January 5, 2012
in a condescending fashion
Fashion is the Cinderella industry. A cultural step-child – part media, part manufacturing. Part art, all commerce. It’s true – fashion doesn’t save lives – but why shouldn’t it be afforded the same respect afforded to other creative industries like music, film, or literature? Unlike most creative industries, fashion also arguably qualifies as a universal necessity. Yet it is routinely dismissed, usually by people who wear clothing.
One of the most poignant takeaways from The September Issue documentary was the visible frustration that Anna Wintour revealed, when she spoke of how her family doesn’t take her work seriously. It’s ridiculous that the most powerful woman in fashion is placed in a defensive position so frequently.
When women are in positions of power, and they’re featured in a women’s magazine like Vogue…they tend to be incredibly unfairly criticized. It’s an incredibly old-fashioned approach. Just because you’re in a position of power, and you look good and you enjoy fashion — does that mean you’re an idiot, or that it’s not seemly to be in a woman’s magazine? If a man is in GQ, they don’t get the same kind of criticism.
Deeply rooted cultural sexism is bad enough, but the greater irony is that fashion is frequently dismissed by feminists too. I recently found this fascinating video on sexism and friendship via Rachel. It did a great job of explaining to me how sexism is endemic within our language – how words with female associations are used as insults, for instance. These ideas go a long way to explaining to me why my “feminine” industry suffers from so much condescension. Then, at the end of the video during the question period, one of the professors, with apparent lack of self-awareness, advised her audience not to befriend women who were concerned with, to use her word, “frivolity”.
It occasionally happens to me too, and maybe you. You meet someone, explain what you do, and you instantly feel their respect for you evaporate. All of your accomplishments are reduced to mere “frivolity”. These snap judgements are often made by otherwise clever, educated, articulate people. For an intelligent person who works hard enough to enjoy some success in a competitive sector, it is maddening to be treated like you’re dumb by your contemporaries. It’s not like, when discovering someone is a journalist, you automatically assume they are an unscrupulous hack. But if you’re in fashion, the odd time you are put in the position of having to prove you aren’t a brainless bimbo… or a bitch.
Fashion is just as integral to human culture as any other creative industry. Sure, it’s just as corrupt as the rest of them. And yes, it has its fair share of mediocre players too. Still, music, art and narrative occasionally transcend, and so does fashion. Fashion people can be just as brilliant as they are beautiful – and their greatest creations play significant – and often unrecognized – roles in human history.
If you don’t understand or appreciate fashion, it would be nice if you could admit your ignorance instead of being condescending. Don’t bother trying to out-snob us. 😉