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Old 18th October 2009   #4
MelanieW
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 441
Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

This controversy prompted the writing of an important article in the Herald de Paris newspaper:

http://www.heralddeparis.com/the-cu...ph-lauren/59446

Its a bit rambling, but nevertheless it is a damning critique of the fashion industry, and goes a long way toward explaining why the industry is institutionally thin-supermacist and anti-feminine:

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A few years ago there was an interesting article in the NY Times about fashion designers called: “In Fashion, Who Really Gets Ahead?”, by Eric Wilson. Without bringing up a whole lot that many of us didn’t already know about the fashion industry, that it is an industry dominated by gay males, the article did manage to draw a thinly veiled indictment against the leaders of this industry, namely that they perpetuate an institutional bias against women and straight men.

The author uses an analogy to the contemporary art world in New York City (or rather I should put that word in quotes, because what is produced in New York these days may be called "art", but it is by no means true art ).

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[An art-student colleague] was as straight as could be, but he admitted to me that in certain circles he allowed himself to come off as “kinda gay”. I was baffled, “kinda gay? Why?” was my response. “Dude,” he explained, “you almost have to be, I need to sell my paintings, you have to come off a certain way if you want to get in with the right crowd, to get a showing, these galleries down in Soho, they look for a certain kind of artist you know what I mean?”...I found the whole thing to be pretty funny, like something you might see in a situation comedy or an episode of Will and Grace, but as I read through the NYT article it occurred to me that this wasn’t all that funny … this was actually discrimination.

He condemns the androgynous aesthetic imposed by the fashion industry:

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[I ] am left even more baffled as I really fail to see the beauty in the emaciated sunken eyeball “on the verge of starvation” look.

As before, the issue, while perhaps funny on the surface, is really not funny at all when you consider the thousands of young women who die of anorexia every year.

You sometimes get the feeling that a lot of these fashion designers don’t really appreciate the female form, or that they perhaps even willfully try to distort it to fit their own perceptions of beauty. You hear a lot of talk from individuals who accuse the fashion industry of glamorizing the “waif” or the heroin addict or even worse, that they reduce the female figure to what appears to resemble that of a thin pre-adolescent boy. You wonder whether Eric Wilson back in December of 2005 wasn’t onto something when he accused the industry of institutionalized discrimination, mentioning at one point that from 1986 to 2005 the Perry Ellis awards had been given to 8 women and 29 men (20 of them openly gay). You wonder if the problem might not be somewhat more sinister than the flippant tone of most reports commenting on the Filippa Hamilton story.

These assertions arent the least bit exaggerated. Consider the following appalling statement, which the author cites:

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From that NYT article there is even this astonishing quote by Michael Vollbracht, the current designer of Bill Blass, who said he believed that gay man are demonstrably superior at design, their aesthetic formed by a perception of women as an idealized fantasy:

“I come from a time when gay men dressed women. We didn’t bed them. Or at least I didn’t. I am someone who is really pro-homosexual. I am an elitist. I am better than straight people. Women are confused about who they want to be. I believe that male designers have the fantasy level that women do not.”
That is so twisted, it boggles the mind that any designer would say it. The designers are treating women like inanimate objects that they can starve and torture at will - literally distort, regardless of the physical and psychological damage that this does to women.

Feminism likes to charge that heterosexual males "objectify" women, but I consider that nonsense. Even when they only appreciate women physically, at least they are appreciating something human. But these fashion designers are TRULY objectifying women, in the sense of treating them as inhuman objects to be distorted at their whim, without any thought of the consequences of their actions. Plus, they do so out of a HATRED of the female body, not an appreciation of it.


In his final section, the writer describes how toxically self-contained fashion has become. This ivory-tower mentality is at the root of much of the problem. In one interview, Crystal Renn and her interviewer discussed how the people who run fashion lack an "empathy chip". This is why. They have become so egotistically involved with their own visions that they treat models, and women in general, as irrelevant, inanimate objects, which they can deform any way they like, and get away with it. The "concentration camp" metaphor so frequently applied to this alien aesthetic takes on a whole new, frightening level of significance:

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The industry is leaving itself open to all manner of criticism, in essence facilitating the notion that it has become a self perpetuating art form that has moved past its utilitarian roots and is simply its own medium operating under its own specific parameters and its own criteria. That the creative impetus of high fashion is controlled by a select and a closed coterie and that the art form itself can only be accessed and judged within the confines of its own very specific and very distorted referents...To the ordinary fellow on the street, they see crazy outfits on crazy skinny women wearing crazy make up and walking with that crazy runway walk. Its like some sort of huge private joke.

Only...it isn’t really funny if it is in reality the picture of an industry perpetuating systematically exclusive practices. It is in no uncertain terms, institutionalized bias. It may even be un-American. If we can mandate the hiring of minority teachers to work with predominantly minority student populations, if we can rationalize moving more women into leadership roles, then we might want to think about hiring and promoting a few more women and a few more straight men to work in the fashion industry.

Between being systematically exclusionary, and outright criminal in its promotion of anorexia, this is an industry that needs strict government intervention and oversight in order to be reformed. The people who run it currently are clearly never going to change willingly, regardless of how many thousands of models, and millions of women, suffer for their amusement.
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