Yesterday, I wrote an introductory piece on my thoughts about the role of men in the fashion industry. Today I want to go beyond that and talk a bit about what it means for us to be consumers of fashion in our society.
As I stated before, fashion permeates through our culture and is a pretty major reflection of who we are, whether we realize it or not. You can tell a lot about a culture’s history by the fashion worn of the time. This is part of the reason why I think fashion is so incredibly interesting and worth studying. It’s almost as if every time period is marked by a few very recognizable articles of clothing. As a bit of a history nerd, I’ve always thought that was pretty cool. I often wonder what types of clothing the 00’s and even the decade we’re in now will be remembered for. (I think we’re starting to get a pretty clear picture of the iconic clothing of the 90’s, i.e. grunge/goth, Cosby sweaters, etc.) All of this is to make my point that fashion is part of our everyday lives, it’s a part of our history and culture, and it isn’t just for the elite.
So, what does this all mean for the purposes of a feminist blog? Well, I think it’s important for us to point out when we are out of line with the way we treat other people’s fashion choices, particularly body policing. I will fight to the death for women’s right to wear whatever they choose, whenever they choose, whether it’s being covered from head to toe or not covered at all (although it’s been pretty cold out lately so this may not be the most practical choice). The operative word here being ‘choice’. Personally, I’m 100% on Team Leggings as Pants and wear them frequently and I encourage others to do the same as well.
Now, here’s the main crux of what I’m trying to say. Men, specifically heterosexual men, have been conditioned throughout their lives to believe that women are supposed to cater to them and please them with everything we do from physical appearance to the words we speak. I’m not saying this is how all men think because it is a hard cycle to break that takes effort and I don’t mean to overgeneralize, but this is the line of reasoning I’m going to stick to for the purposes of this article because I believe it is true on a large societal scale, whether or not these men are conscious of it.
So because men are brought up to view themselves as dominate over women, this view naturally extends even into the world of fashion, and we get a disturbing trend of articles such as this, this, this and this listing the many fashion trends that men “hate” or “turn them off.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly okay to have a preference when it comes to what someone you may be potentially attracted to wears. The problem is when I’m expected to opt not to wear something solely because I might be seen as unattractive if I do. Heaven forbid that happens! The idea that I am supposed to dress myself always keeping in mind what men find attractive is incredibly insulting and in astounding opposition to my fashion sensibilities. I dress for one person, myself, and some days I can barely even manage that much. I do not have the time or energy or concern enough to dress with another person in mind.
And that is where these women who wrote the aforementioned articles and the men who contributed to them get it so wrong. The authors are encouraging other women to rid their closets of the undesirable articles of clothing, rather than tearing down the men who apparently believe it is their place to comment on what we should wear. And I dare say that it only contributes even further towards internalized hatred for other women, and an attitude that makes it okay to judge women for what they wear. As if we don’t already have enough to worry about when dressing ourselves, what with making sure we don’t look too fat, or too revealing, or too casual, now we’re supposed to skip out on all the fun trends too?
I’m super interested to hear some other perspectives and input on this. Is it okay for men to voice their opinions on how women should dress? And how should women respond to this?
Thanks for reading!