Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fur: Continuing the Outerwear Dilemmas

My grandmother, dead now more than 25 years, owned a number of fur pieces. She lived in the Yukon almost all her life, so it's hard to get on her case for not having been enlightened. Since she died, an appallingly cut sealskin parka and a rather attractive blonde (fox?) swing-cut jacket have hung, unworn, in my mother's closet. When my grandfather died, a couple of other pieces surfaced. My father took from the estate a mink muff* to inflict upon me as a joke.

There are a number of values in conflict for me here. Click through to get the complete moral meanderings.

While I agree that trapping animals for their fur is an appalling and cruel practice, I also believe that killing an animal and then not using the clothing made from it is wasteful. The seals, foxes, and minks are already dead, the clothing has already been made, and the potential wearers in my immediate family have all been too weirded out by the moral issues to take any further benefit from the animals' deaths. Am I just being sentimental in feeling a bit sad that these animals died in vain?

The argument against wearing vintage or even fake fur goes that by contributing to the acceptability of fur fashion, you're enabling the slaughter of more animals. And this is of course true, to an extent: who, besides my friends, is to know that my fur piece was inherited from a grandmother from a frigid climate? This is of course at base a Kantian argument: the individual should make decisions as though her choice were a general rule. Yet does fashion really obey Kantian logic? For example, those with a fashion-eye would immediately recognize my grandmother's fox(?)-fur jacket as retro if not vintage. I do know that the ladies of a certain age I've seen wearing full-length mink coats have made me tend to smirk at rather than envy them. If I were a young, semi-attractive, and not-fashion-unconscious personage, would I be doing more harm? If so, we're already out of Kantian territory, I would say.

And then, as my Yukon-raised father put it, there's a rather substantial moral distinction between trapping and farm-raising fur animals. In the former case, many more animals will die or will be maimed than will be used: many of the traps will be sprung by non-fur animals, or the traps will ruin the animal's pelt. (Clubbing wild seals, in my opinion, is also right out.) But when it comes to farm-raised animals, how do we really make a moral distinction between fur-producing animals and meat-producing animals?**

So far, all of my grandmother's fur pieces have remained firmly in the closet. I haven't been able to bring myself to wear the mink muff even to friendly costume parties. Of course this has partly to do with the fact that muffs are stupid, impractible items; yet when I suggested to a friend that I try to find a tailor turn my impractible muff into a more useful hat, he responded with horror: "But it's fur!" I'm pretty much the only candidate for the remaining fur pieces in my mother's closet: mom lives in Berkeley, and the sister who might fit the pieces lives in Boulder. In NYC, as some members of the family have suggested, I might get some use out of them.

So, would it be ethical to do so?

*Since I've been hanging around The Mineshaft the past few weeks, I should define a "muff" as a cylindical object into which one both hands. The inherited "muff" also features a little pocket, which isn't large enough to fit the accessories of a modern woman.
**I'm not a vegetarian, although I've wandered in and out of vegetarianism, but on the rare occasions I do buy meat, I buy organic, free-range meats and do my damnedest not to waste any part of the animal. It costs more and takes more time, but I'd estimate that I don't buy meat more than four times a month. If I can make a single, free-range chicken last a week and a half, I figure I'm contributing in my small way in the derailment of the industrial meat complex.


Blogger bitchphd:

I have a foxfur collared camel-colored cashmere coat from my grandmother that I totally wear. It's WARM, damnit, and also it looks great. I also have another fur-collared coat that I bought used, and a hip-length mink that I've never worn only b/c it's too big for me and I need to sell it (it too was a hand-me-down).

I say, wear it. It's extremely warm, which is why people did. I get the contributing to fashion thing, especially in NYC, but it's a bit silly to not wear a warm coat if you have one. If you really want, you can have the coat turned, so the fur is inside--still warm, but invisible.

And if you're not gonna use the muff, send it my way. :)

12/08/2005 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Blogger ate my earlier comment without a sign. Huh. Indeed.

I still have qualms. I'll never pay to disguise the fur, an approach which would invalidate the cheapskate and justification rules while only barely mitigating the influence rule--and besides, I'm poor.

If your man comes to the NYC meetup with a camera, I'll promise to bring the muff. I'm still hoping to find a way either to wear it or to turn it into a hat. However! If I give up on those goals, I hereby grant you next-in-line privilege.

12/08/2005 11:42:00 PM  

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