Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Fashion and Feminsim

So I recently was reading this article on the beginnings of a new online magazine called Rookie, and they addressed a question that I've been wondering about for years now: are fashion and feminism inherently at odds with each other?
I ask this because there are so many magazines, online and in print, written towards young women that says yes. Jezebel, xojane, and (back in the day) Sassy feature both articles on fashion trends and feminism. At times, I really like this, since I would like to hope a young woman might get lured in by the fashion and come away with a little bit of feminist theory. Even if she is just more empowered in a practical way to be more assertive with men or to be proud of her body, then that is better than the alternative. But still, the models are so skinny. And the clothes they wear are often so expensive and so frequently come from suspect places with shady employers with no labor rights.
And yet, we all define ourselves through clothes, even in not caring about fashion. It is a choice, and like all choices, a political one. And like all choices, potentially influenced by outside sources, some liberating and some not. It would be stupid or naive to just assume that fashion is automatically bad. Fashion, like so many other aspects of life, has been co-opted by capitalist/misogynist/racist/homophobic/ableist and other oppressive forces, but that is all the more reason to find ways to combat it. The author of the above article rightly draws the comparison between straight women and queers using fashion as a way to define oneself which is just like so many other things within feminism: queers found a way to make it work first. For myself, I wish that women's magazines that were about both fashion and feminism would spend less energy trying to hammer the point home that fashion is not automatically anti-woman/anti-feminist but instead explore it as a complicated, multi-faceted issue (much like feminism is, natch), one that could be either oppressive or liberating, especially depending on context. I want to be informed about what I wear, even if that means that fashion does not get the best light it always wants to be in.

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