Feminism and The Fashion Blogger

Posted in Fashion, Writing.

Two things happened to me over the weekend. Well, more than two things actually happened over the course of my weekend, but two things in particular stood out.

Firstly, I finished Caitlin Moran’s excellent book, How To Be a Woman. And secondly, I watched BeyoncΓ© rip the stage apart at Glastonbury. Both things got me thinking about feminism.

There are plenty of stereotypes about feminists. Apparently, they have bad hair. They wear Crocs. They hate men. They shout a lot. The feminist movement is presented to us as an alternative to a ‘normal’ lifestyle. According to the media, we can’t be feminists if we wear skinny jeans, spend our overdrafts in H&M or y’know, quite like men. Anyone who blow dries their hair in the morning obviously cannot be serious about equality for women.

This image of the feminist – the one who wears a corduroy skirt that covers her ankles – is pushed by the media (a male-dominated industry, obviously). And the media have a great deal of influence on the general public. The extent of this influence could be seen in the tweets during BeyoncΓ©’s Glastonbury performance. Some tweeters proclaimed that because BeyoncΓ© was wearing a revealing outfit, she had no right to sing anything about ’empowering women’. Apparently, if you’re dressed like a ‘hooker’ your opinion doesn’t count.

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Photo from beelover9481’s Flickr

I don’t think BeyoncΓ© was dressed in a provocative way. She was wearing a stage outfit. She had her legs out. She has amazing legs. She’s known for her love of over-the-top diva fashion. Should we discount the messages of empowerment and equality for women in her songs, just because she likes to prance about in her pants while singing them?

I take photos of my outfits every day. I own far too many pairs of shoes. I willingly go through the absolute agony of regular eyebrow threading. I’d also describe myself as a feminist. Take THAT, Daily Mail.

Moran covers lots of interesting things in her book, but it’s her ultimate summing-up of feminism that made me bang my fist on the table and shout ‘YES!’ (shame I was on a train at the time. Sorry for startling you, man in seat 34A). She says feminism, quite simply, is about equality. It’s not about what you wear or if you shave your armpits or how much you flirt with your co-workers. It’s about equal pay, equal opportunities and equal treatment.

So surely, we’re all feminists? Whether we’re slightly obsessed with fashion or couldn’t give two hoots. Whether we’re girls or boys. Whether we own a pair of Crocs or not. If you think the world should be more equal, and there should be more female CEOs, welcome to feminism, my friend. No need to burn your bra.

39 Comments

Alyse

First off, I love the posts you write that address serious topics and issues.

Second, to quote the words of Stephenie Meyer (yes, the Twilight writer), “Feminism is about choice.” The idea that being a feminist dictates you dress, behave and like certain things is equally as oppressive as the oppression feminism stands against and the equality they are pushing for. We have the opportunity to choose what we want to wear and what we want to do and expect the same level of respect as if we were wearing the “feminist uniform.”

I can kind of see where the tweeters are coming from. I don’t agree that wearing a revealing outfit invalidates her message on empowerment, but we also live in an age where women are just as promiscuous as men are without reaping the same sort of punishment. This promiscuity is touted as “empowering” when it is, in fact, just skanky (IMHO) and maybe it is easy to make assumptions based off of what she’s wearing. But godammit, it’s a free country. Wearing certain clothes does not make a woman less respectable or intelligent. We have a right to choose and she chose to wear something she felt comfortable and sensational in.

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KLEE

i love this post because it’s so true. someone asked me a few days ago if i was a feminist and my initial reply was “isn’t everyone?” – surely everyone wants equality? and the right to choose whatever they want to do, may that be not shaving or wearing as little clothing as possible? it’s so frustrating hearing the views of people who think wearing a short skirt makes you less of a feminist. it’s the woman’s right to CHOOSE.

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A Thrifty Mrs

I heartily agree with everything you’ve said and I shall be laying my hands on that book as soon as I can.

