Can Fashion Be Feminist?
As a self-described feminist and lover of pop culture, I find myself in basically a constant dilemma. So much of media that we take in is extremely problematic and I often have to simply shrug my shoulders because I hate to admit that I enjoy a lot of it. But, lately, I’ve realized that one of my great loves—fashion—just may be a problematic thing.
The idea that the fashion industry is problematic to women isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Countless discussion have been had about plus-size models, what we consider acceptable body types, shaming thin people, lack of models of color, on and on and on. But, what about those of us who aren’t trying to be models? What about those of us who just really love fashion?
To me, fashion has always been an art form and should be critiqued as such. But, unlike a painting hanging in someone’s home, clothes reflect much about people that they choose to show and even some things that they don’t. Critiquing someone’s fashion rides a fine line between determining someone’s taste and policing their bodies.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve spent way too much time G-chatting links of the Met Gala dresses to my best friends and watching “Fashion Police” with my mom. I love shopping more than I love most things and I spend a lot of time filling online shopping carts only to never actually buy the clothes. I am constantly subconsciously checking out women’s outfits on the streets, especially in New York, where dress colors and outfits are as eclectic as restaurants and languages being spoken on the train. I get inspired by the beautiful women on Park Avenue, but some of my thoughts are not always pleasant. I have a lot of respect for people I see rocking an entire outfit and accessories made of electric blue or things that are so avant garde I wouldn’t dare, but sometimes I just see outfits that are just plain ugly, in my opinion, and I definitely take that in; I think most people do whether they will admit it or not.
This seems like a normal reaction. As I’ve stated before, we humans are very visual and take in beautiful or not so beautiful things around us. But, I can’t help but wonder if my taste happens to be biased by cultural expectations of beauty and if my taste may be influenced by body type, overall appearance, etc.
Now, it’s not all cut and dry. I’m not saying I would see a woman my size wearing a crop top around and immediately judge and vomit on her shoes; I don’t think I’m quite that cruel. But, I have had to stop myself in my loving pursuit of good fashion because I am sometimes too quick to judge people.
Which leads to my discussion; can critique of fashion be feminist? Sure we can put pieces on racks and critique them, but that is not what is intended for them. That’s like putting a mosaic in a lake. Clothes are meant to be judged on bodies, but how do we judge clothes without also judging the bodies that wear them?
I’ve seen the Fashion Police mock a pregnant women for wearing a tighter-fitting dress. I’ve read countless articles on how to “dress for your shape” and even heard people mocking others’ outfits and a lot of it has to do with body shape (oh, and I mean every size, “too thin,” “too fat,” “small boobs,” etc.)
So with Fashion Week, several TV shows, entire red carpet events, museums, etc. etc. dedicated to fashion, is it still kosher to talk about it? I think yes. Fashion is art, a source of enjoyment for a lot of people and an amazing way to connect with people of the same and different cultures and upbringings.
But, just like any sticky issue like this requires some special care. For one, leave the pregnant ladies alone. They can all wear metallic body suits for all I care because they are going to be birthing and raising a little screaming, pooping ball of cells. Second, leave some room for other opinions. Fashion works well because it’s a safe place to stretch the boundaries. It’s OK if you think something was tacky AF, but understand that’s your opinion and not a fact. And finally, understand where your opinions are coming from. I know everyone thinks they are this little original bundle of one-of-a-kind organic thoughts, but most of your opinions come from some sort of societal norm. Understand that telling someone what they can or cannot wear is BS and if you compare a person’s body to a piece of fruit, they have full reason to throw that fruit at your face.
Actually all the rules in that last paragraph can be applied to most things. Also, can be summed up in one phrase: Don’t be a jerk.