesday I wore the same jeans with the Olya Shirt by Paper Theory in double gauze.
Thursday and Friday were working days so I wore my Cavalry Twill suit, consisting of a Burda pattern for the jacket (10/2018 101 I believe) and the Viki Sew’s Adelina, iteration no. 1. The shirt is my basic shirt pattern with club collar this time. I like how this collar style really suits my face shape thought I find it somehow a bit hard to wear, despite it being a very classic collar shape.
On Friday I wore a similar suit, in wool crepe (both jacket and pants self drafted), with the same shirt pattern, this time in cotton chambray and standard collar. I really love this tie I found, like 99.9% of my other ties, in my local second hand store. Look at those horses…I mean…!
On Saturday and Sunday I did many chores and wore the Illford Jacket by Friday Pattern Co. in ES linen, another Cornell, and Ready to Sew Papao Pants in cotton silk noil. I actually love this look for the free time/work in the workshop. Which I sadly didn’t do, being relegated to the house for the annual inspections of all the drains, which we took as an opportunity to deep clean every crevice of the flat.
Now onto other things: lately the struggles of Asian peoples in the West have become apparent, my first reaction to this being “finally, dammit”. As a a side, think of this: instead of patting yourself on the back maybe question why it took a deadly pandemic and people being killed to figure this out, but I digress. I find myself considering that acknowledging apparent racism, while very necessary, is only one side of the coin, so here I’m bringing some observations based on my better part of a decade spent in Japan. While these examples are specific, similarities will be apparent.
Living in Asia, and in a country full of “mystique” (more on why this is racist later), and now working with colleagues from all over the world, not just Japan, I’ve observed more and more how many foreigners – even long term residents – have “ideas of Japan” which can harbor racist connotations. Seemingly innocent ideas like “oh Japanese people never say what they think” or “Japan a has no-touch culture so don’t touch people”, dovetail into statements like “Japanese people are not expressive and hence (logical conclusion) have NO FEELINGS OH. MY. GOD.”. These are all of course simplifications, which are problematic for two main reasons:
- They group the total of the population in one, immutable group, which can be useful, but is not the reality of things. One better way of convening the idea of some shared trait among a population you have seen would be saying “in my observation, some people are like this…”. While it seems like a small difference, this statement is more precise and not false. I mean, you are describing what you have observed, not making a blanket statement. Importantly, it also doesn’t imply that all members of a group *must* be a certain way because they are from that group. When the group in question is a ethnic or racial group, that is almost literally the definition of racism.
- It portrays Japan through a Western lens, applying a Western frame of reference and ideas of how people should be or are.
I find the latter to be so classically colonialist it is even ludicrous people don’t get it. To use the example above “Japanese people never say what they think”, many times I see foreigners not understating that Japanese people are often very clear. They are people like any other people, and they express! Read their literature, for crying out loud! The way they express, however, is different, and accusing somebody of not saying something just because of their communication style is…well… cultural blindness at best. Let me reiterate: the message is always there, the medium many be different, (let’s not forget the fact that the medium is the message so to say.)
I have no patience left for people who expect all folks to be the same as them – and for them I mean WASPs specifically (the origin of racism as a justification for imperialism invented by the colonizers in chief aka the British empire has been written on extensively for centuries so I’m not going to dive into that here). On the other hand, Japan itself is not innocent in this, especially considering the ethno-nationalism which became more prominent after the Meiji restoration. Placing that in the proper historical context, however, means recognizing that the nationalism and colonialism of Japan leading up to WWII was basically a reaction to (and copying of) the colonialism of the British and Dutch in Asia. The Japanese didn’t want to be a vassal state like China etc, and much of Japanese policy during the period was aimed at being recognized as equals by the Western powers. This doesn’t mean Japan didn’t have its own brand of racism going on beforehand, but can’t you help but wonder how the consequent iterations were informed by other brands of imperialism…?
All that gets mixed in with the “mystical Orient” idea which is so pervasive in Western discourse surrounding East Asia in particular, though historically it’s been applied to any place from the Middle East eastward, so much so that even I have been called an “exotic Oriental” (basically, I’m a carpet, lol but also wtf). I don’t have to tell you why this offspring of imperialism is problematic, as scholars have dedicated their entire careers to studying this, the most famous being Edward Said. The “Orient” is treated as a “curiosity”, its people inferior in any measurable way (still not sure what such measures are), patronized like little children, an opinion which was evident in the writings of Chamberlain in the of the 1890s and is still with us today, just look at the reporting on Japan by foreign publications. Once again, it should be clear these types of assertions are all rooted in a racist ideology that places one culture as the “standard”, all others be dammed, and how dare you be any different.
Think about it next time to say “people X are Y”.
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