Saturday, June 27, 2015

What Would Rosa Parks Do? Facing Online Haters with Style

I think this an awfully pretty outfit. It was inspired by styles of the 40s and the 50s. In a way, that's it, the whole story of the outfit: I wore it because it's pretty. But, as I looked at the photos later, I found myself thinking a lot about the civil rights heroine, Rosa Parks. Let me explain why.

My first reason for thinking of Rosa Parks was my hair style.

Rosa Parks often wore braids pinned over the crown of her head ...

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. 
... or at the nape of her neck. I've always found that a very attractive hair style, and I've also always thought of Rosa Parks as one the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. She wasn't flashy about her beauty, but it was real and it was enduring.

I'm not as good at the hair style as she was, but I'm working on it.

Blouse, skirt, and shoes: Mod Cloth; Scarf: gift from a former student; Parasol: boutique; Barrettes: Stylize; Cane:; Ring, sunglasses, bracelet, brooches, and earrings: vintage

My second reason for thinking of Rosa Parks was this 1957 bus on display at a recent "car free day" in my local 'hood.

I didn't actually make the connection to Rosa Parks until I saw this photo of myself on the bus.

It really made me think of Parks and her incredible dignity and bravery. In the southern United States in the 1950s, even buses were segregated, with African-American people (then called colored) having to sit at the back of the bus and relinquish seats to a white person if the white section of the bus was full. In 1955, Parks refused to do this, remaining seated when a white person wanted her seat. This seemingly simple but calculated (she'd worked with the NAACP to plan the act) and incredibly brave act led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which played a central role in the ending of segregation in the south.

So I was already thinking of Parks when I got a few really negative, cruel comments on my last blog post.

In choosing to write honestly about the child sex slavery I endured, and its lasting impact on me, I do render myself quite vulnerable to attack. So far, the response to Sublime Mercies has been overwhelmingly and heart-warmingly positive, but, for some reason, this last post brought out a few haters. This included a non-Jewish woman who said I had no right to call myself Jewish, and accused me of using my blog as a "thinly veiled" effort to "get attention" for my past. She then banned my posts from the Google+ boards she moderates.

Wow.  Her first criticism is so absurd, I can't see anyone bothering to take her seriously. The second criticism is, I think, the real problem for her. Writing about vintage style and child abuse in the same post? But that's just icky. It's not nice.

I have never "veiled" the fact that my blog is, in part, about child abuse. It's right there in my "about" section. I don't write about child abuse to get attention for myself. That's hardly the kind of attention I want! Would you?

No, I write about child sex trafficking, PTSD, and the disability caused by abusers for an entirely different reason: to raise awareness of severe child abuse issues, and to try to end child abuse. I don't claim to be any Rosa Parks but, like her, I do feel it's important to speak up and fight for what is right, which often means speaking truths that people find distasteful and unpleasant. No, child abuse isn't "nice," but that's my point. Don't blame the messenger.

So, I speak up, even when I feel I'm doing it all alone, uphill, in a mobility scooter.

Fighting for what you believe is right comes at a cost. Rosa Parks is universally loved now, but this wasn't always so. She suffered for it at the time. She was arrested, she was fired, and she even received death threats. My few online trolls are nothing compared to what she endured.

But what else could she do in the face of such injustice?

What would I have done then?

I hope to God I wouldn't have been one of those white women sitting at the front of the bus and even demanding seats in the "colored" section if there was nowhere else for me to sit.

I've always tried not to be that kind of person.

My case is a bit interesting in that I actually belong to some fairly oppressed groups but I can "pass" as someone who does not. I'm bisexual but, since I'm with a man, I can pass for straight. I am disabled but my disability is invisible so, with effort and a lot of pain, I can pass as able-bodied. I'm Jewish but I can easily pass as a gentile. And I was sex trafficked but I can pass for someone who had a "normal" childhood. If I wanted to, I could keep silent about my life story and who I am; I could, metaphorically, sit at the front of the bus.

I make the choice not to do so, not for my own sake, but for the sake of others, especially children. I speak out about injustices. I always have. I seem to be hard-wired that way.

I choose to let people know I'm a back of the bus kind of person.

It's not always easy. This past week's attacks on my blog are a case in point. It would be a lot easier to shut up and blend in, invisible and silenced but no longer a target. But I don't do that. I choose the harder path because I think it's the right path, even if it comes at a cost.

