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When Did Feminism Become a Fashion Statement?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KCL chapter.

If you’re wondering what the true price of feminism in today’s society is, may I suggest the affordable sum of £490? Seems steep? Not according to Dior, who will soon be releasing a cotton t-shirt emblazoned with Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie’s much loved phrase, ‘We Should all be Feminists, as part of their Spring 2018 collection. Of course, our lower end retailers have quickly followed suit, with every outlet now offering up cutesy crop tops bearing messages like ‘The Future is Female’, ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like’ and even ‘My Boyfriend is a Feminist’. But I can’t help wondering as I rifle through the clothing racks, should feminism really be a fashion statement?

From Adichie being sampled in Beyoncé’s ‘Flawless’ to Emma Watson speaking out at the UN, it’s clear to see that feminism’s gone pop. Being a feminist is no longer greeted with the horrified gasps it once was (well… most of the time anyway) but rather with interest; being a feminist is cool. Well, at least according to our televisions. Dove now teaches us love our bodies through their ad campaigns whilst Always tells us it’s okay to act like a girl’. But with every ad suddenly jumping on the feminist bandwagon, we have to wonder if it’s really change being promoted, or just products. It seems we’re told feminism is fantastic and that we can achieve anything… as long as our hair is shiny and our skin is cellulite free. Sure, be a feminist and conquer the world, but make sure you’re wearing Dove as you do it.

Any movement promoting feminism is openly celebrated on social media, after all, we all love to retweet these moments of empowerment, making ourselves look more ‘woke’ in the process. So, with the simple printing of a slogan on a t shirt it’s no surprise that people are praising Dior as more heroic than haute couture. But are we forgetting the legacy the fashion industry has left us prior to this fashion show? After all, it was only in 2014 that Dior had Sofia Mechetner, aged just 14 at the time, work their catwalk in a sheer dress.

This is not an anomaly. Dior and other major fashion labels have always promoted these pre-pubescent body types as their ideal precisely because they are unattainable for 99% of women. Designers say no to hips and thighs but yes to protruding hipbones; is that a message for all women and their empowerment? The sad truth is, in this profit driven industry, the more inadequate we feel the more desperately we cling to these arbiters of style, buying their products to compensate for our imperfect bodies. We’re told to buy our insecurities away.

But Dior is feminist now right? Things must have changed for the better?

I have to admit, I can hardly argue that promoting feminism itself is bad. With figures like Rihanna and A$AP Rocky donning Dior’s design, we can see that feminism is not the bra-burning, man-hating movement it once was. Feminism is modern. Feminism is fashionable. With young people proudly showing their beliefs literally on their sleeves we can dispel the idea that women’s views should be kept private and in the kitchen where they belong. But at the same time, we should question whether we’re wearing these tees to make a difference in society or just to make a difference to our Instagram likes. Are we just buying into the consumers who profit from our insecurities? Is being a feminist as simple as throwing on cute top? Ultimately, are we participating in a movement or just participating in consumerism? Let us know your thoughts

Lucy is a 21 year old English Literature student at King's College London. Originally from the Devonian countryside she's navigating her way through London now one overpriced coffee shop at a time. The rest of the time you'll most likely find her: under a pile of books at the library, shopping or schooling people on feminsim. 
King's College London English student and suitably obsessed with reading to match. A city girl passionate about LGBTQ+ and women's rights, determined to leave the world better than she found it.