***my photos of the march***

09 December
buy nothing day and income relativism
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I haven't read the Common Wheel Collective's blog much recently, so I'm a bit late in responding to some of their posts.

But they point out another aspect of Buy Nothing Day that explains a lot of why I'm so ambivalent about Wal-Mart and places like it. Namely, that a lot of people live on very little money, and the bargains available through special holiday sales and discount stores can help them stretch that little bit further. Wal-Mart and Target were certainly staples of our lifestyle when we were living on maybe eight or nine hundred dollars a month between the two of us. It's great if you can afford to get your basic necessities at an organic mom-and-pop store, but a lot of people live in cities where mom-and-pop costs more. And farm subsidies work out such that non-local organic foods aren't cheap.

So there are positives to discount stores. That's why they do so much business.

Common Wheel also posted some really interesting information on world incomes - namely pointing out what we should all know already, that most of the world lives on exponentially less than the top 1% or so of people, exponentiatlly less than even fairly "poor" Americans.

It's strange to think how rich your $25,000 yearly household income makes you relative to the majority of people in the world, and yet, when you look at US income, four-car families living in the suburbs are just as low on the curve as welfare recipients. We are so wealthy and so poor, simultaneously.

 

01 December
more alternatives to the mall
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This is a continuation of Kerri's list of alternative places to shop for the holidays. Places that aren't the mall. Places that are good for you. I started to type a list to add to her site, and it just got longer and longer.

Superfantastico (paper, gifts)
WackyJac (undies, tees)
DaddyO's (retro clothes)
Novica (fairly traded gifts)
High Class Cho (clothes made by Margaret Cho)
Fat Chance Belly Dance (belly dance videos, music, costumes)
Dyke Tees (t-shirts)
Good Vibrations (sex toys)
Book Sense (independent booksellers)
Bust (magazine, other stuff)
Bitch (magazine, other stuff)
Hula Source (dance stuff)
Super Hero Designs (jewelry)
Lush (cosmetics, bath stuff)
Sparkle Craft (purses and such)

I'm sure I've missed a ton of great places. There are tons.

 

29 November
feasting
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Someone on one of the lists I belong to sent out a really beautiful post about the historical and cultural meaning of feasting yesterday. It touched on the heart of my personal ambivalence about consumption.

As an American and a fat person, I am presumably an over-consumer. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. I do buy a lot of stuff. I give stuff away. I keep stuff forever. I throw stuff away without really using it, or fully re-using it. I don't eat that much. I feel attacked by other progressives sometimes for having a job that pays well, for being fat.

It saddens me that this particular time of year, particularly for progressives, has come to be about American's gluttony. It's like we're not seeing the other meanings of the consumption, not feeling the love, when we get all het up about things like Buy Nothing Day.

Buying nothing for a day is a diet mentality. Refusing to buy things during the holiday season is the same. These things are all based on the presumption that consuming at all is bad, that we should be ashamed to be seen consuming more than what we absolutely need. [Except, of course, in terms of the expense of what we need, which can be as insane as we like - as long as the purchases we make are as moral as possible. But there I'm just lashing out at Adbusters, which is all about a sort of celebrity diet mentality for your whole life, not just your food.] This assumes that consuming is mindless, that we never think about what we put in our mouths or do with our money.

But there are times when consuming isn't just consuming. It's feasting. Consuming, ultimately, is thoughtless and alone. Feasting is shared, intentional. And the winter holiday season is all about feasting. At least - it should be.

Feasting is social. It's sharing pleasure. Holiday parties, Thanksgiving dinners, craft fairs, even the specter of mall shopping are all extensions of this.

There's a cultural history of winter feasting that predates modern consumerism, predates Christianity even. It makes biological sense (eating to fatten oneself for cold), economic sense (using up what can't be stored through winter), social sense (drawing in closer in the fallow season). Intentional excess can't be the heart of so many winter seasons in cyclical religions for nothing.

But the diet mentality of our culture leads us to treat this social exercise as an embarassment, something we must pay for later (with credit card debt, resolutions to diet, gym memberships).

I believe that's how we get to a sort of mindless consumerism - brand consciousness, eating without tasting, emphasis on the cost of gifts as signifiers of the thought involved. And if that's the case, the absolute worst thing we can do on the celebrated days of excess is to fast (economically speaking). It just readies our bulimic wallets for a day of bingeing to follow.

What we should do, on any day, but particularly during the excessive holidays, is keep the feasting in mind. Share. Be conscious. Buy things with meaning and intention.

Feast.

 

30 October
shopping fun
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A couple of weeks ago, I went on what may have been a financially ill-advised miniature shopping spree.

For the most part, though, I was supporting fabulous independent merchants. Given all my talk about how sisterhood isn't part of my political philosophy, you may be surprised at how satisfying I find it to buy stuff from smart, sassy women who run their own businesses.

Oh, but I do. Find it satisfying, that is. And I have to tell you about some of the cute stuff I've bought from these fabulous ladies recently.

This adorable and functional apron from Exquisite Lass (I also have this precious puff-sleeved little dress I got from her a year or so ago). Eleanor makes gothic lolita-style clothes, very girly; her work feels very high-quality handmade, which I love. She sends little off-the-wall cartoons and such in your package when you order things, and is really nice about altering measurements here and there. I think she's shifting to doing less custom-fit work in the near future, and she's started charging more for larger sizes on some items (I think it may be driven by the difficulty of resizing the pattern), but it's worth it for the quality of work she does.

I'm revitalizing the apron as a cute and practical clothing item. Yes, I actually wear them while cooking, particularly when cooking for a party or in some other case when I want to protect my purty dress. Aprons are super.

The longer cherry skirt on this page from Mode Merr. Angela's stuff is more me-like in general, sort of cleverly retro - girlish with edge. This skirt is really simple, but also a ton of fun. The cherries are sparkly! I wish I could justify the purchase of a flame skirt. There just aren't many places to get clothes you might describe as "witty", you know?

On thing I really love about buying stuff from independent stores is that these one- and even two- or three-person shops seem to be all about the personalities of their owners. People who complain that they never get to do business with a "person" clearly don't spend enough time shopping on the internet.

It's just nice to know that you have this very small personal relationship with some of the places you buy from - in the case of clothes, I don't really have many options to do that in real life, but I'm glad there's the web.

 

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