Friday, 22 May 2009

Magazine Bashing - EDITED

Someone told me this week that Glamour magazine had published a list of the 50 best employers for women in the UK. So I bought it for the first time in ages. I really wish I hadn't!

I have to admit, I have bought it before - it's very little, so it's relatively convenient for train journeys and stuff like that. Unfortunately it appears that in creating a pint sized mag, Conde Nast have succeeded in doing away with any kind of intelligence or depth along with the excess pulp (if you absolutely have to read a mainstream fashion mag, make it Marie's still rubbish, but is trying not to be).

I really shouldn't knock the "Best Bosses" feature, as it is well-intentioned, but I have to: because it is terribly researched. For example, it states that Enterprise Rent-a-Car's board of directors is 56% women. Great...except I happen to know that those women are all the daughters of the chairman of the company. I can't comment on their ability, but it's irrelevant because it didn't get them the gig. Furthermore, this is a company that employs graduates to the seemingly business-orientated management programme and requires them to clean out cars, and graft till 9pm. (Insider info!)

There is also a faux thoughtful article about domestic violence, with the now uncomfortably familiar photo of popstar Rihanna's bruised face making up most of the content. Much of this article states the obvious, and turns into cliche: women stay with their abusive partners too long, they have no self-confidence, they think things are going to get better. "Experts" back this up - yeah, so? We know all this already, don't we? The ground isn't breaking here. The article ends pretty prematurely with a rather impotent word of warning: once a hitter, always a hitter...but hey, those "real" people that we interviewed escaped and are now amazingly happy, so you can be too! No mention of where women can go to get help, no real and non-idealistic statistics, and absolutely no understanding of the realities of the situation. Just waffle about a topic that I suspect they don't have the confidence to get stuck into, so just skim the surface instead which is frankly insulting to victims of domestic abuse and valueless to all others.

Turn to page 121 (irony!) and there's another serious and investigative piece on the topic of female teachers sexually abusing their pupils. This isn't an easy issue to tackle, I admit, and Glamour seriously shouldn't have bothered trying.
The Times magazine actually published a far superior investigation on the subject back in March...actually worth reading. What I learned from Glamour was that a) not only attractive women commit these crimes, contrary to popular belief , ugly ones do it too, and b) that women receive less harsh sentences for the crimes than their male counterparts. Oh, and the boys don't actually benefit from the abuse long term, just in case we thought they did. Again, I don't think we'll be stopping the press...although I wish someone at Conde Nast had.

The rest of this post has been removed. So much for freedom of speech.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Fashion and Feminism

People often ask me - as a feminist - what my feelings on the fickle world of fashion are, probably expecting me to wax lyrical about consumerism and the skinny model debate. Don't get me wrong, I do think there's a murky side to the fashion industry and the impact it has had on global attitudes towards body image is something to be debated. However, like any successful industry the murky is paired with the positive.

I don't think its a bad thing for women to care about what they put on their bodies - in many ways dressing can prove a rewarding exercise in self expression. Women in the 80's adorned themselves in vivid colour and clad their shoulders in armour-like padding...the term "power dressing" was hence coined to describe women's clothing and fashion as a whole being significant of something other than attracting a man.

It's often said that women dress for other women rather than men (your typical man tends to appreciate women taking their clothes off rather than putting them on) and I think that's true. I think its also wrong to assume that if a woman cares about her appearance, it means there is less inside the vessel than within it. Take the Suffragettes and in particular Emmeline Pankhurst. These women were constantly goaded by the press and charicatured as mannish and animalistic. Yet there is no evidence to suggest that the Suffragettes dressed any differently than the average woman of the day, in other words, in an extremely constrictingly feminine manner. Emmeline Pankhurst herself was said to have taken great pride in her appearance and dressed immaculately. And why not?

Surely embracing femininity is about embracing everything about womanhood, outside and in? Michelle Obama's recent inception into the public eye proves that a woman can use her wardrobe to actually help endorse the image she wants and communicate a message. Obama has championed unknown and often mixed race designers as well as favouring low cost stores, solidifying the image of her as a responsible and intelligent human being.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to learn this week that Vivienne Westwood has named Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud as the new "face" of her label. This pleased me because I have often been bemused at Roberts' treatment as the "ginger one" or - more offensively - the "ugly one" - it's nice to see someone who has grown up in the public eye from a teenager hell bent on caking herself in fake tan and dyeing her hair, begin to embrace her natural colouring and blossom with it. In the vein of my last piece on Tilda Swinton, I think we should be encouraging women to embrace their individuality and designers like Westwood - who has always pushed the envelope - should be commended for at least trying to move away from the fashion mould and we should all take note of these new fashion icons.

To that end, I'd like to draw your attention to a friend of mine's new collection of bespoke pieces - a shameless plug if I may! I know that a number of you click through here from my friend Susie's fantastic Style Bubble so you have an interest in all things a la mode anyway and Jane Molloy at Get Clobbered's stuff has always reminded me of Westwood-esque quirk and individuality. Jane makes beautiful one off pieces that she sources the materials for from charity shops and thrift stores...have a peek!