For two things that interest women (such as myself) so much, it’s always baffled me that fashion and feminism rarely co-exist. Fashion is often dismissed as a frivolous occupation of shallow women, but it’s an extraordinarily prejudiced view. Loving fashion does not preclude a women’s ability to be a feminist, and vice-versa*.
Obviously, the unfair stereotype of the bra-burning, dungaree-wearing radical feminist casts a long shadow over the relationship between fashion and feminism, but feminism today is (or should be) much more inclusive than that. Loving the thrill and glamour and fun of fashion shouldn’t prevent a woman being taken seriously as a feminist, any more than loving the thrill and glamour and fun of the theatre does. Yet somehow, an interest in the theatre marks someone as “serious” and an interest in fashion marks them out as “silly”. Like a woman in a nice dress is unable to hold any other thought in her head than OMG!! Dresses!! Come on sisters, we’re supposed to be past this by now.
The industry itself hardly helps. Fashion has collaborated with pretty much every cause i can think of over the years, every industry and every brand, yet somehow has managed to avoid any allegiance to feminism. More fashion types (like Tavi, below) and celebrities are “coming out” as feminists, but that’s still not enough. In a hugely female-dominated industry, why aren’t more fashionistas standing up in their metallic brogues or clumpy Acne platforms, and declaring, “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like”?!
Yes, many feminists revel in not having to wear uncomfortable or ridiculous trends to adhere to the current feminine ideal, but just because a woman chooses to wear a heel or a bright lipstick does not make her a bad feminist. Feminism today is a broad church, and we should be supporting other women’s choices and interests, rather than dismissing them. I like nice things and I am a feminist and I am OK with that. I adhere to a feminism that means a woman can do whatever the fuck she likes, making her own choices on the reproductive, employment, sartorial, social or cultural fronts without judgement. Apparently others are practicing another kind of feminism – they’re welcome to it.
*If you’re interested, this post is a result of supporters of new women’s expertise advocacy group The Women’s Room UK claiming they had more right to the name than the well-respected 4-year-old The Women’s Room blog, because it is only a “life and style” blog and therefore not properly feminist. Update on the situation here and here