Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Antisemitism in High Fashion

A lot of Europeans still seem to hate us Jews. John Galliano the fashion designer is the most recent. Like many others, he seems to need a lot of drink and drugs to become really nasty and antisemitic, at least to do so in public. So some people are bound to say Jews are just touchy if they think it's real antisemitism. I think that many things inhibit sober antisemites, but in vino veritas and all that. After all, Galliano's outburst was vile enough to break the law in France, though I'll be surprised if he ever goes to trial since he's left the country and seems to be a British citizen.

Linda Grant, a writer who has covered both high fashion and antisemitism, wrote a very enlightening article in the Guardian, "Galliano and the taste for transgression." She pointed out that Galliano's strong suit is transgression, and thus:

"If you are breaker of taboos, then antisemitism is only another taboo, no different from any other. It's the saying of the unsayable. It has become the last frontier for those demanding freedom of speech, for whom everything, even the Holocaust, is fair game. Is Galliano an actual antisemite who hates Jews? Who knows what passes through his mind, but by invoking the name of Hitler and gloating about the gas chambers, he is only doing what others have always paid him to do: shock."

"Fashion's obsession with transgression, its demand that Galliano shock us even more each season, has played its own part in the drunken bar rant. It has lost sight of women, of our desire to dress well and to be beautiful. It has given us the increasingly desperate and exhausted tactic of taboo-busting instead of our wish to cover our imperfect bodies as pleasingly as we can."

Other writers on the Galliano affair have chosen different approaches, for example providing long lists of Jewish fashion designers and trend-setters as an alternative for Jewish women who loved what Gallino produced but now have to reject it if they wish to maintain their self-respect. I think Linda Grant has the best approach: personally I can't imagine why anyone wants to follow the trends or dictates of such designers even if they are not in the least antisemitic.

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