Fashion and Women’s Empowerment

“Feminism is about restructuring our society such that youth, beauty, and sexual availability aren’t a woman’s most vital currency.”  — Maya Singer

In today’s generation, women are being sexualized in media and on the streets just for  the way they dress, creating a culture in which women are objects of the male desire. When we think of the word “feminine,” we often associate the word with women as attractive, which means soft skin, long curly hair and a fit body. This ideal image is a social construct of the feminine beauty. I want to argue that femininity is more than just a matter of appearances and women are more than sex objects because we have a voice. And, fashion for women is more than just clothes, it is a form of empowerment in which they can dress up for their personal enjoyment and allow themselves to feel sexy and confident without being sexually oppressed by men or being judged by other women. In my opinion, women have all the freedom to creatively express their sexuality through fashion, which means the right to put on a dress, curl their hair and put on sparkly makeup, and still be able to achieve the same goals, be as intelligent and powerful on par with men because all we want is equality and happiness.

In the book “Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism,” scholar Linda Scott challenges the notion that fashion is a way to sexually oppress women. She criticizes the idea that some women have to look modest and wear unfashionable clothes to achieve liberation and equality, since some feminists believe that the fashion industry is dominated by the male patriarchy, and it is used as a way to oppress women. Scott believes that this view of feminism is untrue, arguing, “Characterizing the beauty and fashion industry as a patriarchy has therefore never been accurate or fair. Cosmetics, in particular, have been dominated by women.” Instead she insists that a woman’s freedom of expression and sexuality based on her fashion choices are a morality of her self-presentation and a means of achieving freedom and equality. She states, “Whatever other inequalities may exist among us, they say, we are equally enjoined to push up our breasts, redden our lips, or arrange our hair.” Older feminists in the 1920s would judge a woman for looking too “dolled up” or even undergoing plastic surgery to look good, sensing the purpose is to look attractive for men. In Scott’s argument, she believes that women keep up on fashion trends or put makeup on are for the sake of their personal enjoyment rather than the male’s point of view. Scott is redefining feminism and fashion into liberation with the freedom for self-decoration and pulling away from rigid social conventions.

In my view of feminism and fashion, I agree with Scott that women should have the power and rights to freely express their physical appearance without being sexually harassed by men nor being judged by other feminists. I am arguing that the makeup or the dress that we put on has to do with how we want to be identified, not solely for the male perspective. How a woman is dressed does not give consent to rape or sexual harassment. Unless they explicitly tell you “I AM LOOKING FOR SEX,” there is no crop top, no sweater, that gives you her “ok.” To clarify, women are not just sex toys through their fashion choices, we choose fashion because it gives us a sense of empowerment, confidence, and liberty.