Wednesday, 17 December 2014

how did 50 years of feminism end in THIS?

On 4th December, the Daily Mail published an article by Sarah Vine titled "How did 50 years of feminism end in this?" In it Vine explains why she believes that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is more regressive for feminism than Miss World. Now, I know what you're thinking why am I reading the Daily Mail anyway? Surely it's a recipe for getting unnecessarily angry? What more could you expect from the Mail except the spreading of illogical information on feminism? However, my mum always gives me articles that she thinks I'll be interested in reading, and this happened to be the latest one.


My first issue with the piece is that Vine's opening sentence trivialises feminism, "equality is...no excuse not to brush your hair." I get it. I opened the piece on feminism for my school magazine not in a dissimilar way. It is difficult to address Daily Mail readers about feminism without alienating them completely. However, Vine's derogatory attitude towards the 'stereotypical' feminist- "it is perfectly possible to make it in a man's world without looking like one"- contrasts starkly to her criticisms of the Victoria's Secret models, who, according to Vine are perfectly groomed solely for the pleasure of men.


Personally, I’ve always thought of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show as a fashion event. It’s one thing to have the attention of fashion experts and interested teens and another entirely for a gross old man to watch the show and leer at the models whilst touching himself when it’s broadcast on American television. Despite this, the whole idea of feminism is about not having to change our behaviour to “suit” male reaction.


She refers at one point to the models as “female flesh”, suggesting that that is how the models are perceived by the outside world, especially to men. However, I look at them and I see successful and empowered models with personality. The idea of models being “female flesh” is repulsive. Vine states that it is “hard to tell them [the models] apart.” Um, excuse me, have you SEEN Magdalena?!


The comparison to Miss World and the suggestion that Victoria’s Secret makes the former look “almost sweet in its innocence” I also believe to be incorrect. Miss World is about pitting women against each other, breeding animosity between women and breaking down feminism by damaging the unspoken sisterhood. Of course the modelling industry is just as cutthroat, but the Victoria’s Secret show itself is fun and the models are not competing for any title.


However, one point that I’d like to discuss/look into more is the idea that society has coerced women into believing that expression of sexuality is empowering, but that that idea is just another tool used by the patriarchy to keep women in their “role.” Nonetheless, this idea, along with many ideas concerning feminism and gender roles is very heteronormative. Personally, I don’t want to over think it too much because I believe that what we find empowering is down to the individual. I don’t want to stop making myself look nice because I’m worried that it’s just the effects of society “brainwashing” me.


Overall, the article belittles the fashion industry and the women who work within it as dumb, vain and undeserving of any recognition they get. YAWN: that opinion is so old. Furthermore, Vine’s criticism of both ‘stereotypical’ feminists and women who work hard on their appearance limits the choices that women have. Feminism is all about choice. We should be allowed to live our lives how we want without any other voice telling us we’re being “too masculine” or dressing/acting to “please men.” Sometimes I don’t shave for a while. Sometimes I diet. Both of those things are my personal choices and I shouldn’t be seen as a crazy radical or a vanity obsessed bimbo for either of them because it’s nobody else’s business. What I really want to know is how 50 years of feminism has ended in women still being criticised by society for their own personal choices, no matter what those may be.

16 comments:

  1. this was sooooooooo good; i loved your last line: it doesn't make sense to take a feminist stance while imposing your preference on the lives of other women. i feel like a lot of times people assume feminism is about gaining this or taking this- but at it's core it's about freedom, both freedom from patriarchal standards, and freedom of choice over your life! also i totally agree, fashion as stupid is ridiculously overdone. i just laugh when people say that because literally why do you think you're wearing the clothes that you're wearing right now, why do you think it's so easy to identify a time period by their clothing? because fashion is important- but there's also this rush to classify anything that's seen as feminine as vain and dumb. whatever- thank you for writing this blog post.

    // kani
    velveteenstyle.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much! Your comment basically adds a bunch of points that would have been great to put in the post haha x

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  2. It has easily attracted me to read the entire article because I'm interested in all things VS, but this is surprisingly better than what I expected. I have to say that I agree in everything that you say, and that this is the most intellectual thing I've read in the entire fashion blogosphere. Cheers!

    http://www.lilmissbianca.blogspot.com

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    1. Aww that's so kind of you. Thank you x

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  3. This is post is great, I feel the exact same way! I can't believe that a feminist writer would use the word "feminazi' how would anyone take this article seriously? I love the last line of this post, basically sums up my feelings towards this as well.

    melissaknottstyle.blogspot.co.uk x

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  4. While I personally am not a fan of the VS shows ,not because I find them anti-feminist simply because this type of fashion doesn't appeal to me, I cannot believe that someone would classify it as such, that people still do not understand that the movement isn't about turning every girl into a scientist, an engeener or an astraunot, but simply about everyone being able to do what they want to with their life without being criticised for it because of their gender. I couldn't agree more with what you said in the end of your post. I hope that this Daily Mail writer hears about and read your article, which is very well written by the way !

    Charlie xx
    http://charlieleschroniques.blogspot.fr/

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    1. I love the spectacle of the VS shows, but I am not a fan of how commercial they are and think the angels are beautiful and inspirational but also cheesy and overrated. I sent this to the Daily Mail and they published it! x

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  5. It's hardly a fashion show. It's more like a parade and the models are just human floats. It's pageantry, spectacle. . .nothing to do with life.

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    1. Isn't every fashion show just pageantry, spectacle and nothing to do with life? Some may be more artistic and/or political than others but at the end of the day business is business and clothes need to be sold. At least VS try to have fun by making their shows such a spectacular event.

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  6. I'm glad you such a clear understanding of what feminism really is and not this distorted idea that repressive society wants you to believe it is. I completely agree with you. I think a woman should have a choice how she expresses herself. Whether that means she is highly sexual or very conservative. A woman has just as much a right to be a stay-at-home mom as she does to be a CEO. Both the Miss World competition and the VS fashion show bring up these great points. I really don't mind beauty pageants/fashion shoes themselves, but more what they cause. Women (and men) idolizing a certain beauty "ideal" isn't going to help us progress. It's only going to cause more dissent among people who should be helping each other.

    Theatricality by Mariah

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    1. Thank you. I completely agree with you. VS does definitely promote this false notion of "ideal" beauty which can have a damaging effect, but I think once you step back and accept that you are you, with your own unique strengths and assets, and not a VS angel then the problem diffuses for the individual. Nonetheless that is easier said than done and continues to have wider implications on society as a whole x

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  7. I agree with most of what you say but I do think that we need to acknowledge the backlash in our culture that sexualizes us at a very young age which detracts girls from viewing themselves as anything more than the physical. If journals of girls a century ago are compared to those of today, the shift to preoccupation with appearance and comparing to others is evident.

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    1. I agree with you. I don't remember being aware of VS until a couple of years ago, but I certainly remember worrying about my appearance/weight at a very young age. I think that there has been enough progress in the media for young girls to view themselves as more than physical "objects", but we still have a long way to go x

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  9. This is such a fabulous article. I've even shared it in my school's feminist group on Facebook. At first, I was a little bit like "where is she going with this" but by the end of the article, your opinion was utterly convincing and ultimately correct. I just wish there was an equivalent men's show...

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