Saturday, November 7, 2009

Riot Grrrl Tobi Vail on Fashion and Feminism

The ideas and activities surrounding fashion have always played a very important role in my own personal journey as a feminist. I was obviously, therefore, intrigued when I came across a blog entry about fashion and feminism by one of my favorite women, legend of the Olympia Riot Grrrl scene, Tobi Vail on her blog Jigsaw Underground.

The post was about being an anti-fashion feminist. When I first discovered feminism, I felt the somewhat natural urge to ditch the kind of fashion sensibility I had been raised on. The transition from being way-too-made-up and wearing shoes-too-tall-for-comfort to eventually basing the majority of my wardrobe on elements of practicality was a steady one although very complex. I have been the kind of person who has drooled over art and all things visual from a very young age. Expression through personal style has always been important to me and I wondered if becoming a feminist meant that I would be stripped of my right to care about being fashionable. I do accept that there is a point where fashion becomes anti-feminist but I don’t think that being a feminist means any person should disregard fashion as a form of personal expression.

Tobi mentions in her blog post that women are still generally way more concerned with the way we dress than men are. I ask the question, should we or should we not be more concerned than men? In many ways, women have an advantage when it comes to personal style; somehow, we have been given a lot more to work with than men when it comes to apparel and we are often encouraged to make bold statements through the clothes we wear. I think that this can be a positive and healthy practice! On the other hand, I fear that men have been conditioned to observe the opposite. Even though we see more men taking interest in personal style than ever before, there is still quite an undeniable double standard. The problem seems to lie mostly in fashion advertising where women are often portrayed in submissive stances. Of course, the images are largely influential in young womens adaptations of what is trendy. What should be vulgar and degrading is taught to be accepted as sexy. I wonder, if we buy into these images genuinely believing that we are doing so in appreciation of someone’s creative expertise, are we simply being naive?

Anyway, Tobi's post was interesting and got me thinking very deeply about my constantly evolving relationship with fashion. Give it a read.

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