Although many women have been working in some capacity to achieve feminist ideals since the time of Sappho, modern feminism is associated with the middle of the twentieth century. It was during this period that modern feminists of the 1960s movement began to vocally and politically reject the fashion conventions (among other things) of previous generations of women. Fashion was radically altered by these first “radical” feminists who often dressed in masculine or a-sexual ensembles to emphasize their equality with men. Today, however, new “lipstick” feminists are urging women to reclaim feminine fashions without sacrificing an ounce of their equality.
Wear What You Want
Many women who regard themselves as contemporary feminists assert that women should dress how they want to dress. Governing one’s mode of dress is a supreme form of empowerment. It’s mainly a matter of principle that feminists today prefer not to tell other women what they should or shouldn’t wear. While many still might personally condemn sexually revealing clothes or clothing that supports an objectifying view of women’s bodies, nearly all would promote a woman’s right to wear whatever she pleases.
Correlations between Fashion and Violence
No matter how revealing or skimpy a woman’s clothing, fashion has no correlation to violence against women. It is associated, however, with violence as many perpetrators of violence against women have blamed their victim’s dress as an invitation for attack. Feminists reject this excuse for violence categorically. One simple argument looks at cultures where women are forced to dress in accordance with strict cultural or religious rigidity. A recent study compiled by world gender experts ranked the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Somalia as the most dangerous countries for women. Many feminists would affirm that skimpy dress has nothing to do with violence in these places or anywhere.
Fashion and Body Image
Of course, feminists have had a rocky relationship with popular fashion styles over the past several decades. Clothing designed for “impossible” body images have even recently made feminists cringe. Ultra-skinny runway clothes and celebrities generating negative press for increased poundage have continued to support notions of women’s worth linked to their body type. For this reason, feminists reject clothing that hurts a woman’s sense of self-value. Feminists of today insist that fashion that makes you feel good is probably more important than fashions that simply make you look good.
Advising Women’s Fashion Styles
Hot pants, muffin tops, low riders, and halters—these are some recent mainstream everyday fashions that a woman can happily wear if she wants to. Keep in mind, however, that most feminists would not wear clothing that overly-objectifies their sexuality or undermines their ability to be taken seriously. In truth, every woman has to find her own way in today’s feminist societies. Nobody’s going to tell you that your hem has to be so far below the knee or that pantyhose must be worn in the workplace. Instead, women have the freedom to dress according to their own fashion ideals—for better or worse! If should pads in your blazer makes you feel strong, it’s your prerogative to wear them. If wearing daisy dukes to the grocery store makes you feel great, it’s your choice and right to wear them.
As both fashion and the feminist movement continue to evolve, there will certainly be further discussion on this topic. It’s important to remember that sexuality is part of the human experience and dressing in a way that promotes or detracts from this essential aspect of life is going to be a consideration for women. Many feminists of today might argue that a woman has every right to look and feel sexy without sacrificing a single feminist principle. It’s all about personal taste and choice today. With an incredibly wide array of fashions and designers today, it’s easier than ever to dress how you want to.
Guest post contributed by Aditi Jain, on behalf of Sareez.com. Aditi is a freelance fashion writer. She’s also studying fashion design and her articles appear on various fashion blogs. Visit the sareez website for more information.