Friday, 24 June 2011

Fashion feminism and Dr Seuss (of course).

When Caitlin Moran (award winning journo, mother of two, all round good egg), who has just written a book called 'How to be a Woman' was asked :

'Is there one thing, totemic above all others, that you would regard as an indication that feminism is succeeding? What is it?

She replied :
'When a woman goes up to collect the Oscar for Best Actress in shoes that aren’t killing her. Nicole Kidman in flip-flops. That’s my end-point.'

Pretty interesting that she chose a fashion moment to sum up her entire philosophy on feminism. I haven't as yet read the book, although am dying to. In reviews I have read, Moran removes feminism from it's dusty high brow shelf filled with confusing allegories and analogies and plonks it amongst us pop-culture hoovers. She speaks in our language about subjects that we can relate to: poor beginnings, the pointlessness of brazilian waxes, why women can't just be nice to one another and why there is so much pressure for us all to sprog? She queries the entire system that women's self esteem is built upon, stating in an interview to publicise her book:

"But also if women just turned around and were honest and said I don’t give a shit, I’m not playing – I don’t care what Angelina Jolie was wearing this week, I haven’t got time to pamper myself, I don’t care if I’ve got blackheads, I don’t care if my arse is a bit spongy, I have not got time for you, you ridiculous capitalist construct, then the whole game would be fucked overnight."

Thank the lord. When on earth did we start putting all this pressure upon ourselves to be a size 0, hairless, toned within an inch of lives, hiding our pregnancies (a la Beckham) all the while pining after a pair of Louboutin shoes that frankly wouldn't be out of place on a 6ft trannie?

Before I get Moran's book, I will simply have to use the wisdom of Dr Seuss for my life lessons. Get this - his book ' The Sneetches'.

Now in it - there are Sneetches with stars on the bellies and because of these stars they think they are better than the other star-less sneetches. They have nothing to do with the plain bellied kind and feel superior - leaving the others out in the cold. Then one day a stranger arrives in town and he has a special machine that can give the star-less sneetches the elusive stars on their bellies. Well they are delighted and throw their cash at him so they can be like the superior sneetches and proudly display their star bellies, hollering that they are now the same!

Well, the original star bellied sneetches HATE this. The stranger - Mr McBean, offers them his machine - to take OFF their stars - so they can be cool and superior again and know who is who. He says that stars are no longer in style and helps them in their star removal. They throw their cash at him and then strut around - delighted to be star free - and they declare they are still the best sneetches around. The star bellies are now horrified and are desperate to become the same as the grander sneetches so they too pay Mc Bean - again - and get their stars removed... then, you can guess, it gets very messy.

Stars on, stars off, in, out, in, out. Changing stars every few minutes until no one knows who is who or was ever star/non star. But when every last cent has been spent - McBean loads up and runs off into the sunset laughing all the way to the bank. The sneetches finally realise they are ALL sneetches, no matter what they have on their tums and from that day on they all hang out together.

This tale reminds me of the fashion industry - telling us 'this is cool - no wait, THIS is now not cool. Now cool! In, Out! Get it! Be like Alexa! Wear what Beckham wears! Or Gwyneth!! Be a sheep! Follow! Spend spend spend!' The joke is on us. As we covet more and more to further prove our status and feed our material egos - the fashion houses get richer and we get more desperate. The effect has trickled down to the high street and beyond, to the supermarkets - as I read recently how stores that used to have 2 collections of clothes a year - now have 8. As fashion rages, the demand to keep with trends means we require more clothes/styles more frequently - and to meet this need - a need we are sold - clothes are being mass produced in sweat shops in third world countries not only abusing the workers who have to create them, but the environment that uses masses of water/energy to create these disposable wardrobes.

When did we become star bellied Sneetches? It reminds me slightly of people who think themselves ethically sound, energy saving green freaks and yet they think nothing of sniffing a wrap on a weekend. They cannot equate their drug taking to the trafficking of women or arms. What difference are they making with their little Friday night buzz? They don't stop to think of the consequences their actions are having further down the white line...

But I digress - not unusual for me I know. This isn't about a greener world. This is about feminism and who we are pressurised to be in today's society. I wish I could go and be a feminist with Moran in the pub. I doubt I'd be leaving sober. But maybe I'd have ditched my heels in the loos... My daughter may only be 7 months - but I'll be saving her a copy for her teen years. When I will urge her to think for herself. Ditch her inner Sneetch and tread her own path.

In flats of course. Moran I salute you.


Anonymous said...

If there are females that let society/fashion dictate what they wear, to validate their existence, then they are a fucking muppet. And as a woman I would be ashamed of you. Be yourself. Dance to the beat of your own drum. I wish there were more women, like you CM, that did just that. Sadly, we are a rare breed apparently. I love your writing.

KR said...

Hear! Hear! Well said and very well written, CM. I do feel, quite proudly, that I am halfway there on the feminist path without really knowing it, to be honest. I wish I had time to care what Angelina was wearing or even time to read the magazines that tell me what Angelina is wearing, or time to go to the shops and buy high heels / get a Brazilian? even get my greys covered and shave my arm pits at times but am far too busy doing - what? I don't know! But lots and lots of other stuff that i find far more interesting. As are you, as are most other women i choose as my friends - thank God.