In this month’s Harper’s Bazaar, actorAshton Kutcher, who seems to be everywhere these days, writes about the tech initiatives in which he has recently invested. Arguing that “Tech is the new black,” Kutcher details several ventures meant to bring fashion to the people. One of the sites “fashism.com” is an online space where people can upload outfits or accessories and ask site visitors to “love it” or “hate it.” What disturbs me about the site is the name and tagline.
Fashism is not a site for well-dressed racists, in-touch ideologues, or demagogues who like design. It’s a site where strangers from all over connect with one another for advice on how to look their best. But the name is a pseudo-homonym of fascist. And the tagline, “Where the best dressed people rule!” indicates that the site creators, two women with significant professional experience under their belts (and by default, some years as well), knew enough about what they were doing to throw in that little joke about the sartorially sophisticated lauding power over others.
The question is though, how tasteless is this? Should it—could it—be seen as taking back or expanding a term for a repugnant world view? At what point do we deem certain plays on words unacceptable and when should we all just relax?
For my own part, I just finished an entire book on violence committed against Afro-Germans and other black people of other nationalities—including Americans—during Hitler’s reign in Germany. It adds to the pile of books I’ve been reading on fascism in the West for my dissertation. So I’m much less inclined to deem a site that makes a “cute” play on aurality innocuous.