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Pin Up! The Subculture

Negotiating Agency, Representation & Sexuality with Vintage Style

Kathleen M. Ryan

Dangerous. Sexy. All-American—or rather All-World—Girl. Pin Up! The Subculture is the first book to explore the contemporary international subculture of pin up, women (and men) who embrace vintage style, but not vintage values.

Award-winning filmmaker and author Kathleen M. Ryan spent more than five years in the subculture. It’s a world of cat eye makeup, carefully constructed hairstyles, and retro-inspired fashions. But it’s also a world that embraces the ideals of feminism. Beauty, according to the pin up, is found not in body type or skin color, but in the confidence and sexual agency of the individual. Pin ups see their subculture as a way to exert empowerment and control of their own sexual and social identities—something that is part of the pin up’s historical legacy.

This lavishly illustrated book includes interviews with more than fifty international pin ups and helps readers to understand how they use social media and personal interactions to navigate thorny issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, sizeism, and other difficult topics. Ryan demonstrates how even within subcultures, identity is far from homogeneous. Pin ups use the safety of their shared subcultural values to advocate for social and political change.

A fascinating combination of cultural history, media studies, and oral history, Pin Up! The Subculture is the story about how a subculture is subverting and reviving an historic aesthetic for the twenty-first century.

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6 Let’s Talk about the Confederate Flag in the Room

Extract

Intersectionality in Pin Up

This chapter builds off one of the issues raised in the case studies in Chapter 5, the casual use of the Confederate flag as a fashion accoutrement or a way to express a “rebel” spirit. In the Chapter I problematize the discussion through interviews with pin ups. We discussed how intersectionality is present in the subculture and if White privilege or colorblindness is preventing some members from adequately recognizing issues of racism and bias. We also discussed issues of “passing,” or women who have a certain racial heritage which is not apparent in their physical make-up, and issues of being “too” dark to conform to standards of beauty in their race or ethnicity. Through my conversations with pinups of color, I explore the intersection between postfeminism and fourth wave feminism. At the same time, I seek to understand a seeming contradiction raised by pin ups of color: how the subculture can simultaneously afford room for people of color, while at the same time making them feel as if they are merely bystanders in a predominantly White space that doesn’t “see” race.1

Any discussion of pin up and the Confederate flag2 requires some historical contextualization. The pin up subculture is closely linked to musical ←151 | 152→sub-genres such as ska and rockabilly, both of which first emerged in the 1950s. Rockabilly, developed in the Southern United States, is a hybrid of Western and country music styles meshed with rhythm and blues. Ska originated...

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