Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Wait, Halloween was Created by The Gays?

David Frum, the Bush speechwriter who is often cited as the originator of the catchphrase “axis of evil,” writes a surprisingly gay-friendly homage to the origins of Halloween. Where does he trace its roots?

Castro in the 70’s, of course.

And credit The Gays not only for this American institution, but a host of other fun, wholly American trends as well. According to Frum:

From the spread of disco in the 1970s — to the habit of paying money for sparkling waters such as Perrier — culminating in Halloween, gays have incubated and developed major cultural trends. Straights adopt, and then ungratefully forget whom they are adopting from — just as American Christians forget how much of the modern Christmas music they enjoy was written by Jews, starting with the most popular of them all, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” The majority culture forgets what the minority culture has produced.

Frum’s a man who gives credit where credit’s due. (And for the record, I’m appalled by how many cliches I’ve just used in this post.)

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Filed under: fashion, gay life, holidays, , , , , , , , ,

When a Sari is Subversive

In the lead-up to Mother’s Day, stories abound of mothers and the sacrifices they’ve made for their children (a shout-out to my mom, Alita, on her way back from Manila to the U.S.!). NPR producer Madhulika Sikka joins the Mother’s Day tributes with an elegant essay about her mother and her unintentionally subversive act of wearing a sari. Her immigrant mother’s choice of dress ran counter to the culture of assimilation. Writes Sikka:

In family pictures from the playground, we look a little “fresh off the boat,” but there’s Mom in her sari. Posing at the Eiffel Tower with her très chic cat’s eyes sunglasses, she’s wearing a sari. She might be wearing shoes, socks, and a heavy overcoat, but always a sari. And this was in a pre-multicultural Europe where a sari or hijab might have been looked on as something truly exotic and otherworldly.

It’s amazing to witness how a simple choice in clothing can be something of power, and defiant of the cultural hegemony of the West.

In an interview for The Progressive several years ago, notable writer and activist Arundhati Roy also praiseed the beauty of the Indian garment when discussing her nation’s resistance to globalization:

Q: Still, I sense some optimism on your part about what you call the “inherent anarchy” of India to resist the tide of globalization.

Roy: The only thing worth globalizing is dissent, but I don’t know whether to be optimistic or not. When I’m outside the cities I do feel optimistic. There is such grandeur in India and so much beauty. I don’t know whether they can kill it. I want to think they can’t. I don’t think that there is anything as beautiful as a sari.

Fashion’s something that intrigues me. I’m not talking about the shallow American idea of style; I’m thinking about the way that clothing can be political. For example, I don’t understand fashionistas or the corporatization and big business of the industry, but I am drawn to the reactions that clothing incites. Punk, for example? Saris? How about business suits and skirts? What message do kids send with their pants on the ground (I realize I’ve moved from thinking like a kid to being middle-aged).

Another example: t-shirts with personal beliefs printed on them banned from high school, like the gay teen in Memphis who was sent home from his public school. So much seems to be said when we tacitly approve of young people branding themselves for corporations rather than dressing for social change.

Filed under: culture, fashion, , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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