GooGooSha’s Hideous Clothes

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by Joshua Foust on 9/16/2011 · 8 comments

After all the hemming and hawing the best the New York Post can come up with is, “yeah? Well you’re ugly?”

I’m sure the forced labor children of Uzbekistan’s cotton fields are thanking the brave journalists and human rights workers who waited until a fashion show to express concern for their plight are sighing in relief even as we speak.

Human Rights Watch is correct to note that Uzbekistan is a terrible abuser of human rights. HRW is also pissed off they were forcibly removed from Tashkent some time ago, and some of their employees were jailed. But what, exactly, does freaking out over a fashion show, but nothing else Uzbekistan does around the world in a diplomatic, cultural, or social setting actually accomplish?

This is what Nathan and I both find so puzzling about this week’s fashion flap. It’s so… well, trivial is the only way I can think of describing it. It doesn’t help anyone, doesn’t improve anyone’s lives, and all it does it allow preening white people to point to a bad man and his daughter and yell “nanny nanny boo boo we canceled your fashion show!”

If that’s where advocating for human rights in Uzbekistan has come to, actual Uzbeks—you know, the people everyone says they care about?—are pretty much screwed.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Shannon September 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I agree that efforts to protest Karimov’s regime would be better placed in front of the UN. But, I don’t understand why you find the Fashion Week/NY Post coverage misguided to the point where it sounds like you find it offensive. I definitely fall on the side of those who appreciated the exposure. And while many at Fashion Week may be “preening white people,” they also have a lot of influence over young people who would otherwise be oblivious to abuses in Uzbekistan.

My (perhaps unrealistic) hope is that one of them was incensed enough to continue investigating Uzbekistan, and will do some kind of awareness raising or joint humanitarian project in the future, whatever. Yeah, it will be from the fashion industry and therefore probably very flawed, but so what, we’re talking about a country most people in the U.S. probably can’t find on a map. Might as well link the place with something exotic and memorable like Gulnara’s show, ordinary people might actually start give a damn.

As always, I appreciate Registan’s analysis.

Nathan Hamm September 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Awareness-building worked out well for Tibet, right? (And if this does spur anyone to bother to do some research, the internet’s so clogged up with stuff that distorts — by dramatically UNDERSTATING — Uzbekistan’s plight that they’ll get a skewed view.)

I’m not saying this is all utterly hopeless, but it is a distraction. Kids are out picking cotton right now. Drivers are having their vehicles commandeered to transport people to the fields, reservists will probably soon be called up. And this is all so some people whose names aren’t Gulnora Karimova can continue squeezing an opulent living out of Uzbekistan’s people. Though I think that the nature of the international cotton market makes it hard to pressure Uzbekistan, effort put into trying to expand the boycott is probably a better use of time and energy.

Shannon September 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I actually do think that all those college kids trying to Free Tibet is a positive thing–for me in both cases it boils down to “something” being better than nothing at all, even if the “something” is just as much as a vanity project as it is a stand for social justice.

I am a huge fan of Registan and I feel like a bit of an ingrate for only stopping by to comment about a position you’ve taken that I disagree with. That said, I think this blog is unfairly expecting sophisticated policy analysis from the New York Post, Andrea Peyser and people who plan and attend fashion shows.

What would you suggest the ordinary person do about these kinds of far-off abuses, if “raising awareness” is not productive? This is a serious question.

Nathan September 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Don’t buy Uzbek sourced cotton. Don’t buy GM cars or trucks. Neither will accomplish much, but both are somethings arguably better than nothing. (For the record, I think nothing is often demonstrably better than something.)

Not much to do, but then the point we are making is that we don’t have much leverage. Doing something may feel good, but I’m sure the people dragooned don’t get much out of that.

Turkistanian September 18, 2011 at 8:46 pm

i am sure all this is pretty much pointless. but i am glad at least someone can say no to her.

Turgai Sangar September 19, 2011 at 4:57 am

I agree. By itself, it’s quite a non-event indeed and it is not that that will bring Karimov down. But psychologically, this, as well as Lola’s lost lawsuit against Rue 89, is a public humiliation for creatures that are not used to hear ‘no’ or, at least, that are used to wind everyone around their finger. And for wider opinion in Uzbekistan, it shows that not everyone is easily bullied or taken for a ride by them.

Abdurakhim September 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I agree that it’s typical self-serving PR for the fashion industry (a redundant statement), however there’s plenty of schadenfreude in Tashkent over GooGoo getting pushed off the stage. Watching her and her dumb-ass sister get mocked in public is as good as it gets for those who have had their businesses stolen (tea, oil/gas, hospitality) or have their own ambitions obliterated by one of these two bitches. The rich irony is that a fashion show was being held at the Tashkent Palace by a ‘competing designer’ in 2003 until – of course – the power went out right before the show, and only a few people showed up.

When will these two twits figure out, whether in Geneva or Paris, Madrid, New York, Moscow, where ever “Instant Karma is Gonna Get You!” ?

hyperdifferent October 5, 2011 at 12:12 am

Совсем недавно попал на ваш блог, теперь каждый день захожу глянуть, а не написали ли чего нового. 🙂 Но, к сожалению, вы далеко не каждый день свой блог обновляете 🙁

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