Fashion and Ferment


Speaking of "vulgarization," Farzaneh Milani draws a direct line from personal, "vulgar" culture to personal liberty, as that increasingly familiar process plays out in Iran.

"Now alcoholic beverages, drugs, Barbie dolls, satellite dishes, independent newspapers, Western pop music, illegal movies, Western clothing and cosmetics are everywhere. And Iranian men are increasingly captivated by new ideas of male fashion, style and beauty.

"By resorting to practices previously reserved for women, men are using their bodies as soapboxes on which to declaim their social and political views. Among other things, their defiance signals a fierce struggle between autocracy and democracy, between governmental dictates and individual will."

Even as many Americans view the artifacts of their "consumer culture" with contempt, the rest of the world continues to use those same artifacts for their liberationist potential.