Like many of my fellow Americans, I’m taking a respite from work today. And you do know what today is, correct? It is Memorial Day, a holiday designated to pay honor to those who lost their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. If you are one of the great multitude who do at least a little acknowledgement that this day is more than just an excuse for a 3-day weekend, thank you. Sure, you may just say something like “lest we forget” while planting an American flag next to a gravestone, or even say “thank you for your service” to someone in uniform (who has their own days, which I’ll touch on briefly in a moment), but you do understand the gravity of this day.
If you’ve read some of my blog posts over the past year or so, you’ve sensed a lament of retail fashion and department store outlets succumbing to the pressures of nimble competition and owners who want to make a profit on their investment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s selling clothes or toys, whether they catered to a younger or older crowd, or even if they were prominent in online sales. If a store closes up shop, it leaves an empty space in your nearby mall/plaza/whatever, creates queasiness in city and mall managers, and definitely leaves a big pit in an avid shopper’s heart.
Unfortunately, what’s been a leading reason for these stores/chains shuttering is bankruptcy. It’s been happening with Shopko, which declared Chapter 11 in late January and has announced more than several store closures since then, including their last 3 locations here in the Madison area. For Shopko, not only is their misfortune the result of withering competition, it also involves keeping lining further the pockets of their
vulture private equity owners. At the beginning of this month, it was revealed that Shopko had to borrow over $179 million from financial lenders to pay dividends and “consulting fees” to the investment firm that owns it. Some of that money — $13.5 million worth — could have gone to the State of Wisconsin in the form of taxes and other fees Shopko still owes the state. Yeah, that’s a lot of money, and who knows what Shopko’s fate could be right now if it went to where it should have gone (i.e. the taxman, employees, debtors) instead of the fat-cat owners who want only one thing: A quick return on their investment. Continue reading
Time to fire up that recognizable theme music and… oh, wait, this isn’t supposed to be about Felix Unger disdainfully looking at his roommate’s pig sty of an apartment? Okay then, sorry. [sound of record needle scratching] Yeah, this is about last weekend’s big event, the 91st Academy Awards. And, yes, I’m late to the “pile on the Oscars” party. In my defense, I’m still trying to shake off a very long, grueling, and stressful work week, so please give me some slack.
Anyway, it goes without saying that the Academy Awards are the most scrutinized entertainment awards show on the planet. Even just hearing the word “Oscars” makes a human being consider at least one of three Oscar-related questions: How glamorous were the celebrities on the red carpet? Was the ceremony worth watching? And were the actual Oscar recipients deserving?
Does this photo ring a bell, faithful readers?
If you read this post from last year, or if you’ve ever perused through my Flickr album, you probably remember seeing the above outfit, and in particular the black jacket I’m sporting. The black-colored Gitano cotton jacket is probably the oldest item still in my female clothing closet. I found it way back in 1992 in the youth/young adults section of the Shopko department store down the road from where I lived.
If you’ve also read my previous post, you’ve learned that Shopko is in a bit of a financial bind. Shopko is a department store chain founded and based in Green Bay that has been in existence since 1962. Last month, facing a lot of debt and withering competition, Shopko filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced a series of store closures, including the last three Shopko stores here in Dane County.
While I admit I haven’t gone to Shopko very much in recent years, the news of their bankruptcy and departure from Madison and other large and small towns in its footprint left me a bit sad. I found myself in agreement with a retail industry observer interviewed by the Green Bay Press-Gazette about Shopko’s bankruptcy. “This one doesn’t surprise me,” he said of Shopko’s bankruptcy, “but it’s a company I hate to see go.” Indeed, while the Walmarts and Targets of the world have run laps around Shopko and other department store chains, it has been a nice place with generally good customer service, and where you can get what you want (cute outfit, comfy boots) or need (toiletries, shoes, dining room set).
By now, you’ve perhaps heard of the hopefully happy news in the world of retail shopping: Sears is going to stick around a little longer. A couple of weeks or so ago, a U.S. bankruptcy judge allowed a plan by the chairman and biggest shareholder of Sears’ and Kmart’s parent company to stay in business, beating back challenges by creditors of the company who wanted a liquidation.
So, the judge’s approval means that Sears’ 425 stores will stay open, and its 45,000 employees will remain on the job. While that’s good news, naturally, it’s not all sunshine and lollypops at the moment: Sears Holdings has been under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since October, and since that time has closed several of its stores, including its location at West Towne Mall, just down the road from where I live. And it still has to find a way to attract those who left it behind for the likes of Walmart, Target, and Amazon.
Yes, I hear you from a mile away. “Yes, Allison,” you’re telling me, “we don’t mind you telling about what’s going on in your life and what you’re digging. But we just want to see new photos of you.” Okay, you got your wish.
