Feminism in Fashion – An Overview
On one hand, the fashion world is typically criticized for supporting impractical beauty standards and for spreading the sexist notion that a woman’s look is her most precious asset. And on the other hand, several women use fashion and style as means of individual empowerment.
A Short History of Feminism
Feminism emerged in the late 60s and early 70s when women started to reject performing traditional feminine roles. Contrary to what most people assume, this didn’t involve burning bras all together, but it did refer to the fact that women started critically examining and rejecting some of their formerly unquestioned gender roles.
A “third wave” of feminism emerged in the 90s and expanded upon this movement. Women started examining intersections of sexism keenly with other systems of oppression including classism, racism and homophobia. Thus it became more inclusive.
Today, feminism has a wide range of meanings with a variety of conflicting and overlapping schools within it. But the basic concept is that women are equal to men and deserve to be treated so.
Feminism in Fashion
As mentioned earlier, fashion has been criticized for maintaining unrealistic beauty standards. As critics put forth, fashion defends these unachievable ideals through various mechanisms including using conventionally attractive models and deceptive advertising.
Moreover, the industry is by and large based on dictating what women should wear so as to look attractive to heterosexual men (which is also a problem because it takes for granted that all women are heterosexual).
Another common statement is that fashion maintains the sexist notion that the appearance is the most valuable asset of a woman. Instead feminism in fashion puts forth that women should be respected for their worth as human beings and not for their visual assets.
Still, for some, fashion is integrally feminist.
The phrase “the personal is political” which became famous among feminists during the 70s means that individual actions in daily life could be made use of to make powerful statements. Similarly in fashion, if women choose to dress in ways that empower them, they make statements about their independence as individuals.
All in all, it’s difficult to argue that the fashion world is entirely very feminist. And it isn’t always un-feminist either. It’s just how we take it and depends on an individual’s perspective.
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