Maybe you’re like me when it comes to environmental issues, and your interest airs on the side of fashion and lifestyle more than *actual* climate activism/policy work. That’s not to say you or I don’t want to save the world, but efforts to reduce one’s carbon footprint can often feel futile because we’re just regular people and there’s big structural change that the government and corporations are more responsible for fixing than we are. And that isn’t to say one person can't change the world—or two people for that matter! It's only to acknowledge that changing the world will take more than our personal, individual decisions; it will take systemic change.
When I first started researching ways to be more sustainable in my daily life at the beginning of 2020, I realized that I’ve always been fairly sustainable by dint of being from a lower-middle-class immigrant family. My mother used to sew our clothes, line-dry our laundry, thrift a lot of our possessions, donate our old stuff, and reuse plastic bags, among other things. We did these things out of necessity—to save money, consume less, and survive. Eventually, these actions became our way of life. These are things my mother did slowly, and with tremendous care that I’ve grown to appreciate. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me at all that so many women of color from immigrant backgrounds are at the forefront of the sustainable fashion movement. Youtube, in particular, is a great source of sustainable fashion content.
Fashion-oriented Youtube channels with a more sustainable bent emphasize the importance of quitting fast fashion, building capsule wardrobes, minimalism, low waste swaps, thrifting, DIY hacks, and, most of all, buying from sustainable companies. The last part is a little tricky because you don’t want to over-emphasize shopping, reinforcing the same sort of materialism and consumerism you’re trying to fight against. Buying products and promoting a lifestyle of buying more products makes the messaging a bit hypocritical and incoherent, which isn’t a dealbreaker for me, in terms of content I consume, because I recognize sometimes we lag a little behind in terms of our actions and words lining up. With that said, I realized early on in my foray into this niche community that there’s something incredibly suspicious and weird about telling people to buy more stuff. The stuff I’d see recommended were usually accompanied by buzzword-laden spiels wrapped in the shallowest analysis, but no matter how it’s spun, buying more stuff isn’t woke.
Watching sustainable Youtube content left me with so many questions. Questions like:
“How much water does Reformation use to make jeans????”
“What about the garment workers???”
“Why do the places that make this so-called vegan leather look so dirty?”
“How the hell do they sustainably produce clothes out of OIL?”
I like to remind myself “there’s no ethical consumption under late capitalism” because I’m not interested in dissecting the cognitive dissonance baked into participating in the space. I have my own cognitive dissonance to worry about, anyway!
The main thing to keep in mind about the sustainable/low impact living space on Youtube is that it’s less about the environment and more about aesthetics. The entire ecosystem is built on pretty, beautiful things, which is why I love it so much. My favorite person from that world is the aesthetic vlogger Ashley a.k.a. @BestDressed. She exemplifies the most absurd aspects of it like the rampant consumerism, and she’s legitimately entertaining to watch. During this pandemic, in particular, she has consistently RESONATED, bringing the Crazy Girl energy we need as a nation.
So, before anyone gets mad at me for appropriating being crazy: I live with depression and anxiety, so I am well within my bounds to reclaim that noxious word. I think being a Crazy Girl is a state of mind more than anything evidenced in actions. I mean, I put on one wide-legged capris pant leg at a time!!! But!!! I’m also not a normie, and that’s OKAY. Here’s a checklist of questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re not normal, either:
Was Paris Geller your favorite Gilmore Girls character simply because she had a personality?
Do you have bonafide “quirks” that other people have pointed out to you that you were mortified to learn about yourself?
Do you love positive attention and think you deserve a lot of it?
Is liking the music of Rilo Kiley (or some other sad music) a central component of your being?
Are you the eldest daughter in an immigrant household? If not, are you from a chaotic working-class family? Is your family eccentric but overly invested in their image, which in turn made you have depth while being supremely superficial?
Are you neurodivergent in some way?
Do you do too much?
Do you listen to this song ten times an hour?
Is this song on heavy rotation right now?
Do you think things that aren’t cakes actually are like cornbread? Will you die on the hill that that cornbread is a cake?
How many other hills are you willing to die on?
