Sexism in Fashion: Modeling

By: Andre G.

The fashion industry is quite a force to be reckoned with: with over billions of dollars in annual revenue globally, there is not a single American who is not in someway affected by decisions made by members of the fashion industry. It is a gargantuan enterprise comprised of nearly countless components that dates back centuries ago in a multitude of cultures around the world. In almost all cultures, past and present, it is typically the woman who is associated with being fashionable, with beauty, etc. Now more than ever are women’s faces used to represent fashion as a whole as models (while there are prominent male models in the industry, their role is completely shadowed by that of women.

The modeling industry is just a byproduct of the fashion industry that is a prime promoter of gender stereotyping. There are numerous examples of said industry banking off of the female body:

Victoria’s Secret fashion shows are well known throughout the world and especially within the fashion world. Only the ‘cream of the crop,’ are selected, women who perfectly fit the traditionally beautiful image society places upon women: large breasts, long flowing hair, long legs, perfect skin, the list goes on. These women get paid millions of dollars to strut their stuff down runways in front of hundreds of audience members and millions of worldwide viewers, in part to sell the product (and only in part) and also to appeal to men. In the industry, women are prized for their face and walking skills, never for their mind or personality and very rarely for their humanitarian, scientific (it does happen) artistic accomplishments that exist OFF the runway. An example is top model Liya Kebede who has worked her ass off for women and children health care in ethiopia, but one wouldn’t know that when her advertised qualities are only physical.

While the industry itself if the main culprit, Liya Kebede’s participation and acceptance is also a contributing factor.

The clothes themselves, predominantly in the industry (among many exceptions but not necessarily widely known), are created to emphasize women’s body features that can translate into qualities of the mind: pretty colors, breast emphasis, luxurious fabrics, and advertisements follow suit fulling marketing the female body (and men’s too of course). In recent years the concept of “boyfriend dressing,” has arisen. It’s basically women wearing clothes marketed towards women based of men’s clothes that are marketed towards men. In advertisements, you might see a woman doing poses to show strength, sometimes valiance, but it’s always in the context as a woman pretending to be a man, as if the only way a woman can show strength, honor, masculine-associated concepts is through behaving, looking like a man.

Furthermore, the concept of “boyfriend dressing,” emphasizes a casual attitude via slouchy fits, comfortable but not necessarily luxurious fabrics, etc. This says that women should be prim, poised, the opposite of comfortable unless they choose to participate in dressing like their boyfriend. With all of this in mind, the fashion industry, in many instances, pushes a gender defined society in which men and women are free to cross to and fro between genders as long as it is clearly defined as to which one they are participating. The fashion industry also promotes racism on numerous occasions, but that is another blog entry.


This entry was posted in Section 2, Winter 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

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