Identity is in constant evolution, a primary example of that being the presentation of ourselves through fashion. As corny as it sounds, fashion is a form of self-expression, a method in which to exteriorise our personality and history. For me, even something as simple as wearing my Dad’s traditional Peshawri shawl acts as a connection to my history and heritage. This principle applies for many other people which has ultimately resulted in large fashion houses picking up on cultural clothing in an attempt to capitalise on it (granted, it has worked).
There are few questions to which there is no answer. I could ask something empirical; ‘How far is the sun from the earth?’ to which someone could answer ‘150 million kilometres.’ These are questions to which the answers can never change, they are set in stone. Then, there are questions, a more abstract variety, in which the answer could be one possibility of an infinite set of possibilities, with social and political influences, and indeed the era in which the question is asked all being key variants. By way of example, if I were a 19th century English governess, and I asked, ‘How should a young lady of our era conduct herself’ I would swiftly be given a copy of ‘Fordyce’s sermons’ and no doubt be told that a respectable young lady is not passionate, she is subservient, and well-accomplished. A respectable young lady dresses herself in fine silks and can speak the language of French and music with fluency, her tongue is the bearer of pleasantries and deference, and god forbid an opinion cross her pretty lips. However, I could ask the same question 200 years later, and here I find myself with a question that is rather difficult to answer. ‘What is a 21st century woman?’ What does she look like, how does she dress, what are her passions, and goals in life? Globalisation, the sharing, tolerance, acceptance and appreciation of other cultures, the movement away from internalised sexism and racism, the notion that a 21st century woman (at least, in the western world) can be whatever she desires to be, has made this an almost impossible question to answer. It would be ignorant, of course, to assume that systematic oppression of women is extinct; for indeed it is still alive and very real, especially for women of colour, and transgender women across the globe. But nonetheless, we are forging a path in the right direction.
Almost everyone knows who Virginia Woolf is. Whether you’ve heard of her collection of essays A Room of One’s Own, or are more well–versed in works of fiction such as Mrs Dalloway and Orlando, or have simply heard her name in the title of Edward Albee’s 1962 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you’re likely aware of her as a significant literary figure of the 20th century. Less well–known, however, is a contemporary of hers who was seeking ‘a life of one’s own’ three years before Woolf was demanding the same proprietorship over a room. That contemporary is the often-forgotten, but extremely worthy Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Nichelle Nichols is best known for her role on the original series of Star Trek, as Communications Officer Lieutenant Uhura aboard the USS enterprise. When she took on this role, she became one of the first black women to act in a major television series, not portraying a servant. Her character, specialising in alien linguistics and translation, was crucial to the show’s plotlines. Nichols is still acting at the age of 85.
Emma Goldman was an anarchist political activist and writer. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century. First teacher contribution!