As part of my undergrad dissertation I asked a number of men questions about different types of women and showed them photographs. I showed them a photograph of Beyonce and (I can’t remember the exact numbers) well over 75% deemed her to be ill educated and with further digging that seemed to stem from the outfit she was wearing and the amount of skin she was showing off.

The same men when asked other questions said feminists must be over the age of 35, dress modestly and have at least a masters degree.
Well fark me, I’m not sure Beyonce meets any of that criteria, write the woman off this second. *rolls eyes*

Amazing isn’t it?

I believe that feminism is about choice. To be able to choose what path we want our life to go down and be equal when we do it is key. Sadly, I can’t see that happening for sometime.

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jaljen

Too few women put feminism into practice though. Clothes and hair don’t matter. They’re trivial. Men do trivia too. It’s called ‘football’.

But women who just do all the chores at home and bring up sons to regard girls as slaves really annoy me.

Like everything else actions speak louder than words. It’s no good just wanting equality. You have to ‘make it so’.

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Charity

Modern feminism tends to promote gender neutrality rather than equality. When a woman embraces her womanhood and shows pride for her feminine qualities(for example, Beyonce in her stage clothes), feminists tend to immediately put them down. It drives me absolutely crazy, because that type of ideology is not representative of true feminism!
It’s so nice to read this article and get such a refreshing viewpoint.

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Funny Little Frog

Excellant post, I love how your blog is more then just outfit shots but still keeps me interested. Love this subject and may have to get my hands on that book xxx

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Jasmin

I was at Glastonbury and Beyonce had me in tears, she’s the first woman to headline Glastonbury in 20 years and she had an all female band, had a diverse body shape present on stage and sang with such passion and emotion it was clear she meant every word. Yes, she danced provocatively. Yes, she did flash a healthy amount of flesh but she also completely held her own amongst a male dominated line up, and it didn’t detract from each empowering word she had to say and her overall message. I left the Pyramid stage in pretty much floods of tears, with a newfound love of Beyonce and a feeling that I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. This is such a great post and Moran’s book sounds like a very enlightening read. x

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PixieMils

I have always loved your blog, but this post has got to be one of my all time favourites. You have summed up everything i’ve been feeling hearing about the backlash which Beyonce got because of her outfit choices. You are an amazing lady, amazing style and an amazing personality πŸ™‚

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Laura

I love this. Both my parents are feminists (my Dad insists that it’s entirely possible to be a male feminist) and it definitely had a lot of impact on me although I’ve still grown up to be a fashion blogger and an all around girl. That’s not to say my parents failed (something that an ex-boyfriend once suggested) – quite the opposite. They instilled in me the beliefs that make me the strong, independent woman that I am today, while still allowing me to grow into the person that I am today.

Laura

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Hannah

I saw Beyonce at Glasto on Sunday evening and boy was it an empowering experience. That woman is a goddess and is the perfect role model for equality amongst women! Beyonce looked amazing in that outfit and goes to show that you can be sexy and empowering all at the same time! I don’t believe in feminism in today’s world because as you say we should ALL be feminists. It is every women’s right to make a stand for equality, women fought hard for it during the feminist movement so females these days that let men walk over them and allow themselves to be below average should feel ashamed. I believe in the work hard, play hard attitude and if I want to wear a short skirt when I go out on a Saturday night I will because I can and I believe that it’s that ‘I can’ attitude that so many women have these days is what makes as more equal than ever before. Great post today Jen!!!


Bow Dream Nation xx

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Kimberlee

Great topics. We discussed this idea during one of our FBFF weekly posts by Modly Chic. I completely agree. You look like Beyonce and still be for equal rights. Great point that the idea of a feminist in ugly crocs and corduroy pants is presented by male dominated media.

