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.


  1. That's too sad, because it was a neat tool. We use to use it to create rooms.

  2. "i see humanity striding purposefully into a cold shadow." this is a brilliant summation of how i feel about modern 'culture'... it does not NURTURE, not humans, not any other form of life; and thus, to me, it has failed.

    i know now why you are passionate about protecting gentleness. i agree; i have found myself using the word 'tender' more this past year or so than ever before. because we need it so. i think i may be on the same page as you (and doubtless many others) only i focussed my passion on gentle parenting and early education. if we could just get the larger society to agree that gentleness is a desirable, productive thing, it would be such a help. i chose to focus on parenting and early childhood settings because it seemed to me that this is where it all starts---to go wonderfully right, or terribly wrong---at birth. we have, en fin, the world that generations of broken people have made. let us return to, or invent, ways of bringing children up that don't destroy them. (or their mothers!) let us, for the love of all that's holy, act gently with them. and with each other, and with ourselves. much of what i do in yoga and reiki is simply being gentle to people, and offering them ways to be gentle to themselves.

    as for polyvore, i only discovered it after seeing some things on pinterest that had been made there. i was intrigued, but unable to decode how polyvore worked. but i enjoyed seeing the creations others made, the little visual narratives or capsule worlds expressed through attire and accessories. i'm sorry that you have lost a place of dreaming, and i'm curious to see what the successor site is like, how and *why* it is different...

  3. I'm sorry you've lost in internet space that was important to you. (I'm not familiar with it, myself). It's so hard to lose these connection and spaces. {{hugs}}


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