My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Cultural Appropriation, Eclecticism and Subcultures

Today I have been reading about cultural appropriation. It started out with reading ::this post:: at This Is Corp Goth, about how mainstream fashion appropriates outward signifiers of Goth sub-culture, stripping it of the meaning it has to market it to masses, especially to those who are looking to be "edgy" and distinguish themselves slightly from the mainstream in pursuit of a bought "individuality", not because it reflects their inner aesthetic preferences (if they have developed a core set of aesthetic preferences), but because it is the current trendy way of seeming interesting; they want to be seen as "different" and "interesting" and "individual", but dare not do anything that endangers them to being thought of as "freaky" and "weird" or "not normal", distancing themselves from the originating subculture and the roots of what they have adopted.

This is an issue that has been much talked about in the Goth community, but there is another issue that is not talked about, or at least that I have not seen talked about: do members of the Goth community appropriate things from other subcultures, cultures and traditions, and are our inspirations being used in a way that is cultural and subcultural hybridisation, or in a way that is simply adopting something because it looks nice or is popular amongst other goths, without thinking of the origins of these things.

I routinely see things aimed at Goths that are marketed as "Celtic", "Gypsy" and "Japanese" which are either based off stereotypes or have nothing to do with those people, or even worse are based off hugely erroneous romanticisations of those people with vast historical and anthropological inaccuracies. There is, for example, a difference between the interlace animal designs of the Vikings and Pictish crescent designs and ancient Bronze Age spiral designs, and the interlace designs of Irish monasteries, but all get marketed as 'Celtic knotwork', despite not all of them actually including knots, or being from a group called 'Celts'. This is taking a broad an inaccurate view of what the word 'Celtic' means, and ignoring a lot of history to market something to people who have only a vague knowledge of the term. Often this is pandering to those seeking something exotic, and conflating something being exotic with it somehow being better with what is usual simply because it is different. 

It is not wrong to appreciate the artistic styles of another race or nationality or culture, but to genuinely appreciate something you have to understand that more than just words and obvious symbols are signifiers of meaning, and that some things that we think are merely art or decoration have long and deep traditions as something deeply personal and meaningful to many people in their originating culture, and to them it as vexing to see us appropriate those signifiers and unintentionally strip them of meaning as it is for us to see non-Goth people wear obviously Goth-inspired fashion and then denigrate Goth and Goths.

That said, I do not think it is wrong to wear or have or make things inspired by other cultures and traditions, as long as the inspiring items/traditions are understood, and as long as it is not too direct a copy, more a new creation with artistic ties, because one is not directly copying a symbol or item, but appreciating the aesthetics and then combining them with whatever else lurks in the designers brain and producing something new and appreciative and therefore not taking a specific symbol or item and re-using it stripped of its meaning.  A lot of it comes down to understanding what a specific symbol or item means, and the context in which it is used in its originating culture, something that can easily be learnt with a bit of research, and avoiding using that symbol or item in a way that would be disrespectful to that culture, and if you do wish to use something outside of its proper context, changing it enough so it is clear that you mean no accidental insult or sacrilege, and are merely being aesthetically inspired. 

For example, walking down the street wearing a feather in a band in the same way a Native North American people would do in the context of a feather earned by a warrior would be a bit like walking down the street wearing a medal that would normally be earned by a soldier when you haven't earned it yourself, compounded by being from the people who fought against those who would have earned it, but wearing a different type of feather in a different way altogether would just show an appreciation for that feather. 

It is also important to remember that just because something happened a long time ago, it does not mean that the event or culture is no longer relevant to people today.  A lot of people are very proud of their ancestors, and very connected to their roots, and historical events that caused harm to large swathes of certain cultures have not been forgotten or relegated to the history books, so be careful when using symbols from times past.  A red ribbon around someone's neck meant something specific in the French Revolution, and there are definitely people around who still know what that means, and whose ancestors did end up killed on the guillotine. Even more pressing, there are cultures who still feel the repercussions of historic events, and if you happen to come from the culture they feel has injured them, wearing their symbols could be seen as a grave insult. 