P.S. Beyonce killed it at Glastonbury! She was the first woman to headline the event πŸ™‚

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Laura

Brilliant post, Jen. I really want to read this book – I must try and pick it up! Completely agree on all your points, feminism is completely about equality. It has nothing to do with anything else, it didn’t when it was the suffragettes – I don’t think they were worrying about what they looked like, they just wanted equal rights, which is exactly what we should want now x

lauramarycoyne.blogspot.com

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rubyandrosejewellery

I’m not too sure what Beyonces stance is on feminism and her role but I suppose its different things to different people. LIke you mentioned I think most people see feminists as someone who dresses head to toe in tweed and knits their own hair, but its about living your life as you see appropriate and I suppose being a good role model to younger girls

Emily xx

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Anonymous

Good issue to raise however I do disagree. Beyonce has a certain amount of responsibility being in the public eye. You’re forgetting that many of her recent songs are actually about sex, so it’s not really her outfits that are suggestive but the songs themselves. So, when she on one hand promotes the empowerment of women and being single, while on the other hand sings songs explicitly about sex and pretty much being objectified by men, she sends out quite mixed messages. Beyonce has a great voice, a great body and obviously is beautiful (with the amount of money she has it’s not exactly hard…) however I thought her performance was pretty average. Coldplay were miles better. I find that she comes across as a person quite insincere and fake.

Come to think about it, my favourite songs of hers were with Destiny’s Child, and those songs were the ones that really addressed issues of insecurity among girls and being happy with yourself. I feel her over the top image now pressures girls to aspire to be like her. Frankly I’d rather have someone like Michelle Obama as a role model.

Sorry to go against what everyone else is saying (I know quite a few people share my views but there’s been so much hype around her at Glastonbury, all you hear are the positive views) but I suppose I see this as a debate. Everyone’s opinions differ I guess and you’re probably thinking “who is she to say the performance was average?!” but, well, I’m a teenager of today, and feel pressure coming from all angles. Also, I’ve been a fan of Beyonce for a long time, until recently when she’s been making poppy mainstream songs (I’m more a fan of R&B). I hated her version of Sex on Fire but have loved her version of At Last since the first time I heard her sing it.

I totally agree with you that she should be able to wear what she wants as a woman, no dispute – however it is the messages she sends out in her songs that really matter to me

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Jen

Anon, this is absolutely a debate and there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to what feminism means to you, or what you think it should consist of.

Please don’t feel that you have to post anonymously if you have an apposing view to the one in the post – I want to hear all opinions and like to be able to put a name to each one! πŸ™‚

Thanks to everyone for your fascinating comments.

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Helen

I’ve just got Caitlin Moran’s book out of the library, I am enjoying it so much so far! I hate it when women say ‘I’m not a feminist’ because of the stigma attached to it. Everytime someone says it I wanna say ‘okay, I’ll take your vote off you, take away equal pay & women’s rights and THEN see how much of a feminist you really are, k?’. Like you said, it’s all about equality. And of course, MEN can be feminists too if they believe in equality! I would be horrified to meet a man who wasn’t really. Maybe feminist should be re-branded ‘equalist’. But that sounds like a horrid ‘buzzword’ so no!

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Megan

great post! Very thought provoking!

Im not sure whether I remember this right but I think I read somewhere that the women did not actually burn their bras when searching for equality, but it was for a different cause instead. And it has been mixed up in history.

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Sirens and Bells

I didn’t watch Beyonce at Glasto so I can’t comment on that, but I totally agree with you on the stance that really, most of us are at least partly feminists. People forget that feminism, at it’s heart, is equality for all, not female domination and making men inconsequential!
Sirens and Bells xx

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Serina

Hi Jen, Anon was me, I just couldn’t be bothered to sign in before πŸ˜› Thanks for not totally disregarding my opinion haha πŸ˜›

I’m not going to lie, I love Rihanna’s songs for example, very much provocative songs, however she doesn’t claim to be a lovely, innocent person like Beyonce does, and that’s what I like about her – sticking to her guns. I get very confused as to what Beyonce is all about.

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Elizabeth @rosalilium

Phew…there are lots of points here.

