A recent article at the unironically named Man Repeller covers the history of the “midi” skirt, which many of us have never heard of. It contrasts the mini-skirt and is more like a normal calf-length dress.
But, long ago, since someone found the 1960s miniskirts to be crass and immoral, and pushed the midi hard instead, the article reframes history as a social justice issue: the struggle of women to, er, find miniskirts in every store. It follows the usual French Revolution narrative:
Actual boycotts erupted and soon newspapers were calling it a “hemline war.” The length of women’s skirts became a feminist issue: how dare anyone tell them how to dress? How dare a man define decency?
Rags, a counterculture fashion magazine out of San Francisco, called the push of the midi a conspiracy in a 1970 exposé entitled, “Fashion Fascism: The Politics of Midi.”
By 1974, the forced resurgence of the midi was proclaimed a failure. The New York Times reported that “women stayed away in droves, forcing several couture houses and small manufacturers into bankruptcy and the apparel industry into a tailspin.”
In other words, some people having an unpleasant time of life scapegoated the shocking condition that there were any limits on their personal autonomy. They see limits as a personal affront, or a criticism of themselves, much as they see life itself as an affront because it does not do exactly what they want it to.
This human fantasy begins with the idea that the person having the fantasy is perfect or at least, does not need to change at all to adapt to reality or even confront their own self-discipline problems. Rather, they assume that they are perfect and, as in all fantasies, good things come to them without effort or change.
That is the essence of fantasy: reality is inverted. Instead of being a nobody, they become the focus of the fantasy and the center of attention. Other people who are famous or important come to them, instead of the other way around; perfection is redefined in their image, instead of the reality of their form being an inferior variant of human perfection.
In human minds, this kind of fantasy narrative is the norm through daydreams and sexual fantasies and escapist notions. The average person barely interacts with reality at all on an analytical level. Their job tasks are simple and repetitive, and everything else they must do to survive in life consists of ordering people around. Tell them what you want at the restaurant, choose the products at the grocery store, yell at the lazy service person or flatter the customer. In this world, individual fantasy and group behavior overlap because they are composed of the same thing, which is the idea of personal authority asserted through control as a means of reducing risk and the personal affront of otherwise ambiguous reality.
For this reason, attempts to move aside the miniskirt met with rage. Not just consumer revolt, but rage as if a moral transgression had been committed. The attempts to limit the miniskirt threatened to invert the fantasy, or remove that focus on the self at the center of all things and replace it with the more complex calculus of the relationship between the individual, civilization and world. On that level, one needs to think about principle, consequences, responsibility and the like, where in the me-at-the-center-of-the-universe fantasy, all that one needs to think about is — as when ordering at a restaurant or store — personal desires, which are inevitably used as a means to calm, placate and make confident the self.
Through this neurotic process, “I” becomes “we.” A group of neurotics, each personally offended and determined to strike back for entirely personal reasons, joins together because these individualist reasons overlap in a single task: tear down the affront to the illusion of personal perfection. This is how abstractions, universals and ideals become corrupt. Instead of operating on the level of principle, they symbolize all of us through a single mystical icon of the human individual. That in turn becomes our focus, making us robotic and monomaniacal.
That, in turn, leads to the founding idea of Leftism:
If the midi debacle of 1970 achieved anything, it proved that even the most influential voices can’t sway the public if they don’t want to be swayed.
Good news: trends and progress and freedom lie in the hands of the collective.
Ah, the collective. If we are to assume that we as individuals are good, we need to assume the same of others, or we risk disturbing our fantasy by having standards — and those can be used to judge us, or even worse rank us, so they crush the suspension of disbelief required for us to find our fantasy plausible. Instead we choose to validate everyone, and have no standards, and use that group as an example of “virtue” because it does what we want, at least for now.
The West degenerates anywhere the collective is active. In fact, for several thousand years, the collective has been gaining momentum. But it is essential to remember what is at the core of the collective, which is the individual. The individual wants to feel safe from harm, and to make life something it can control. From that desire we get both rebellion and tyranny.
People fear the ambiguity in life, so they try to control it by putting it into a form that the human brain finds safe. This is like a giant grid of identical boxes covered in warning labels where all food and drink are medically approved and come in hermetically-sealed containers. In their fear, the herd sucks the joy out of life. But they do it as individuals, acting as a group only from mutual convenience.
That is no basis for a society, and it explains our steady decline from perhaps the world’s most excellent society to a plastic trash consumer wasteland littered with broken dreams. But at least we — I mean, “I” — have miniskirts.