Do you love being frivolous?
Do people think you’re really vulnerable but YOU know you’re not saying anything that deep and that you’re only sharing a SLIVER of your inner world?
Are you prone to intensity?
Is your life ACTUALLY a movie and so vibrant and colorful, when you’re not being an invalid and sleeping for days?
Are you very ambitious?
Do you give everyone your undivided attention, which leads certain people to believe you must be secretly in love with them, but in reality, you’re way too busy fantasizing about a boyfriend you made up in your head to develop a crush on a real person? Despite having the imaginary boyfriend in your head, are you still prone to getting BOY-CRAZY?
Is the man your type?
Okay! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, and we’re all on the same page, back to Ms. Ashley, the Patron Saint of Crazy Girls. The thing I love about Ashley is that weird misogynist fashion dudes COULD NEVER use her as their hysterical femme mascot the way they can with Youtubers like HRH Collection and Trisha Paytas. No, her crazy is too under the surface and way too intelligent. That’s no fun for those losers who simply want to laugh at women breaking down in public ways. To these dudes, Johnathan Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence is a motherfucking comedy. They are dangerous and must be avoided. (I am willing to make the claim that if a dude is frequently using videos of HRH as a reaction to things online, he deeply loathes women. And if this sounds like someone you’ve encountered before, I’m so sorry, hunny!!! Stop talking to them!!! ) Ashley is for the fellow Crazy Girls. Her antics resonate with the Crazy Girls and the Crazy Girls only. She’s like the SZA of Youtube, and we all know SZA is serving high-level Crazy Girl representation.
Ashley had a scandal in 2019 that didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and honestly, seemed kind of like people were foisting extremely high expectations on a woman of color entrepreneur while male Youtubers like David Dobrik receive almost no scrutiny for being wastelords. And yeah, maybe Ashley was sort of doing the most—inadvertently backing herself into a virtue-signaling corner in the process!—but that’s what Crazy Girls do best! I feel like she’s only one person, and she’s not going to solve climate change with her individual consumption habits. And yeah, Amazon is EVIL, BUT ANYBODY WHO HAS NOT HAD TO USE AMAZON IN THE LAST YEAR IS LYING! THERE IS NO WAY TO COMPLETELY AVOID THAT WEBSITE. I KNOW IT CAN BE DONE, BUT YOU HAVE TO BE EXTREMELY RICH TO BE ABLE TO PASS ON EVERY OFFER. SO, ASHLEY HATERS ARE CAPPING BIG TIME, AND NEED TO TAKE A LOOK IN THE MIRROR. My friend Emma (not to be confused with the Emma whose tweet I screen shot above) put it best: “Ashley packages her ethics and sustainability as something very palatable and ground level and easy to understand.”
Anyhow, Ashley’s content has really buoyed me during quarantine. Here are some of her greatest, most chaotic, and DELIGHTFUL hits from the last year:
When She Opened Up Her Video With a Monologue About Being Stalked
A Vlog Romanticizing Her Life in Quarantine, Detailing How She Was Living With Only Her Cocaroaches As Company Until She Started Fucking Her High School Bestie
3. A VERY TMI Q + A
BEING CONSPICUOUS ABOUT HER THRIFTING HABITS WHEN HER BIGGEST HATERS HAVE A WEIRD SCARCITY MINDSET ABOUT THRIFT STORE CLOTHES, WHICH, LIKE, IS WILD CONSIDERING THERE ARE MORE CLOTHES THAN CAN BE FEASIBLY BOUGHT BECAUSE CLOTHES ARE MASS PRODUCED ON AN UNSUSTAINABLE SCALE
Ashley is all of us.
The things she’s scrutinized for are things that regular, non-Youtube aesthetic vlogger girlies do, too. We are all intimately acquainted with the feeling of knowing that something is unethical but doing it anyway out of sheer convenience or laziness, especially because the ethical alternatives often seem finacially unfeasible.
I hope it feels like an honor to get called crazy by a bonafide crazy bitch. It's like when a pretty girl tells you you're pretty—it means more, right? I hope so. xoxoxo - Safy
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