Firstly, yes I agree about the image of a feminist. I wrote about this on International Women’s Day here, if you want to read it –>

http://www.anyotherwedding.com/2011/03/in-her-own-words-international-womens_2219.html

Secondly, I’m not sure if I agree with you about Beyonce. It is something that has been bothering me for a while. Here we have one of the most powerful women in the arts and entertainment field and she does very little with that power in terms of promoting equality. She is an artist, yes. But I think the messages her art sends out are very mixed.

For example, she sings about Girls Running The World as she is dry humping the sand.

And actually Girls don’t run the world. Far from it.

Also, I don’t appreciate to being referred to as her ‘bitches’. This kind of rhetoric only serves to reinforce the patriarchal power that is assumed throughout the world.

As I mentioned in the post I mentioned above, only when women start respecting each other and stoppping shooting each other down, will there be any chance of gaining equality with our male counterparts.

I think Beyonce has the potential to make a difference, but she is in a business, and in that business sex sells.

Here is a really interesting, articulate point of view about Beyonces ‘run the world’ video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p72UqyVPj54&feature=channel_video_title

(I hope that link works).

Right, I’ll sign off here because I could talk for hours.

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poet

Hi! I completely agree! Do you know about the feminist fashion blogger group? You sound like you might like to join us… we did a group post about the topic of dressing as a feminist back in March, it’s up on this blog: http://feministfashionbloggers.blogspot.com/ – together with all other themed posts since then. There’s also a discussion board at our google groups page: http://groups.google.com/group/feminist-fashion-bloggers

Hoping to see you there!
Cheers,
poet

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Emily

Amazing post! I reject the idea that feminism should tell women how to dress, how to act or what to do. I always thought the whole point of it was allowing women the choice to dress how they want, act how they want, and do what they want.

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Sherin

Yay! Love this post! And I loved reading through all the comments. I definitely consider myself a feminist, and I love fashion and looking my best. So once more, the media has it wrong. Feminism is about being empowering and doing what we want…not sitting in a corner and complaining about men (which we’ve probably all done anyway).

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LilyLipstick

Great post, Moran’s book is definitely on my “to-read” list. Definitely agree that feminism is 100% not about what you wear or look like. x

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Miss Raj

Absolutely wonderful post. I think we all feel this way – it’s not right to judge a woman on what she wear and what she does. Real equality is in being able to make these choices, to pluck your eyebrows and buy lots of shoes without being judged and categorised for doing so. Bravo for articulating so well!

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Alex

You know what annoys me? The fact that we still have to justify ourselves so much as feminists, due to stupid media-led constructions and the negative connotations attached to the word. I don’t want to have to say “I like shoes and I like clothes BUT I’m still a feminist.” Why can’t people just accept that I am what I am? Expressing an interest in traditonally feminine things doesn’t automatically disqualify me from holding very strong views about equality, fairness, sexism and a host of other things.

Third wave feminism has such a lot of stigma to battle against – a lot of people my age see feminism almost as a dirty word. Like so many people have said on here, it just means equality. *Anyone* who believes in equality can, and should, call themselves a feminist.

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sam x

love this post! I agree completely and will definitely be seeing if this book is in my local library.

For my dissertation I posed the question ‘is knitting relevant to the modern feminist’ and I found it very hard to find anything written about the feminists that weren’t man haters and bad dressers! I love that in this day and age that women have a lot more equality and choice however there is still a way to go.

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jess

I think that feminism is about choice and equality. What a person wears doesn’t impact what they believe in.

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Rachel

Couldn’t agree more, feminism is simply about equality. Women can be fabulously dressed, sexually liberated and still be feminists!x

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Perdita

I’ve never seen a man assume he HAS to eschew the gym and wear baggy beige tank tops to be taken seriously. Some do, some don’t: but no-one says George Cloony (or Prince, or Freddy Mercury, or Dabe Grohl…) can’t be confident because he is proud of the way he grooms/dresses as a star. When a man does it it’s confidence. Thus, to me, the assumption that woman have to bury their physical ‘nature’ (i.e. a female body shape) and dress to cover sexuality to be equal is, in fact, oppressive.