One Saturday back in may of this year, I attended a regular meeting of the CD/TG support group I’m a part of. On most Saturdays after our meetings, our group meets up at some restaurant in the Madison area to break bread, literally and figuratively. On this particular Saturday, we had dinner at Short Stack Eatery, a LGBT-friendly restaurant I’ve talked about here and here and will eventually devote a full post to sometime soon (the food and atmosphere are that good there).
I haven’t been on here the past several days, what with trying to earn a living and fighting an achy cold since Thursday. But I’m back to share some lingering stuff related to my last post about the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and more importantly comments by Victoria’s Secret’s chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, expressing that the show has no place for “transsexuals” (his term) or plus-size models on the catwalk (“because the show is a fantasy,” he reasoned).
Well, any hope that Victoria’s Secret and ABC would generate great ratings for the 2018 edition of the fashion show turned out to be a bigger fantasy. Last Sunday’s (December 2) airing of the event registered an all-time low viewership number. And that’s coming off previous all-time lows for viewership in both 2017 and 2016, the last two years the event aired on CBS.
No, this post isn’t about Playboy, though hopefully when you finish reading you’ll understand why I titled this post with that magazine’s former tagline. This is going to be a rant about a recent controversy a certain fashion retailer got into. That company is Victoria’s Secret, the (in)famous designer of lingerie and women’s wear that are nowhere near the dowdy floral gowns its founder frequently found on sales racks. It’s a safe bet that the mall near you has a Victoria’s Secret selling scantily designed undergarments and/or a PINK store selling sleepwear for the college-age set.
Before I get into the controversy in question, take a gander at this photo. (Gentlemen, don’t drool.)
What do you see in that photo? Obviously, you see a multitude of beautiful women. That photo is from last year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Every year since 1995, and every holiday season since 2001, Victoria’s Secret sets up a very glitzy show to showcase and promote its lingerie, sleepwear, or whatever else they’re selling. It’s not a sedate affair for sure: The setting is elaborately designed; the music is live and pulsating; the costumes are extravagant; and the star wattage is high, with A-list stars both strutting the catwalk and providing the music.
I want you, the fair readers of this blog, to take a look at this outfit:
Saturday morning, I made a quick trip to Target. No, if you’re inquiring, I wasn’t there to add new purchases to my closet, nor did I bring any new clothes home. However, while walking past the women’s clothing section, I saw this mannequin with a nice pleated skirt and a simple pink top with… well, just read what it says.
Saturday was also a troubling day in the national news. If you haven’t heard, You Know Who got his man on the highest court in our country. Ugh. And it comes after a nomination period that saw said man be accused of gross misconduct in his younger days, including not one, nor two, but three women coming forward to claim he sexually abused them when they were all younger. More disgusting was the fact that said man vociferously deny those claims, which only exacerbated his bad character and made him look more guilty than he likely already was.
And yet, a group of mostly old, misogynistic men saw fit to put him on the highest court in our country.
Now, I know it’s impossible for our side to win every battle. But when a battle this important and this hard fought finds our side on the losing end, it’s hard not to feel disappointed. But through the disappointment, I saw the message on this outfit at Target and thought… yeah, I needed that message on Saturday.
Matter of fact, that was a message everyone needed on Saturday. And today. And every day during these dark times.
With those with evil in their hearts and dark motives on their minds threatening our community’s hard-fought freedoms, or at least just waiting do us harm, we should be a “vital voice…”
Yes, it’s good to be that “vital voice” for what’s right (not for the right side, if you know what I mean).
It’s best to be that “vital voice” to stand up for those who go without. It’s necessary to be that “vital voice” to stand and defend for those in our LGBT+ community who feel threatened for living as who they are, and should not be discriminated because of who they are.
It’s important, now more so than ever, to be a “vital voice” who can stand up to the bullies in our country and the men (well, they are almost all men) who are making all of us live in fear only because they’re living in fear of women who aren’t afraid to stand strong.
I cannot profess to being all that articulate in voicing support for the downcast and others like me in our community. Indeed, there are those much, much better than I’ll ever be in being that “vital voice.” But at least I can use this platform, small and unpolished as it may be, to highlight those who think positive and stay strong and never yield or give ground to the hateful.
Even if our voices are small, let’s all speak up together… for when we do, we will be come the VITAL VOICE (note the all caps) that is so very necessary at this time.
(Oh, the outfit? The shirt especially? A certain friend of mine is really big on social justice and standing up for the disadvantaged. I imagine she may want to buy that shirt the next time she’s at Target. Walk the talk, friend. *grin*)
You know, as much as the subject of my last post was intended to keep one’s spirits up, I still felt a bit down after writing it. So, to perk myself up — and you as well — let’s do something I’ve been wanting to get around to doing: Venture into my closet (figuratively speaking) and pull some things out (figuratively speaking).
Last March, I ventured out as Allison for a couple of evenings of poetry and spoken word performances. One of those was the very chilly evening where I sported this gingham trench coat. What did I have underneath? Well, you’re looking at it.