That's why it really hurts to be accused of selfishness in my choices. If I were thinking only of myself, God knows, I wouldn't be putting myself out there the way I do. I would snuggle down with my honey and have a nice, quiet, life, invisible to the haters. But that's just not me.

But enough of that! Now back to the fashion.

I got the skirt, shirt, and shoes from Mod Cloth (who really should pay me for all my ringing endorsements!). This photo was supposed to show you how the skirt flowed elegantly in the wind, as if I were a damsel on horseback.

But I think this photo shows it better.

You know I love old-fashioned clothing, and I felt this blouse fit the bill.

Its colour reminds me of old, faded paper and its overall look reminds me of old seed packets from the turn of the last century.

I paired it with this adorable little brooch ...

... which, in turn, worked well with my ring.

If you read Sublime Mercies often (and, bless you, some of you do), you also know that I love pussy bows (though I loathe the term "pussy bow"). I couldn't really go wrong with this blouse, could I?

Isn't that brooch wonderful? I got it for $2 from a street vendor.

Here's a closer look at both brooches.

They're enough to make a gal like me glow all over.

You know what else is enough to make me glow? That font on that exit sign.

I'm like that. I can get all tingly inside at the sight of a really great vintage font, like the ones on the vintage ads on the bus.

Some of the ads were clearly not in keeping with 1957. Well, it was clear to me, anyway. For example, the girdle ad above me is obviously of an earlier vintage, probably the early 1940s; the sling back, peep toe shoes give it away immediately. But, oh!, aren't the fonts on it glorious?

Here's another glorious font.

Let's get a better look at that, shall we? Sigh. Tingles. So 50s!

But I digress again. Back to the hair style.

It's definitely not perfected yet and feels like it will fall down, even though it won't.

It still involves too many barrettes ...

... and still more barrettes, but the basic principle is a good one -- I think. I just need more practice. 

I borrowed the style from Frida Kahlo. I braid a scarf into my hair, then loop the braid over head and back down again, tying it at the nape of my neck. Frida, of course, tied it on the crown of her head, for a fancier look, but I'm not quite ready for that yet.

I like the pink of the scarf. I think it looks good with my pale skin but I also wore it because it was national Aboriginal Day. No-one else could see its Aboriginal images, but I knew it was there and that was nice.

Honestly, though, I think the scarf-braid style looked better here, with a dark brown scarf that blended in with my hair. I might stick with that till I get better at it. 

Speaking of pink, though, you probably noticed my parasol?

Yes, of course you did. It's rather eye-catching, is it not?

It's not a useless fashion accessory. I'm just a tad pale so a parasol is practical for me.

Even in the summer, I'm so pale that I have blue circles under my eyes which, curiously, have never really bothered me. They add character?

The best I can achieve is unhealthy freckles ...

... that almost look like a tan, if you squint.

So the parasol is a good thing, as well as a pretty one.

It's a bit awkward for my crippled body...

... but it was helpful on this bright, hot, Rosa Parks, festival kind of a day.

And so we say goodbye to the haters, goodbye to the trolls, and goodbye to the day.

(I'm sharing this with the Style CroneHappiness at Mid Life, Sydney Fashion Hunter, and Spy Girl.)


  1. You are so right. Rosa Parks was really beautiful. And so are you! The photo of you with the pink parasol in front of the bus is a classic. Now. About the negative comments. What the heck??? Yours are some of the most thoughtful posts out there in blogland. I look forward to each and every one of them. I don't post much myself because I'm dealing with my own chronic pain and anxiety issues. Every time I see you out and about I get such a thrill. That negative commenter person needs to take a PILL.

    1. Thanks so much, Connie! Right now, I do need to hear from people who like my blog. I'm really glad others with chronic pain and anxiety read it. First and foremost, I write for people with similar experiences to my own. They need to know they're not alone.

  2. How odd for someone to accuse you of being selfish... The important issues aside, isn't every blogger selfish? Don't all bloggers call attention to themselves? Why else would we put our pictures out there??? And what's wrong with that? And don't people start blogging in order to talk about issues that are important to them? I mean, it's your blog, you write about whatever you want, that's the way I see it. If someone has a problem with it, they can choose not to read your blog. The bottom line is, it's their problem, not yours.

    1. You have some good points here. It's probably also not the place of a moderator of a board to decide what the other members of the blog can and cannot read or post. It seems like a bit of a God complex to me.

  3. Some seriously adorable photos here! You look so beautiful, and I think you did a brilliant job with this pink scarf! The whole outfit is just perfect, with some gorgeous vintage jewelry pieces, as always. And the photos on the bus - just fantastic, so glad you did this photo shoot! You look authentic to me.

