Fashion When You’re Pack’n
“The hooded mini, in a gray and black distorted rose print with a silver zipper up the front and shirring detail on the sides, is the kind of attire you’d expect to find in the women’s department of a high-end retail store. But this $165 dress is more than a fashion statement. It’s designed to hide a gun.”
Welcome to the first and probably the last blog I’ll ever write on women’s fashion! These details – and plenty more – come from an article in The Chicago Tribune last weekend highlighting a new cultural trend triggered – so to speak – by the conceal carry laws being passed around the country.
Organizers of these fashion shows attempt to dress them up with assertions about the “educational” value of the events that, beyond the designer clothes, allegedly focus on safety. Guns carried on one’s body are safer, apparently, than guns carried in purses, and are more accessible for shooting would be attackers. Safety and education. How nice. It’s hard not to assume, however, that linking guns to fashion is fundamentally part of the corporate marketing of weapons that has now discovered women as a new pool of customers. As Karen Bartuch, former Chicago police officer and founder of something called the “Women’s Tactical Association” puts it, “We are girly girls who like fashion, but we like guns, too.” Bartuch also owns a company that sells these “fashions,” including jewelry and hair accessories that can be used as weapons during an attack.
Eager to make this sound as appealing as possible to a potentially skeptical public, the fashions are also billed as a sort of feminist statement. “The industry has been so male-driven,” says Carrie Lightfoot who founded the “Well Armed Woman” website. “On some levels, there was a condescending attitude toward women at first. There was a flood of pink holsters and pink guns. About five years ago, the industry started realizing there were women out there wanting to shoot.” Gloria Steinham, Kate Millett, Simone de Beauvoir, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and company would be so proud.
But there’s nothing pretty or fashionable about guns. Guns kill and maim, tearing into the flesh and bone of innocent children and adults on our city streets. Guns regularly slaughter four or five Chicagoans in a weekend, wounding scores more. Guns left by the make-up mirror are regularly found by children who kill themselves or others accidently, and guns tucked away in the bedside table routinely turn depressed individuals into suicide victims. Lost and stolen guns find their way onto city streets where they terrorize children in parks and on their way home from school. Last weekend thirteen assault weapons being delivered to gun dealers in Minnesota were stolen from a freight yard in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Chicago. In 2010 alone, 31,000 people died from guns, and another 73,500 were treated for wounds. Of those killed, a third were homicides while nearly two thirds were suicides. Another 1,000 were accidental shootings. Sadly, this was a typical year.
So have your fashion shows and pretend it’s about safety, education, and equal rights for women. Make conceal carry appealing to more women so the gun industry’s profits can be enlarged. Pretend that glamorizing guns is good for women and good for the country. Just know that not everyone is fooled. Because at the end of the runway are thirty thousand or more corpses every year in a nation enthralled with violence, politically cowed by the gun lobby, and left unprotected by a Supreme Court that seems to ignore the difference between a single ball musket in the home of a militia member in colonial New England and automatic weapons in the hands of troubled teens.
John H. Thomas
May 15, 2014