Happy Pride to all of my Toronto pals! Am there with you in spirit from New Orleans. One of the most fun things about Pride, IMHO, is getting dressed up in all of your queerest most fabulous attire. And so it feels really fitting that this month’s Bossy List profile is all about masti khor of Femmeboyant Designs. You should read this post and then hit them up for one of their amazing accessories!
Floral Manifesto: Tell me a bit about what prompted you to start Femmeboyant Designs.
masti khor: I’ve been a crafter forever, and needed some extra cash so I decided to try and sell some of my work. I’m studying to be a somatics psychotherapist and it’s really expensive, so this little bit of cash is helping me a lot.
FM: Where did the name for your business come from?
mk: From my genius friend Rebecca who used femmeboyant in casual conversation like the boss she is. I asked if I could steal it and she was into it. I love that the word celebrates multiple genders, buoyancy and flamboyance all at once.
FM: I love that in your Bossy List profile you use the word “armor” a couple of times. I would love to hear more about why this word is a significant one for you and how it takes shape in the items you make.
mk: Femmes are told again and again that our aesthetic choices are frivolous, ridiculous and unnecessary. When really, they are genius community building, survival and celebration strategies! How many times have you run up to a femme you don’t know to say you love their shoes? Community building. What about when you’re having a low spoons high pain day and you put on some lipstick and you can now face the world a tiny bit better? Armor. What about the joy you bring when your floral bow tie makes the room smile? Celebration. Femmes and people of lots of other genders make aesthetic choices that reflect emotional needs necessary to the health of ourselves as individuals, communities, and to our movements.
“Femmes are told again and again that our aesthetic choices are frivolous, ridiculous and unnecessary. When really, they are genius community building, survival and celebration strategies!”
FM: And sort of related to the question above, what connections do you see between femme adornment, armor, and care strategies? I feel like there’s always this difficulty when it comes to reconciling your desire for pretty things with the ways that capitalism promotes consumerism as a form of self-care. Do you ever feel this?
mk: I grew up working class and all of my shit was owned by my sisters or my cousins before. I still make working class decisions for my wardrobe, buying things that are second hand and going to clothing swaps. Most femmes I know do the same.
But really, we live in capitalism. Sometimes someone will give me cash for a necklace and the next day I’ll get my hair cut by them and I just give it back to them – the exchange of money for goods just feels so bizarre. At the end of the day, even if it’s fucking weird, we exchange money for things – we can feel shitty about that and blame ourselves, but isn’t that at least a part of how capitalism maintains itself? By us blaming ourselves as individuals instead of interrogating a system?
The thing is, I’m tired of the people who are most fucked over by capitalism being blamed for capitalism. No one is telling the upper class white lady dressed in generic beige clothing that costs a ton of money that she is too much and too capitalist. But a dark skinned femme of colour with giant hoops and nails and neon lipstick gets called out on being too capitalist all of the time. Just because you can see that femme’s aesthetic choices because they rub up against what is normal (white/ middle class/ able bodied/ skinny aesthetics) doesn’t mean they’re spending more. In fact, it usually means they’re spending less.
The queers who love my work want to support a small business where all the cash goes directly to my work as a healer – because we need crip, kinky, brown, queer, femme body based therapists in community so badly. Buying from community is actually a really big way that we support one another.
I’m not saying all of your money should go into buying accessories. I’m saying, if you want pretty things don’t let someone tell you it’s impractical because that is femmephobic bullshit. But self-care can look like a lot of things, including community care. You can donate to grassroots groups like BLMTO and Flowers While We’re Living. Self-care and community care are not oppositional.
“The thing is, I’m tired of the people who are most fucked over by capitalism being blamed for capitalism.”
FM: You identify as a “brown, queer, crip, introvert, genderqueer femme” on the Bossy List. In what ways do these different intersections of your identity inform what you make?
mk: I make stuff for my people. People who aren’t necessarily catered to by mall stores, shit that we need to have pride in who we are. I made a name piece for my 8 year old niece who can’t go to the store to buy a necklace with her brown name on it. She was thrilled. It is such a joy to create representations that affirm our identities as marginalized people.
