I’m cool with the idea that a bloke might write an article on a feminist topic and get it published in a broadsheet for IWD. I’ve not doubt that someone like, for instance, Mark Lawrence, Richie or Luke could do a great job. But I can only sigh and roll my eyes when I open up my usual broadsheet, on International Women’s day, to read an article by a bloke giving feminists a right old scolding for being so mean and horrible.
Mean to who? To the fashion industry! Oh noes!
Shorter Nguyen: Feminists are shrinking the feminist tent and alienating women from the movement by not embracing the world of haute couture, which is woooooonderful (and shut up already about cruel shoes and restricting clothes).
His evidence for this is sketchy, but he cites “the feminist tradition, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton [who was a nineteenth century activist] all the way through to Naomi Wolf.” All the way through to Naomi Wolf? The Beauty Myth was published seventeen years ago! OK, anything else? He nods briefly to Andrea Dworkin saying that extremely high heels make it difficult to walk – which is simply a fact – and the homophobic Sheila Jeffreys, who doesn’t appear to have much of an influence on the femoblogosphere that I’m familiar with. So that’s kind of it.
A cursory glance at the current blogosphere would show that self-identified feminists, in fact, are quite fond of their clothes and shoes – just not quite the kind of clothes and shoes that the fashion industry might like to dictate. Also, making is quite important, not just buying. Most of us are quite happy ignoring the high-end fashionistas, and no, it’s not because we’re all in boiler suits. As one commenter at IBTP said,
I see a lot of defending a woman’s right to wear skirts and heels around the blogosphere lately. I’ve yet to have a hairy second-waver confiscate my lone skirt and lip balm, but I’m on the lookout.
Feminist commentary on fashion isn’t always hostile by any means. Here’s Amanda Marcotte asking why, since conservatives equate sex and childrearing with marriage in a high-end white dress, why conservative commentators would tut-tut about wedding dresses being too “sexy”?
Jill Filipovic of Feministe actually participated in a fashion show, which set out to deliberately avoid the use of professional models and use real women instead. This was the result: a barrage of harassment. In other words, she paid a considerable personal cost for participating in the show. This was hardly feminism’s fault.
But as we all know, it’s a sad fact that sometimes elements of the fashion industry- like elements of the food, auto, health and other industries– just deserve a good sharp kick up the arse- and a good feminist blogger is there to give it to them.
Should Dolce and Gabbana have been given a free pass for their “gang rape ad” back in March 2007? Pavlov’s cat asks: “So here’s a question: if they think this image conveys a ‘game’ about ‘seduction’ and ‘beauty’, [as quoted from D&G], what sort of image would they have come up with to illustrate an actual gang rape?”
Feel free to defend that kind of thing, if you want; it’s a free country. But don’t tell other people not to call them on it.
Closer to home, Bluemilk dissects the double-whammy of the use of a 12-year old model as the “face” of Gold Coast Fashion week. Her title says it all: “Look 19, only with 12 year old freshness.. but be 24-44.” (Presumably beyond 44 there are only those polyester sack dresses with drawstring necklines in a corpse-strewn wasteland, but I digress.) Not good for women actually wanting wearable clothes, being given an impossible ideal to live up to, and not good for the child. Then there’s the issue of little girls being pressured into being fashionable and sexaaaay while they’re still pre-teens, rather than exploring their world and enjoying the last of their childhood.
Twisty is hilarious when she takes aim at fads like the “Sport Corset” and “crippling sexbot footwear“. She points out (not the first to do so, or the last) that wearing such clothes and shoes is just as much adaptive behaviour as pure enjoyment, and to gauge just how much the average woman leeeeerves fashion, you’d have to allow for the first.
As for this kind of thing, there’s just no. bloody. excuse. Ditto for women having toes surgically removed to allow for pointy shoes.
If I started on the thin model / anorexia / eating disorders / body hatred subject I’d be here all day. Let’s just say that feminists are pointing out the sickness in some fashion industry practices, and good on them. They are fighting a rearguard action on behalf of our little girls and increasingly, boys as well. So suck it up, poor beleaguered fashion industry.
“Fashion” in feminist and feminist-sympathetic blogs often means the quest for looking good while being mobile and comfortable. Just because it ain’t on a catwalk doesn’t mean it’s not fashion; but there’s fashion and then there’s … fashion. Feminists indulge in street or indie fashion with joy and esprit de (non-tortured) corps.
Feel free to defend the idiocies of the fashion industry, the shoes in which you can’t run or even walk properly, diaphragm-crunching corsets, designs which place fabric over the model’s mouth or eyes, photo shoots which place models in gang-rape scenarios or valorise torture, and the airbrushing and manipulation of stick-thin girls to make them thinner still (and airbrush away their exposed ribs and spine). But it’s drawing an extraordinarily long bow, and it’s incredibly disrespectful, to take up space in a newspaper on International Women’s Day moaning about how “feminists” are against “fashion” and that’s what’s holding us back.
Preview of next year’s IWD special: Sam Neill writes on how not eating enough red meat is standing between feminists and world domination.