My little sister, who is graduating high school this year, has been trying out new styles of makeup and also wants to dye her hair blue. She says that this is all in preparation for college. In a more brooding tone, she confesses "I feel like I care a lot about how I look... Is that bad?" In high school, clothes and style seem to be indispensable to one's self-worth, from the hairstyle to the shoes. Similar to my sister, many girls seem to be concerned that being too immersed in the fashion world makes them somehow not liberated, and may even hinder their chances of being successful professionally. As a woman working in the film industry, I confess that I often feel this way too. Does nurturing a sense of fashion prevent one from being a true feminist?
British journalist Kirsty Wark, in an article in The Guardian, dismisses this to be an imaginary obstacle: "Why would it be antithetical to feminism to be interested in style, in design, in line and colour and cut? Why would a desire to feel good about yourself, to look modern, be at odds with feminism? Look at Simone de Beauvoir! She looked fabulous."
The long-standing presenter for BBC's Newsnight went on to discuss her wardrobe choices in the context of her career. When asked whether or not "power dressing" ever came into play, Wark responded, "It used to. When I was first in front of the camera, a suit was a suit of armour against the world, to give gravitas. But as you get older, that gravitas comes from within."
In response to my sister's ponderings, I told her that dying her hair or putting on makeup can be a way of expressing herself, and that she shouldn't be ashamed to have fun with it - a piece of advice that I promised I would continue to give to myself. The thing is, it's quite simple to explain to girls that success and making yourself look good are not mutually exclusive. However, to make girls feel that this is true, especially concerning industries that are pre-dominantly male, is a more complex problem. Part of the solution is to provide role models like Wark, to show that there are women were once just as apprehensive, but decided to spend less time worrying about who they should be and more time just being who they are, regardless of the stereotypes that are attached to success.
sources: The Guardian
images via The Guardian, A Year Without Mirrors
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