I think this is an important issue for us to bear in mind as creative people and people interested in fashion, especially as people whose tastes are likely to be more eclectic and to draw on things outside of western culture, or from different historical periods. It is basically a case of being aware of what symbols and items mean before using them, and of doing the research. We are a magpie people, who spot something and want it, but sometimes we have to acknowledge that, no, we can't have that exact thing, and then use it as an opportunity to be creative and create our own thing, which will mean so much more as something made by oneself. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012


The last full-length was quite 'heavy', so I thought I should follow it up with a lighter tone of blog entry, hence why I'm writing this short fashion post. 

My eyesight is such that I need glasses to read, use the computer, sew, etc. Prolonged activity of such nature without them results in me having a stonking headache and thus being an irritable mare. 

While I was at the Cafe with with my friend the other day, I took the opportunity to play around with the macro function on my little digital camera, and having what I think in camera jargon is called a limited depth of field - having only a small bit of the image sharp at any one time. I'm rather the newbie at this whole photography lark, so being educated on the matter is appreciated. 

For a long time I wore classic styles in silver frames, grumpy that my glasses never quite matched my tastes. Back in 2010 I came across these while my friend was going for an eye-test. I loved them so much that for my next eye appointment I changed opticians, and went to Specsavers, where I got two pairs of these. I see a couple of people out and about with the same glasses, as while distinctive, they are from a popular high-street opticians. As such, they're not really alternative, but I still love them. I think the style was called "Bumble" if anyone is interested. 

I do think that picking glasses that match the sort of clothes one wears daily is a neglected but important aspect of accessorising well. I see a lot of people who have picked their glasses for their work clothes but clashing with their personal wardrobes, or vice versa, which is something I wanted to avoid and I have the added issue of switching between Goth subtypes as well as the drastic difference between my work wardrobe and my personal wardrobe. I tried to pick glasses that were modern enough to go with my less Romantic goth styles, normal enough to match with my work outfits, and yet ornate enough to not be too out of place when I am all decked out in ruffles and frills. These seemed like an ideal solution.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Gender, Sex and Society

Physically I am a woman,
In terms of sexuality, I am broadly bisexual. 
In terms of personality, I am my own individual self and those other two facts have no relation on this. 

I don't think that biological gender determines personality traits, because there are so many people who are biologically male or female who simply don't fit society's conception of those genders. These conceptions of what gender is revolve about a persons personality, sexuality, and role in society. Those things vary widely between individuals, and it is about time people saw each other as individual human beings instead of making assumptions about anything, least of all what reproductive organs they have. I think there is broadly a correlation between some personality traits and biological sex, but it is not set in concrete, there is a large amount of variation. 

What I've come to realise is that physical femininity and masculinity are more of a greyscale than merely only being black and white, and people's personalities are every colour of the rainbow. Some people are masculine in terms of what society thinks of masculine personality traits as well as being masculine in body, others are masculine in body but fit in with what society thinks of as feminine in personality traits. Some go as far as to see themselves as a woman's mind in a man's body, and all of this vice versa, and there are a variety of inbetweens. That is the reality of the situation, and it is not a black-and-white divide  of manly men and ladylike women. 

As a teenager, I was an outcast, initially desperate to fit in. I shed my tomboyish clothes for firstly attempts to be fashionable, and then attempts to be variously subcultural, and outwardly I looked girly. But I did not feel girly - I did not fit in with the other girls around me, who talked of makeup, fashion, celebrities, and boyfriends, and put social interaction and their emotional lives as the priority. What I did not realise is that this behaviour is not the definition of being girly, just of being the mainstream version of "girly", and that being into more "masculine" things (for example being outdoorsy and into martial arts) and having no interest in such things as clothes and makeup (it took me until my early 20s to realise that I didn't completely hate makeup) did not make me "unwoman". As far as the other girls were concerned, it made me a "lesbo" "dyke" and "freak", the first two implying that because I was not into traditionally feminine things, that I had to be a lesbian, and worse, that if I was a lesbian, that this was terrible. 

