Realtalk: Feminism, Queen Bees and Some Statistics in Fashion
March is Women's History Month and so naturally, I've been seeing dozens of 'Women Supporting Women' articles all across the internet but I'm not here to talk about that today. I'm here to talk about the overlooked carelessness of modern feminism in the fashion industry because we're at a time when #Feminism is tagged over 6.4million times on Instagram alone yet, there's a distinctive lack of feminist realness in rl.
Unless you've been avoiding anything and everything fashion related, you'd know that Feminism has been the latest fashionable trend across the industry for the last couple of years. From Dior's "We Should All Be Feminists" shirt to Stella McCartney's "Girls Thanks" message and even Chanel's feminist 'protest' a few years earlier, many designers (and brands) have been extremely vocal in displaying their feminist slogans. But is Feminism truly alive and well? Or is it just another pseudo-feminist means to sell clothes? Hmm...
If you ask me, I'd honestly say that Feminism and the latest 'designer protest gear' are just another one of the many money-making tools that's been used to generate even more business. How else do you justify selling a $700 t-shirt with a couple of feminist messages sprawled across the front? It doesn't help that there's this general conception that you're woke if you wear a shirt that says "Feminist AF" but let's get real, real. Sporting one of those t-shirts doesn't make a feminist and they sure don't come accompanied with a 101 on all things feminism. So... are we as consumers honestly supporting the movement or are we simply buying it as an accessory to an OOTD? Yes, there's no denying that there's been an overall positive impact on raising awareness on cultural issues but how much of it is real in the industry? Are women really being empowered and supported by brands who claim they're all for feminism? Is there such a thing as a feminist fashion industry? Can feminism go hand in hand with this multi-billion dollar industry?
Let's look at some statistics gathered about women working in the industry:
In a survey ran by the Business of Fashion, they found that: "out of the 371 designers helming the 313 brands surveyed by BoF across the four fashion weeks, only 40.2 percent are female" and out of the 50 major fashion retailers, only 14 percent were run by a woman! That means there are only 149 female designers out of the 371 and a mere 7 out of 50 major fashions retailers are actually run by a woman! Yes indeed, it is particularly ironic given that female consumers contribute and consume the most out of this multi-billion dollar industry. So what's stopping women from rising to the very top of fashion? Is there a correlation between the lack of female executives at the top and men's overall dominance in this industry?
In Marianne Cooper's brilliant article on 'Why Women (Sometimes) Don't Help Other Women', she details that the 'queen bee' and the 'righteous woman' behaviour could be the reason why there's a distinctive lack of women in workplaces. The queen bee behaviour is a belief that some women distance themselves from others, refusing to help other women rise through the ranks. Meanwhile the righteous woman behaviour is a belief that there are some who have a personal moral obligation to have one other's backs - basically a one-for-all, all-for-one woman. Cooper further explains that these two behaviours are a result of an inherently sexist environment derived of issues such as double standards, gender discrimination, a lack of gender solidarity and normalised negative stereotypes amongst others. All of these factors contribute to the construction of the queen bee which in turn, continues to hinder women's progress at work.
Here's a little thought: besides being socially responsible individually (in other words please don't display queen bee behaviours!) perhaps we should all give appropriate value, respect and recognition to women and their causes - especially in such a female-driven industry. While fashion has always been about design, commerce and beauty, the fact that many brands have simultaneously trivialised and profited from this new wave of modern feminism has got me utterly perplexed. After all, Feminism is a serious movement and Fashion has always been a feminist tool throughout history. Let's hope that feminism in fashion is more than just a passing trend.