Militarism Fashions Demonstrate Messages of Culture
by Barbara Wheeler
A fashion show calls attention to the militarization of popular culture through the use of camouflage clothing during the 2006 United Methodist Women's Assembly in Anaheim, Calif. The show was organized by the Women of Color Resource Center, a partner organization of the United Methodist Women's Division. Credit: Mike DuBose/UMNS, May 5, 2006
Anaheim, CA, May 6, 2006 - When close to 7,000 women gather in one place, there are bound to be conversations about fashion. Those gathered at the United Methodist Women's Assembly in Anaheim, California yesterday viewed a "Fashion Resistance to Militarism" fashion show that sparked conversations about clothing sending powerful messages.
A crowd gathered in the Exhibit Hall Friday afternoon to watch young people attending Assembly model outfits from three fashion lines:
- Militarism in Popular Culture;
- Gender, Race and Militarism; and
- Visions of a Culture of Peace.
The fashion show illustrated the subtle examples of militarism present in our culture today and displayed symbols of militarism and anti-militarism in ensembles. Models wore outfits with camouflage patterns including pajamas, T-shirts, cargo pants and toddler's clothing. Other clothing symbolized women's roles in a militarized society. A young woman wore a camouflage wedding dress and black veil to represent prejudice against brides from other cultures who marry U.S. military personnel.
Another highlight of the show was an outfit modeled by its creator, Mary Joy Duenas. Ms. Duenas, 25, was born in the Philippines and moved to California in 1987. She is part of the GABRIELA Network, a multi-ethnic/multi-racial U.S./Philippines women's solidarity organization. GABRIELA stands for General Assembly Binding Women for Reform, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action.
Ms. Duenas' outfit depicted the role of the U.S. military in the Philippines, and soldiers' roles in violent crimes, including rape, against Filipina women.
"I want people to understand how the military is affecting communities," Ms. Due nas said. "I think it is great that United Methodist Women have seen this event."
Tracy Washington, a United Methodist Women member from Little Rock, Ark., watched her 12-year-old daughter, Donesha Barton, model a cape that promoted peace and community health.
Militarism in U.S. culture is an issue that is close to Ms. Washington's family. Her husband recently returned from Iraq after serving there with the National Guard for a year.
"This fashion show represents the truth about society," Ms. Washington said.
She was moved by an outfit that represented a soldier's return from war and protests of war and work for peace.
Other anti-militarism clothing included outfits that represented 50 percent of discretionary spending in the national budget for the military in contrast to smaller amounts for areas such as education, transportation and veteran's affairs. Another T-shirt carried the logo "CODE PINK," which a message of peace that alludes to the color-coded security alerts of the U.S. D epartment of Homeland Security.
Carolyn Newsome, a United Methodist Women member from Charlottesville, Va., was surprised at the impact of militarism in fashion. She especially responded to the children's clothing.
"It behooves me to channel my 13 year-old grandson toward clothing that doesn't glorify the military," Ms. Newsome said.
The fashion show was presented by the Racial Justice Program of the Women's Division and Women of Color Resource Center of Oakland, Calif. "Fashion Resistance to Militarism" is a way to educate audiences on the process of militarization in society and encourage awareness and understanding of the messages we send with fashion and popular culture.
The Women's Division represents United Methodist Women, an organization of nearly one-million members, whose purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. Members raise close to $25 million a year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in the United States and in more than 100 countries around the world.