Monday, 5 September 2016
Coatigans and Assumptions
Back on track after holiday. At last. Apologies for lack of posts for last two Mondays - between jet lag and then camping, neither Monday was very productive!
Anyway, yesterday I read an article in the Sunday Times Style Magazine. It was called 'Are You Coatigan Woman?' and discussed the apparent 'rise' of the 'coatigan'. A coat shaped/style of cardigan. (Fairly self explanatory really.)
However, the journalist, Laura Craik, used the article mainly to poke fun at the kind of person who might wear such a garment. It culminated in a list entitled 'You are coatigan woman if...'. Now, one tries not to take such articles too seriously. Even if they do feel a little close to home - the list included '...if you can't wait for Poldark tonight'. Definitely me yesterday. Hence excuse for gratuitous picture above.)
But the tone of the piece did anger me. Why should any ordinary person be judged by a fashion journalist? Fashion magazines are there to show us mortals the way, yes. But was it necessary to make such statements as 'those who worship at the coatigan's drab beige feet are united less by age or demographic than by outlook' followed by another unworthy list?
We are all guilty of assumptions. We make daily judgements on how people look, what they might be thinking, how they behave. The Brexit result was the hideously spectacular result of many completely wrong assumptions about people's thoughts and behaviour.
And everyday that we blithely watch - with increasingly thick skins - the continuing chaos of the refugee crisis, we are making assumptions about the people who are trying to get to Europe. We are told - or assume - many are criminals or terrorists. Or 'economic migrants' after our jobs and our lifestyles and leaving perfectly reasonable lives behind. We begin to believe they risk their children's lives on the Mediterranean because they are irresponsible - when actually they're at their wits' end.
When we look at our own family histories, assumptions are not a new phenomenon. They are unfortunately a human trait. And in writing your family history, you are continually making assumptions about people's actions in order to make some sense of the scant information you can glean from official records. My ancestor who joined the army in 1804 and went to India gave his occupation as 'staymaker'. I could assume he was a patriot who decided to fight. More likely, he was in trouble with the law or destitute or even conned into signing up by a sergeant who got him drunk.
My descendants might look at photos of me and assume I was a badly dressed would-be writer who clearly ate quite a lot of cake. Except for winter 2016/17 photos though! Because I will be Coatigan Woman. Yes, after reading the article, I held my head high and proudly purchased said item that very afternoon (that's how cross I was). From Warehouse - proclaimed by the very same magazine having been 'transformed' this season. I quote their assumption: 'you'll love this'.