For Feminist Fashionistas, Has Modesty Become the Best Policy?

Source: Unsplash

When it comes to gender politics within the fashion industry, equality is only as deep as the pockets on your average pair of skinny jeans. Designers continue to break down barriers dictated by the gender binary. However, the persistent pocket disparity — men’s apparel features many spacious compartments, while most women’s styles don’t have any at all — demonstrates that when creating women’s clothing, form still outweighs function, highlighting the latent sexism that remains.

However, as the decade wears on, one specific trend has begun to emerge, indicating that women might be hoping to reclaim comfort and promote feminism simultaneously.

According to The New York Times’ recent feature, modesty has made its triumphant return. Vanessa Friedman writes that long sleeves and ankle-length hemlines now dominate the industry because, as we move into the last years of this decade, fashion now serves as the surrogate for our social and political discontent. Friedman explains that “clothes are an integral part of the debate over the freedom to make your own choices — whether about what you do with your body or who touches your body or what you put on your body.” Clothing still acts as an alternative mouthpiece, much like it has throughout history, except its message has changed dramatically thanks to the current state of affairs.

Source: Getty Images

Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the innovation group at J. Walter Thompson, tells Friedman that the emerging trends exist in an effort to “reject the strictures of the male gaze.” While women once saw plunging necklines and transparent fabrics as vessels for embracing their sexuality, they’ve come to recognize that such styles ultimately put them on display in ways that contradict their underlying intentions.

“They are not about what men want anymore, but about what women want,” Greene adds. After years of embracing styles spawned by the male libido, women are opting for clothes that cater to comfort and security. Because, while comfort supports increased confidence, security provides strength in an era where women are still perceived as weak and inferior.

By gravitating toward modest styles, women are taking their bodies back. From Hillary Clinton’s symbolic suffragette white pantsuits, to the pussycat hats of the Women’s March on Washington, women’s clothing needs no comment for these choices speak for themselves. Fashion statements abound, but not in the ways we’ve come to expect. Instead of waiting for the next red carpet blunder or wardrobe malfunction, women now feel both fashionable and comfortable as they trade their crop tops for button downs.

Source: Getty Images

As Michael Kors, the esteemed designer, told The New York Times, he’s “convinced that there is something far more alluring about women wearing things that give them confidence, that don’t make them feel as if they have to tug at their hemlines or yank at their straps.”

While some women dress to impress men, and others dress to impress their female peers, many now focus solely on dressing for their own benefit. They’ve replaced their high heels with ballet flats because they regain balance both literally and figuratively when they’re on solid ground. They’ve traded their mini dresses for pencil skirts because they no longer feel they must flaunt their sexuality in order to command their femininity. Of course, while no woman should feel compelled to conceal her body because she fears the advances of predatory men, modest styles promise to empower women to be who they are, not who others wish them to be.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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Amy Schumer’s Beach Body Isn’t Up for Discussion

Source: InStyle Magazine

Body shamers typically emerge from their turtlenecks around this time of year. They shed their down parkas and fur-lined boots just in time to judge those who feel comfortable in their own skin. Dana Duggan, swimsuit designer for South Shore Swimwear, started the season off with a splash when she decided to attack Amy Schumer’s recent swim-inspired InStyle magazine spread. Duggan took to the publication’s Instagram account to publicly voice her ugly opinion regarding May’s “beauty issue” cover model.

“Come on now! You could not find anyone better for this cover? Not everyone should be in a swimsuit,” Duggan wrote under the guise of her swimwear brand, no less.

Schumer appears on the cover wearing a white, one-piece Ralph Lauren swimsuit, and it’s not hard to see that she’s looking her best and loving her life from that image alone. Duggan’s comment, however, contradicts the issue’s overall message by fixating on the fact that Schumer—like most American women—isn’t your average model. Many followers responded by reminding Duggan that Schumer’s a real woman with a real body, and that bodies of all shapes and sizes are beautiful in their own way. Unlike traditional models, Schumer represents the everywoman, and that’s refreshing to see in today’s sea of size 2s. Her confidence demonstrates that women don’t have to be stick-thin to be gorgeous. She’s beautiful without feeling the need to conform to society’s preconceived notions of perfection.

