Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fashion-as-shallowness is a sexist construction

Shallow Gals By Phoebe Maltz

A pet peeve of mine is the belief, common among those who consider themselves intellectuals, that an interest in fashion (broadly defined, as in, could be designers, could be well-arranged thrift-store duds) takes something away from a person’s intelligence, such that each trip to H&M knocks another shelf’s worth of Hegel and Heidegger out of one’s brain. But even beyond tweedy circles, admitting to thinking about what you wear, beyond situation-appropriateness, is considered suspect. Thus the platitudes about books, covers, and under what circumstances one is and is not allowed to judge.

So, a hypothesis, one I’m sure I’m not the first to make, but one that needs making: caring about clothes is seen as dumb because it’s seen as - and often enough is - something typical of women, something men find dull. (The cliché about taking a yawning guy shoe-shopping? Based on heaps and heaps of fact.) When a serious male political blogger has a post every so often about sports, he shows his real-person side. When a female blogger takes a break from Important Questions to post a link to a shiny pair of ballet flats, she has effectively declared herself the ditsiest sorority girl on the beach at Cancun. (It was with this hypothesis in mind that I recently defended the indefensible.)

It could be, as Rita proposed, that "Blogging about fashion usually means blogging about your fashion–it indirectly reveals things about your body, your income, your friends–in sum, your private life. And when the snipers come out, it makes some sense that they’ll take aim not at the shoes, but at you, since you have armed them with all the relevant information and personal insults hurt more." (Yes, sounds familiar.) The same could well be true of interest in fashion expressed off-line.

But I still think there’s something to the idea that fashion-as-shallowness is a sexist construction, albeit one traditional feminism has embraced. Rather than encouraging men to cook meals as well, we as a society embraced crappy food. Rather than asking men to care about their own appearances, we as women protested and put on some snowboots that shall not be named.

There’s no reason fashion should be considered shameful or idiotic. How we dress is a form of self-expression, one among many, not merely a surface underneath which our ‘true’ selves lie. Aside from young children and the very poor - groups, incidentally, often excluded from other forms of self-expression as well - everyone has some choice in what they wear. Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2009 at 11:11 pm and is filed under Ideas. 24 Responses to “Shallow Gals” Pages: [1] 2 3 » Show All

WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US WHINE? from Dr. Sanity by Dr. Sanity
Heather MacDonald asks today's feminist movement a rather pertinent question:

Which is it? Are women “strong”? Or can they be crushed by fears of a permanent bad hair day and inspired by something as superficial as Hollywood fashion? Given the amount of time and money that most women spend on applying makeup, blow-drying their hair, shopping for clothes, and gullibly attending to preposterous wrinkle-cream ads in women’s magazines, Angier’s claim that girls could be thwarted by a TV comedy is not wholly unreasonable. It just happens to contradict the usual feminist claim that women are just as tough as men.


  1. thinking it's sexist to believe that fashion is petty is the true problem, actually.it's sexist to link women to fashion. what we look like does not matter, it's who we are and what we do. unless we make our own clothing, fashion is not a true form of expression (i hope that we can all agree that society has better things to devote valuable resources such as time to creating original wordrobes). fashion IS petty, and it does not matter whether it's a man or a woman who's obsessed with it.

  2. it is sexist to think that women and fashion are linked. fashion is not a true form of expression--do we all make our own clothes? no, because if society did, (hopefully) we can agree that the valuable resource time would be greatly wasted. fashion is merely vanity, which is an amazing waste of talent and intelligence. who we are matters, not what we look like or wear.