These representations come from long histories of liberation work, and so it’s super important to me that I support that work as best as I can by donating accessories for grassroots fundraisers. Hit me up at www.facebook.com/femmeboyantdesigns if you would like some free work to sell for a fundraiser (prioritizing crip qtbipoc orgs).
Also, all of my work is sliding scale, meaning that people can pay as much as they can afford based on a price range. Sliding scale is important for access, and is also a beautiful exercise in trusting community and in the abundance of the universe.
FM: Have you encountered any conflicts between the work that you do and your feminist politics? If so, how have you navigated those issues?
mk: I have been called out for creating work that isn’t a direct reflection of my identities. A client asked me to create an I love you pendant in ASL and when it was posted on my page, a Deaf person courageously and lovingly called me in about making money off of an identity that isn’t mine. I super appreciate the call in since it forced me to be more reflective of my work and my process, and to make sure I’m living with integrity.
The client has a Deaf child, and the pendant was for the child. I won’t make jewelry that is for an identity that isn’t mine unless it’s commissioned. Clients who don’t share my identities and experiences commission work from me because they like my aesthetic or want to support me, and I feel good about making jewelry for people who don’t have the same experiences as me (as long as they have those experiences themselves).
I draw the line at making a ton of money off an identity that isn’t mine (so if someone is commissioning more than ten pieces) and for folks who want pieces that don’t fit my politics. I have a list of jewelry making friends and etsy sites that I will refer people to.
FM: One of my fav pieces of yours are the “fuck you, pay me” earrings. I feel like this is a familiar mantra within artist/activist communities. Can you talk more about how you came up with those?
mk: My bff is a sex worker and came up with this for a pair of earrings. No one understands the hustle better than sex workers. Women and femme bodies are expected to give invisibly, patiently and subserviently without any compensation. Femme sex workers are the actual best because they so clearly understand the value of femme sexual and emotional labour and demand to be paid for it. And well. Every time I would consider lowering prices for my jewelry, my bff would remind me to value my labour more. Lots of artists and freelancers have ordered this too since creative work is so often asked to be done for free. Sex workers have taught us all that just because the mainstream doesn’t value your work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
“Sex workers have taught us all that just because the mainstream doesn’t value your work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.”
FM: I love that you specifically state that the money you make from Femmeboyant Designs goes to your somatics training. I had to look up what that term meant. Can you explain a bit more about what that work looks like and why it’s a form of therapy that you’re drawn to practice?
mk: I am currently studying to be a Relational psychotherapist as well as a Somatic Experiencing practitioner. Somatics is just a fancy word for body. Somatic Experiencing aims to relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress by regulating the nervous system through a focus on body sensations.
I’m Buddhist, I have been meditating for many years, and have found some incredible healing from my spiritual practices. However, it can be dangerous to go right into difficult sensations in the body when there is unprocessed trauma. I was away on a very long silent meditation retreat and tapped into trauma that neither my teachers nor I knew how to work with. They recommended that I begin to see a Somatic Experiencing practitioner because the practice allows you to go into the sensations in a safer more titrated way. I have been a client of the practice for almost two years, and it has been incredibly valuable to my own healing work. I think talk therapy is wonderful, but without working on the body as well, healing cannot be holistic.
FM: What does being a boss/bossy mean to you? How do you define being a boss?
mk: For me, being a boss means being in your own power. It’s that perfect mix of empathic and boundaried, anti-capitalist and valuing your labour, interdependent and independent. A pair of my earrings say it best: take no shit, do no harm.
FM: And because this is also a fashion blog, are there any outfits that make you feel in your bossy power?
mk: I just thrifted this floral shirt that is somehow my exact gender?! Here’s a photo of me in it:
This post was written by Margeaux