Hey everyone! Nif here. Another week has gone by, we’re still living in a pandemic, time is a flat circle, etc. One thing that has given me something to look forward to is Marinakei’s Frill Talk: Listen to Real Voices series on YouTube.
Alt: Lemonjolly’s art for Frill Talk of a Lolita (is it Marina?) in a pink dress, with pink headbow and bows on the end of their braids, white tights and red heeled shoes with bows, sitting on a microphone, with the Frill Talk: Listen To Real Voices banner beneath. Comets, hearts, and stars float on a blue background.
I was really excited when I heard about Marinakei’s ambitious new podcast series, and I reached out to her in advance to ask if I could write a review to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
First things first: please consider compensating Marinakei and episode 1 guests Jojo and Rue for their amazing work!
Marinakei’s donation links arehttps://ko-fi.com/marinakei
Jojo’s Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/afrosappho
Rue’s Venmo handle is @ruedonite
I’ll admit that right off the bat, I’m biased: Frill Talk is my kind of podcast. I generally listen to podcasts with episodes over an hour long, with not too much editing or production (and please, no ad reads for “podcast products” like those mattresses or that underwear…), that sound like an open-ended conversation between friends. I love tangents and digressions. I love hearing people just talk, you know?
Frill Talk’s first episode is a two-part conversation between host Marinakei (she/her) and guests Jojo (they/he) and Rue (they/them). If you were at Paradiso 2019, you’ll recognize Jojo as Prince Lapine, the Midwest Ouji-Sama Pageant winner (with Rue as his consort, Princess Velvetine)!
You’ll also notice that Marinakei provided accessibility features like human-written captions and chapter markers. And also, Rue made the dress they’re wearing in the episode!
Rue and Jojo pull no punches in their conversation with Marinakei. Their candor in describing the ways they’ve been treated - both positively and negatively - will give you something to think about, no matter who you are.
If you’re a white listener, you may feel defensive. I highly recommend that you sit with that defensiveness and take the time to unpack it. Why do you feel this way? Why do you feel seen by these comments? What are you going to do to change your own behavior?
The commentary at the end of part 2, which continues into part 3, about the politics of Lolita fashion reminded me and reinforced who we really are and what we stand for. How can we as a community care so much about the dresses and the outward image of the fashion while caring so little for the people who wear it? How can we care so much about rebellion, but not the rebels themselves? Especially the rebels who exist at the intersection of many marginalized identities - Black, fat, queer, disabled, to name only a few. How can we hold rebellion dear and also align ourselves with right-wing or fascist politics? What are we going to do to be more political? To actually excise predators from our community? To exclude people who don’t care about community safety?
I found myself taking a long walk by myself after listening to the full episode the first time, just reflecting. I was so impressed by the honesty in the conversation. And this is only the first episode! What an incredible start. I can’t wait to hear even more hard-hitting conversations from the Frill Talk series.
As part of the conversation, Rue recommended Sabrina Strings’ book Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia (NYU press), which you can buy directly from the publisher, from your favorite indie bookstore, or check out from your local library.
I’ve read this book myself, and I’ll say that even though it is an academic text, it’s really engaging and accessible. The language is quite easy to understand even if you’re not a scholar, it moves along at a nice pace, and will definitely teach you something about fat hatred and anti-Blackness that you didn’t know before. For me, it absolutely connected the dots between isolated things I had read about how fatness is racialized. And, no spoilers, but you’ll never look at breakfast cereal or graham crackers the same way again.
CW for slavery, Blackness as spectacle for white consumption for the following paragraph:
There are also several novelizations of Sara “Saartjie” Baartman’s life. As you’ll remember from the episode, she was known as the “Hottentot Venus,” and she was displayed as a living exhibition around Europe (yep, you read that right). I have not read any of these novelizations, myself, but I’d encourage you to read the reviews before spending money on one. Don’t forget that your local library likely allows you to check out electronic content virtually (via Libby or another app) from the comfort of your own home. My recommendation is that you read Fearing the Black Body first before deciding whether you want to delve deeper into Sara Baartman’s story.
Another book that has yet to be released but is available for preorder is Da’Shaun Harrison’s Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness. You may recognize Da’Shaun as the managing editor of Wear Your Voice magazine. Their incisive, academic takes on desirability are absolutely worth reading, and I’m looking forward to checking their book out from my library when it comes out this August.
One thing that really stuck with me is the way Jojo described Black-centric J-fashion spaces as far less individualistic and more welcoming and nurturing than “mainstream” or white-dominated spaces; additionally, I thought a lot about the tendency for white community personalities to passively object to racism and other fascist tendencies, rather than actively denouncing it and addressing the perpetrators directly.
I am going to think critically about how Pretty Princess Club can welcome newcomers to the fashion and take a strong stance against racism and hatred. Big events like our flagship Royal Vegas Retreat have a way of bringing the community together, opening your mind to new possibilities in the fashion, and folding people who are otherwise isolated (especially “lonelitas,” which I once was, and would still be if I weren’t interested in putting on an event) into a global community.
Ask yourself: what circles are you in? What influence do you have there? What could your community do better? Who is being left out of the conversation? What can you do to change the way your community works for the better?
(You may be looking skeptically, once again, at our contracted special guests, and I ask you to give us some more time to uphold our professional obligation to handle these situations privately. We are taking our guests’ recent actions and their outsized effect on the community extremely seriously.)
If you’re an ardent consumer of YouTube, you know the familiar refrain “like, comment, subscribe.” You should absolutely do all 3 (on both halves of the episode!) to give the videos a discoverability advantage with YouTube’s content algorithm. But if you’re a white person, think carefully and ask yourself the following questions before you submit:
Am I centering my own feelings or defensiveness in my comment?
Do I feel the urge to “confess” my past actions?
Do the presenters need or want to hear what I’m about to say?
Does my comment include a microaggression, like calling the host or guests “strong”?
Am I using the correct pronouns for the host and guests? As a reminder, Marina uses she (or ella), Jojo uses they or he, and Rue uses they.
I’d like to remind you of Kami X and Kawaii Riot’s Empathy 101 workshop and the P.A.T.H. acronym (pause, assess, think, heart) - this is an excellent framework to assess the value of your comment and the role of your own feelings.
Thank you all for reading. I cannot be more excited for the next installments of Frill Talk and the other amazing projects around the community that honor Black History Month. Remember that your commitment to anti-racism and honoring intersectionality does not end on February 28th. This is a jumping-off point for a lifetime of action.