While Duggan went on to defend her claims that Schumer looks “like a pig” by citing the first amendment, she also told The Huffington Post that she’s “tired of the media and publications trying to push the FAT agenda. It’s not healthy and it’s not pretty. What is wrong with featuring healthy and fit cover models?”

But it’s in that statement alone that she proves her opinions are motivated by nothing more than pure ignorance. She cannot assess Schumer’s health from this or any image, and she cannot claim this cover supports the so-called “fat” agenda when Schumer’s size 6-8 frame doesn’t even come close to the average American woman’s dress size. (Hint: It’s 16.) We’ve cultivated an acidic attitude toward female body image that’s permeated our society to its core.

Many believe women should maintain an unattainable visual aesthetic in order to satisfy the public’s gaze. Even though much has changed in recent years, such societal pressures still remain.

Luckily, thanks to magazine covers and other such public displays of defiance, we now see images that reinforce the idea that beauty isn’t only skin deep. We now praise women for their actions, not their appearance. And those who still face judgment over their looks no longer back down in the face of criticism. Instead, they stand up for themselves and for others in an effort to command the respect they deserve.

True beauty lies with our diversity, but we are still too stuck on conformity to recognize the best of what’s before us. Perhaps, if we’re constantly confronted with cover models that look more like Schumer, we will finally come to see and accept the beauty already in our midst.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

When Empowering Young Girls, Actions Speak Louder Than T-Shirts

“Girl Power” isn’t some new concept—just ask the Spice Girls. But it’s certainly gained new momentum since the 2016 presidential election, as Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss to Donald Trump stunned the nation. In an era where unqualified misogynists can still gain the upper hand, it’s become increasingly important to teach young girls to go high even when “the man” tries to drag them low.

Yet, while our overall efforts are commendable, we need to take things to the next level. We need to stop talking and start doing.

Source: The Children’s Place

Source: The Children’s Place

Recently, The Children’s Place made an admirable attempt to bring girl power to the elementary set with an empowering line of feminist tees and tanks. Each piece features words and images that aim to bridge the otherwise glittery gender gap. They encourage girls to pursue male-dominated professions and forge their own path to success. Much like the inspirational quotes that litter Instagram, however, reciting such mantras and living their truth are two entirely different animals.

We can dress our daughters and nieces in pantsuits from the minute they’re born, and shout daily affirmations into the void the second they learn to speak, but our behavior will mean nothing if we don’t occupy these positions of power ourselves. Like those of minority races and religions, seeing yourself in the eyes of someone else helps you envision your own potential. We need to present young girls with role models that bring these ambitions to life. We need to be the women they look up to when they seek guidance.

Shirts may boost their confidence, but they’ll only learn to lead if they have worthwhile examples to follow.

Just as Hillary Clinton emphasized during her speech last week, change will only come if we get involved now—resist, insist, persist, enlist.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Will We Ever Close the Gender Pay Gap?

openingremarks26__01a__630x420By 2020, the U.S. Treasury expects to replace Alexander Hamilton’s spot on the $10 bill with the face of an unidentified woman. But, as The Daily Show correspondent, Jessica Williams, highlighted during an episode of the Comedy Central news program, this gesture seems like an ineffective, and relatively pathetic, attempt to appease female critics. “Honestly, at the end of the day, I don’t [care] about who’s on the bill. What I do care about is getting an equal share of the bill. I’d rather have 10 full Hamilton dollars than $8.45 of lady bucks,” Williams noted.

But, as most understand, equal signs and dollar signs rarely align when it comes to median annual income across the country. According to one recent report by the American Association of University Women, the gender wage gap has made some strides over the last 40 years. In 1973, women made 57 cents for every man’s dollar, but as of 2013, women now make 78 cents for every man’s dollar.

While these figures illustrate significant progress, there’s still much to be done. As of 2013, male median income averaged $50,033 per year, while women earned only $39,157 per year. Younger women, ages 20-24, currently earn an average 90 cents for every man’s dollar, which also signals potential progress, but by age 35, median income growth slows considerably for female employees, as they earn only 75-80 cents for every man’s dollar until they reach retirement. Many cite educational and experiential differences as primary drivers behind such disparities, but even when both factors are comparable, the gap still persists. For women of color, these disparities are even worse.

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