    It's heartbreaking how some people do not wish to look deeper. How they perceive the power of love for a "cute story" and the courage to speak your truth for "selfishness". You are an incredibly courageous and beautiful woman who chooses to stay true to herself. Being genuine - that's what attracts me to you the most. So very few people even see the importance of it in life, and you actually live it. I often think that if more people decided to be genuine and stay true to their inner selves, the world would be a much happier place.

    Sending you much love, my dear xxx

  4. The pink scarf in your hair is so pretty! And to have Aboriginal designs on that special day is so perfect and so you. I looooove the pink glow the parasol casts on your face. And your shoes (which you didn't focus on) are so delicate and dainty but also practical. Bravo!
    All the jewellery is just perfect for you, even those in your hair. I don't think the pink scarf is worse than the brown, just different.
    I adore how you've brought the story of Rosa Parks into this post, and it is so timely. I hope things have eased up a little for you.
    The fonts are so amazing by the way!
    I too understand being an invisible member of groups. I have an invisible disability which I can control for a while in public (Aspergers), I am a queer person married to a man, and I am genderqueer in a feminine appearing body. I choose to speak out on my blog so others will feel they can speak too. And they have.
    Keep up the good fight my dear. I'm sure there are many out there reading silently who are feeling less alone.
    Tell Beau to give you a big supportive hug from me!
    And personally? I love reading your blog because you explore the world, your trauma, your day to day difficulties with such depth and creativity. And I love the bling!
    Also, you are my friend, and I care about you (however weird that sounds), and I like to catch up :-) xo JJ

  5. Each time I see a new post, I am so pleased, I make sure that I have the time to savor it. As I am not a native English speaker I learn a lot from your post, your writing is really beautiful. Your posts are well documented, with lot of pictures that I really enjoy. You hair do with the pink scarf look great. So often, I learn about people that are not from my culture and this is another reward at reading your post. I am flabbergasted by the cruelty of someone who might not like your post and very sorry that you should have to suffer. Thank you Charlotte for been you a wonderful person who share so much with us. You wedding dress look amazing and I look forward seeing it fully.

  6. beautiful ensemble and i love the hairstyle! i use to do the braids without a scarf, just pinned with hidden bobby pins. on some days i wish i had the chuzpa to go with a parasol - i get easily burned too and cant stand direct sun on my head. yours is totally cool!
    ignore the haters - this are poor creatures. you´r doing a great work here with your blog. and you have a gorgeous role model in rosa parks!
    i have a weak spot for old vehicles and graphic design too - so much more pretty then the modern computer generated designs......
    and i wish my english would be better so i could write much deeper comments - which you deserve IMO!

  7. If haters exist, remember always you have also present fans ! You're a celebrity for me and I enjoy all your articles. Only your blog is mixing fashion, culture, cleverness, daring denunciation and humour. I loooooooove it ! Thanks for existing



  8. I learn so much from your posts; I am a visual person so the number of photos works well for me. I'm glad you're so spunky and called out the trolls. Keep on doing what you're doing.

  9. I want to thank you all for your incredibly kind comments on this post. They really help me get some perspective on people's feelings about my blog, and on the good it might be doing. It's not always easy to write about such heavy topics and it takes even more courage when I'm attacked for it. Thanks for giving me that courage once more.

  10. What you do here is extremely brave and entirely good. I hold you in very high regard, as well as enjoying your posts and learning a great deal. Thank you for your blog. I am really sorry to hear that some people are so twisted as to attack you for your openness. Courage to you!

  11. Dear Charlotte,

    Your blog is one of the bravest and most insightful I have come across. All the blogs I love have suffered from troll attacks at some point or another, it seems to be the unavoidable dark side of the internet. I can’t understand such gratuitous cruelty, but you are well placed to know that it does exist, and you are definitely doing the right thing against it. Your loyal readers love you!

  12. Rosa Parks and Frida Kahlo are icons to admire! Your headwear is divine and thank you for sharing with Hat Attack!

    Haters are to be ignored! There is no room for their energy.

  13. Fabulous post, as always! I'm sorry to hear you were trolled on your last post. Too bad for them it backfired and you channeled your energy into this amazing piece! I'm being cyber-bullied currently so this was a great read for me right now. Usually people like that will get bored and fade away, but it's a fine line from patience to victim I'm straddling.