How sad that now, some women choose to spew this oppressive bile in the name of feminism. Perhaps they aren’t seeking equality, but higher status than other women – it’s why I prefer the term ‘seeking equality’ sometimes rather than ‘feminist’. I would love for all to be simply equal with the same rules!

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Deepa

I think to be totally equal there surely shouldn’t be anything known as feminism?
Is there such a thing as masculinism?

For me I think people get a bit bogged down with these things, to be truly equal I think you shouldn’t worry about differences between men and women.

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Lil

I’m not exactly sure about Beyonce’s take on feminism. However, I really can’t wait to read Caitlin Moran’s book and I admire you for tackling such a taboo issue on your blog.
As someone who took a strong interested in gender issues and feminism during my degree (in English Lit) I used to get so sad when girls my age would actively set themselves apart from feminists and even get quite aggressive, proclaiming things like ‘everything’s fine now, they give women a bad name’. I’m happy this is starting to change, even if it’s gradual. Xx

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CaramelLatteKiss

When I first started seeing my boyfriend I almost scared him off completely by referring to myself as a feminist. His previous experience with girls who called themselves feminists was to be told he was a terrible, evil oppressor because he has a penis and that women are superior to men in every way. So understandably, he thought, “bloody hell, what have I got myself into?”.
And so his education began. I talked to him about what I feel feminism is and he came to see it wasn’t all man-hating. All of the women I admire who I think have the most interesting things to say about feminism don’t fit that man-hating, bra-burning image. They’re intelligent women who are saying, “now hang on, why can’t we all just be the same?”.
He told me that he is often made to feel he isn’t allowed to care about things seen as women’s issues, like rape convictions, or the Planned Parenthood controversy in America, and it was women telling him he wasn’t allowed to think about these things. How mad is that? Feminism has got quite wonky in some people’s minds I think. Women feel guilty for wanting to look attractive, as if somehow that’s against the sisterhood.
Personally, I think feminism is about choice. A feminist can be a housewife or an astronaut, she can wear sensible loafers or stilettos, she can wear hot pants or ankle length skirts, she can read The Female Eunuch or Bridget Jones’s Diary. None of it matters, as long as she chooses it herself and believes other women should choose themselves too.

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Lizzy Lips

Only just catching up on this post. I bought ‘How to be a woman’ at the weekend, I’ve not got stuck in yet as I’m in the middle of another book but now I can’t wait to dive in.

I agree, it’s about equality. I recently organised the corporate golf day. When I complained that it was elitist and sexist and we should do some corporate hospitality that included the whole spectrum of clients I was told (by my male colleague) ‘yeah but the majority of C level execs are male so why not do a golf day if that’s what they want’. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, such a bad attitude to start out with. I thought we come further than that… one day, we can hope.

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Eve Maria

I LOVE this post Jen, it’s brilliant! Because of the media circus surrounding the old-fashioned stereotype, some people feel there isn’t a place for feminism, but there is! We’ve still got a lot of work to do with regards to bringing equality and stamping out sexism.

I agree with Alyse above in that the media and celebs are responsible for pushing the idea that a woman in skimpy sexualized (I use that word rather than ‘sexual clothing’ deliberately, because it is so often someone Elses’ percetion of sexuality rather than the girls herself) clothing is ’empowering’ when most of the time it’s exactly the opposite, especially when the girl is very young.

I loved Beyonce’s performance. My respect for her went to a whole new level. I do agree with Anon that her lyrics and videos often are extremely hyper-sexual and not something I would promote, but at Glasto, her perfomance wasn’t about the clothes, I’m sure for anyone there it was about the amazing energy she brought.

Also I completely love Hannah’s ‘I can’ attitude above!

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