"Thus, feminist dress reformers viewed both feminine fashion itself and feminine interest in fashion as obstacles to overcome on the road to equality"
- Kirsten Pullen, 'Actresses and Whores'
One of the biggest questions I've wondered since I started writing for a fashion magazine three years ago was whether or not it was possible for me to care about both fashion and feminism. Over the years, my views have changed slightly - as I have grown to hate fashion a hell of a lot less - and now I am absolutely certain: of course it's possible for a woman to care about both the way she looks and equality. Why would anyone suggest otherwise?
Of course, there are a lot of things wrong with the fashion industry, and especially in the way that it treats women. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or ignorant. Models are frequently sexually exploited by those in positions of power over them; air-brushing creates a negative body image amongst (mostly young) women; and the size and health of the models themselves is more than questionable.
But suggesting that women who care about their appearances are merely adhering to patriarchal constraints, people are belittling the women themselves; is it too much to suggest that we have minds of our own, and can choose to dress as we want to just for ourselves? Must we always assume that everything women do is for the benefit of men?
As the wonderful Hadley freeman said, "It seems similarly anti-female to suggest that in order to be a true feminist, one is not allowed to have any vanity… Patriarchal society or not, everyone likes to look good… Here, one suspects, lies the nub of the anti-fashion prejudice. Good God, women doing something – just for themselves? Spending their own money? Women making themselves feel good just for themselves…? Dear God, cover your eyes, think of the children!” (The book this excerpt is taken from is in my blogiversary giveaway - HERE!)
If the stereotype that fashionistas can't care about equality were lifted, there is a good chance that many more young feminists would be empowered to work in this industry - and just think of the benefits if they did! Although a lot of the fashion industry's major roles are filled by women, it seems like the majority of designers are men, and that even in this "women's industry" a lot of the control remains out of our hands.
If women who truly cared about equality played bigger roles in this industry, surely a large number of its fundamental flaws would just evaporate? Or, if not evaporate, then slowly begin to filter away?
Do you think it's possible to be a feminist and a fashionista? Are the lines blurred, or are you either one or the other?
PPS: Have you entered my giveaway?! No? Well, it's right here!!