This of course, was made additionally complicated by initially believing that how gender-normative one's behaviour is was interlaced with one's sexuality. My first crush being female, and my second crush being male, and possibly only a crush because I'd convinced myself that I had to fancy someone of the opposite gender in order to not be a lesbian because being a lesbian was clearly a 'Bad Thing'... It took me a while to finally actually fall in love for the first time - with somebody male. It took a while for me to realise that a) I am bisexual, not lesbian, and b)being bisexual, lesbian, or any other form of non-hetero is not a Bad Thing. At the time, I was terrified of admitting my feelings to the girl I fancied, even though she was actually interested in girls, partly because she was older than me by a couple of years, but mostly because I was being bullied enough and I didn't want to do anything that would confirm the rumours. Love is love, regardless of the participants genitals, and lust is lust, regardless of the participants genitals.

Eventually, when I got to college and realised that I was in a fairly tolerant environment, I started cross-dressing male-to-female as well as dressing in steampunk/Neo-Victorian fashion (which perhaps just had my style choices dismissed as "weird" without further examination of my perceptions of gender), but felt this just as restrictive as dressing in only female style-archetypes. I could not fit myself into one or the other, I enjoyed too much of both. I turned towards Aristocrat and Lolita, a fashion-world known for gender fluidity, but did see that this occurred more in effeminate (as the term is generally understood) men being androgynous or cross-dressing than with women being masculine (as the term is generally understood) or androgynous. With time I got more interested in Goth, but simultaneously, I realised that I could dress a different way each day, and that I did not have to be consistent in my gender style-archetypes if I did not want to, that I did not have to go along with something simply because that was the way a style tribe I admired did things, and that in terms of fashion gender indicators and style-archetypes, I had the freedom to experiment and do whatever I pleased because I am lucky enough to live in a free country where such things are not against the law, and no more likely to get me beaten up than being subcultural within female style-archetypes would. 

Eventually I realised that I do not act or think in ways that match the mainstream view of things, and this was just another way in which I did not adhere to these roles and suppositions.  I came to the conclusion that societal assumptions as to what it means to be a woman should not mean anything to me, especially as societal assumptions about everything else did not, and that I would stick to the biological definition - I was born with a vagina and uterus, and then developed breasts, that makes me a woman. It does not, to me, mean that I should think or feel in any specific way, or in any way influence my inner self. To me, it only means that I have these biological parts. 

Now that I  no longer worry whether or not I adhere to society's definition of gender, I feel free to be my actual self, regardless of what others may think of me, and I don't think I consider other people's genders much when thinking of them as people, except for in the context of where other's prejudices come into play, and I realise that gender stereotyping is as harmful to men as to women, because it is just another layer of walls built into society that stop people from being themselves and cause them to needlessly worry. As far as I am concerned, biology is merely biology, and the rest of it is made up of identities written by ourselves and society that are no more than constructs. This is not to say that these constructs have zero use - if that were true, they would not have come to exist in the first place, but they have become harmful and restrictive. Simply understanding that these are constructs addresses their harmful characteristics without destroying their utility. 

I am myself.
Identity labels are just a short-hand way of broadly explaining an aspect of oneself. 
Labels do not define a person. 
People are far too complicated for assuming anything to ever be useful.
People are ultimately individuals, no two will ever think exactly alike, and this is more important than any label. 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Dead Flowers, Decay and Beauty

While being Goth is about primarily music and then fashion, being Gothic is about seeing beauty in death, decay, the transience of life and the fragility of our existences. Dying flowers typify this, once bright, colourful and beautiful, time drains the of their colours, dries out their vibrant petals and turns them into brittle, fragile things that fall apart at even a gentle touch and crumble to dust, but while dried and dead are still beautiful, and even more beautiful for their fragility. As such, I took a few photographs. I tend to keep bouquets that I am gifted until they dry out, and then keep them on display as dead, dried flowers because to me they are still beautiful.

Held up against the sun in a cloudy sky, the structure of the twisted petals becomes clear and the translucence visible. This flower has naturally faded to grey, with only vein-like tracery left in a bloody, rusty red. 

All of these have been held against a matt green background (some card) and photographed such. I wanted to show how papery this flowers had become. I love how the very tips of the petals had remained dark, like they had been carefully dipped. 

This is the same as the last of the black and white photographs. I tried to find a background in a similar colour to the green of the dried stems. I think the subtle variation in colour makes this work better as an image than those in black and white, but that the black and white versions suit the aesthetics of my blog better.