Can fashion be feminist? This question had intrigued me again and again until I finally got the chance to write about it. It is not easy to understand, how a feminist could also be a fashion lover. Well, for starters, people don’t understand feminism too. How could someone, who is a women’s rights and gender equality advocate also talk about looking good and stylish? The question is worth answering! No, it is not frivolous.
The strongest argument against fashion is, that it panders to the male gaze. Plus, in its pursuit of “perfection,” it sets very unrealistic beauty standards for women. Therefore, a woman who chooses to embrace fashion cannot really be a feminist. To begin with, this argument is flawed. Feminism has very little to do with personal appearance and everything to do with an individual’s rights and equality of genders.
But now one can ask are fashion and feminism really compatible? To which the answer is contrary to popular belief, fashion and feminism are not mutually exclusive. In fact, a large part of fashion has been very feminist in its approach. Take a garment like a bra, for instance, with one fashion move, women were free from the human cages called corsets.
Yes, fashion has not only worked towards women’s emancipation, but it also has been a big advocate and supporter of LGBTQ rights as well. One of the first industries in the world to be openly pro-LGBTQ, fashion, has always had a very gender-inclusive approach. So tell me this how can an industry that has always welcomed people of different sexual orientations not be considered feminist? Fashion as an industry has managed to blur some of the masculine and feminine binaries.
Things that were once considered “feminine” are no longer taboos. Men are now comfortable wearing what was once labelled as traditional feminine colours like pink and pastels. Men don’t shy away from dressing as they please even if it includes wearing makeup. Hence here feminism and fashion go hand-in-hand as they provide the right to choose what one wants.
Looking at the bigger picture you will find that fashion has managed to break the sexist outlook that male desires and aspirations are superior to that of women. Even though that hasn’t happened in a matter of six days, it was one of the earlier industries that pandered to women’s wants and not just their needs.
For years, women’s wants were never discussed as if they don’t have any. In a sense, fashion changed that by catering to women’s needs. It gave women the liberty to desire all they want.
Anything that gives you the right to choose, and makes you feel liberated couldn’t be exclusive from feminism.
The views expressed are the author’s own.