How Fashion IS A Feminist Issue
Fashion is so much more than just clothing and trends: it's a feminist issue. The industry makes £20.9 billion for the British economy each year, and creates 816,000 jobs in the UK alone: however, the majority of women in the fashion industry are employed in the industry's lowest paying jobs. And yet despite the fact that so many women are involved in fashion, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that the majority of the most successful people in fashion are male. For example, most of the top womenswear designers are male (Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani, for example) as well as many of the best known fashion photographers (including Terry Richardson, Steven Meisel, Peter Lindbergh, Jeurgen Teller and Nick Knight). But beyond the composition of the industry itself, there's its cultural impact to consider: fashion is known for objectifying women and emphasizing an unrealistic beauty standard. For these reasons and more, it's easy to conclude that the fashion industry is misogynistic -- and these aspects of the industry certainly are.
But it's possible to make fashion feminist in a positive way. I come from a generation and society where arguably for the first time in a long time many young women are not wearing clothes to make a political statement -- and we should be. A great example of how women my age have started to do this was during the Slut Walks, in which young women marched in short skirts and clothing considered "slutty" or "asking for it" to reclaim the idea that women should be able to wear whatever they want without fearing rape. Considering how we dress and dressing strategically is just one way we can continue to question sexism. Women should also critically examine their relationship with clothing, especially where their clothes come from since many of the people in charge of selecting what a lot of young women will wear are the male heads of fashion corporations. Deliberately choosing to wear clothing produced by a woman -- whether designer or on a smaller scale or clothes you made yourself -- is a feminist act.
It's for these reasons and more that I also believe we need a truly feminist fashion magazine. Fashion magazines are a great medium for feminism because they have the potential to reach a wide audience who may not have considered how feminism can impact their life and passion. Such a magazine could redefine the very meaning of fashion by including features on powerful and diverse female designers and fashion designed to make all women look great and feel their best.
Although there will always be critics who dismiss the idea of fashion as compatible with supporting feminism, and who will no doubt bring up the size zero debate, I firmly believe that young women are smart enough to differentiate between what aspects of the industry are misogynistic and which are opportunities for feminist activism. Women should be able to choose female-designed clothing and read a feminist fashion magazine that comes from a place of empowerment and celebration of all women's beauty, as well as fight the sexism that pervades other aspects of the industry.
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