Friday 30 Sep 2016

Personnekins
Sjef Frenken

After we sat down for our lunch, Jack pulled out a couple of flyers from the shopping bag he had placed beside his seat.

“You were wrong,” he announced.

I agreed that that might well be possible, and that it wouldn’t be the first time, and probably not the last time either. I asked ‘In what way?”

“You said the Giant Tiger flyer used equivalent language,” said Jack. “Not so. It’s the Zeller’s flyer that’s non-sexist. Here. See?” Jack pointed out the offending language in the one, and the correct parallel language in the other. Men - Women; Ladies - Gentlemen.”

I said “I guess someone was listening after all. The battle may not be won, but hope remains.”

Jack said “I think you owe Zeller’s an apology.”

I said “Next time I’m in Zeller’s I’ll make it a point to speak to the manager, and grovel a little.”

Jack’s hand dove into his pocket and surfaced with a slip of paper. He said “while I was investigating, I came up with this limerick.

There once was a fine store called Zellers,

That hired lots of fillies and fellers.

The men were all sent

Into management,

And the women were turned into tellers.

What do you think about that?

I said “I think you owe Zeller’s an apology too.”

“Another thing,” said Jack, “I don’t usually look at flyers, but going through this week’s batch, I noticed that most of the models in the flyers for the less expensive stores tend to have a friendly face, in fact, most of them smile. As you go up the scale, the smiles get fewer and fewer, until at the very top of the ladder, the fashion magazines, the models look downright unfriendly, as if to say ‘who the hell are you to be looking at this magazine?’ They scowl, they sulk, they pout, they look at you with contempt. Most of them look like zombies, as if they are on drugs.

I said “I guess the flyers of stores like Zellers and Giant Tiger are read by real people, who can identify with the models. Another thing, I once knew a young lady who’d been a model in New York. She said there was something very demeaning about the whole process by which models are chosen – unless they’ve made it to the very top and have an exclusive contract. It’s referred to as a “cattle-call”. She said she often found herself in a room full of beautiful competitors. Whenever she herself was not picked for that assignment, she and all the other ‘losers’ had the instinctive reaction ‘you’re not good enough’ – a depressing thought indeed. Overall, there must be something dehumanizing about the fact that your only worth is as a mannequin, not as a person.”

“There’s another angle,” said Jack, who is pretty much au courant with things having to do with the world of fashion. “There’s now a top model – I forget his name, Andre something-or-other, a Slavic name -- who is male and goes down the runway in both men’s and women’s fashion shows. One commentator made a point of referring to High Fashion’s use of this teenage boy's body as cynical. He said, and I don’t think I’m misquoting him much, ‘the perfect woman for our clothes is a boy!' “

High Fashion is very much a world of its own, I find with my limited and rather disinterested exposure to it. I have a wardrobe with 86 shirts in it, some of them forty years old. Some have long collar wings, some have short ones. I wear them indiscriminately. I have a small selection of neckties (which I keep for the unlikely event that I, at some time in the very distant future, may actually need to wear one), sixteen, in fact -- some wide, some narrow. I also have a fairly large selection of pants. Unfortunately some date from the days that I had a 28 waist, and some that have seen me through a gradual expansion of girth to a 36. I refuse to go to a 38, although I must admit that elastic waistbands have come in handy from time to time.

You ask, dear reader, why I keep the 28” pants?

My reluctant answer: hope springs eternal.

Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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