The Value of Protecting Gentleness
This week Polyvore closed down. It happened without warning, and only a few were lucky enough to download the artistic work they had created and saved on the site. When I saw the closure, I was deeply sad. For me, Polyvore was a place I could be who I would have been when I was young, if that had been possible at the time. It was also a place to develop visions of story characters and support my personal quiet within this overbearing world. I felt silly about all this, until I saw how many other people were experiencing the same sorrow. Polyvore was a refuge, a therapy tool, a community of dreamers, a place for visions of all kinds.
For those of you who don't know, Polyvore allowed people to build sets of imagery mostly based on fashion. Many wonder sneeringly how fashion has any claim to being therapeutic. Of course, this is the sort of response women are used to hearing about their arts, isn't it? For me though, the key issue is not that a place for mostly women has been lost (as the successor is also aimed at women) but that a place for a certain kind of woman has been lost. A place for gentleness, tenderness, dreaming.
I see it all around me: this rejection of softness. It's in the stark and minimalist lines of architecture and interior design. (I myself love the clean feeling of minimalism but in moderation). It's in the sparse style of modern literature, in which all adjectives and adverbs are disdained. It's in the scraping away of our everyday vocabulary, and the brusque simplicity of fashionable clothing, and the streamlining of services everywhere. Cosiness is no longer valued. Gentleness is something to be mocked.
I have been thinking a lot lately about all the issues that are important to me. There are plenty. Climate change, the disintegration of democracy, poverty, gender wars, Palestine, the institutionalisation of childhood. But I've decided finally that the issue I want to focus on most is the protection of gentleness. I believe it is when humankind devalues gentleness that we see so many awful troubles. I also believe that for a very long time women were the keepers of gentleness (and we could discuss forever if this was a fair thing or not) and that now woman are breaking free of their terrible chains, there is no one left to be custodian of gentleness. Ideally, we all should be, regardless of gender. I don't see how it will come about, though. I see humanity striding purposefully into a cold shadow. But the least I can do is speak gentleness myself, try to be gentleness, honour it and promote it whenever I can.