Monday, September 13, 2010

Designer and other whores

In the Dominion Post's new "Your Weekend" tabloid lift-out on Satrday (11 September) there was an article about Fashion Week (which "turns 10 this month"). It quoted Petra Bagust saying (twice - once in the text and once in the caption) that she was a "self-confessed "designer whore'".
            Call me hopelessly old-fashioned and out of touch, but I was taken aback by this phrase. I hadn't seen it before. Apparently (so the Urban Designer site tells me) it means "a  person who only cares for/wears designer labels".
             Sure enough, a quick search revealed that Ms Bagust had  said much the same thing last year: "I'm a friend of New Zealand designers or a designer whore, depending on how you look at it, but I like to think of myself a friend."
             Why did I find this expression so startling? I'm not sure. To me a whore is someone who sells sex for money. It's also a term of abuse used by men - and sometimes other women - to put down women they disapprove of.
              I can see that it might be a good idea to reclaim this term (much as Mary Daly wanted us to reclaim words such as "crone") and thereby take away its power to condemn some women. Is that what's going on here? Somehow it doesn't feel like it. Instead it feels as if this is yet another example of attractive young women doing their utmost to prove they're so up with the play that they don't care what they call themselves (or wear on their T-shirts), as long as they give the impression that they're at the furthest possible remove from being a prude. And that's not exactly progress - is it? What do you think?


  1. I suppose it's one of those things you get with language - it evolves new meanings through usage. Some usages last, some die, some change via context; the word "gay" would be a good example.
    Young people's usages are often at odds with their those of their elders. Personally i'm in favour of prodding the status quo. A friend of mine had a T-shirt that read "Dip Me In Honey & Throw Me To The Lesbians" (she has a female partner) - a nurse at Dunedin Hospital got quite uptight about it, which surprised me!

    BTW i'm no fan of Mary Daly, & even less of her mentor Janice Raymond, whose definition of women i found appallingly narrow-minded, but that's another story..

  2. A somewhat belated contribution to this post - because I've been thinking about it.
    Bagust's activities don't meet the strict "whore" criteria since she's a client of her designers and she pays them, rather than vice-versa. She might more accurately describe herself as a designer slut. But then it's debateable whether "sluts" do it for pleasure or because they're past caring who they do it with.
    I might, if it were someone other than Bagust, think there was an element of linguistic rehabilitation here, but I find it hard to believe that Bagust - who, pre-marriage, made a very big deal of her virginity - is keen to demonstrate how far removed she is from prudishness.
    I sometimes describe myself as a tango trollope and a travel trollope. I like the rollicking suggestion that money has nothing to do with it - it's all about pleasure. And as often as possible.

  3. Thanks for both these thoughtful comments. Jane, I think yours sheds particularly useful light on this!

  4. Look what I found appended to another blog:

    "Thank you so much for your comment! (whether it's praise or criticism!) ... All I ask is that if you comment, please no link whoring."