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The fine line between sex positivity and objectification within fashion

Feeling happy and comfortable in your own skin is what the fashion industry reaches for. The movement of sex positivity and objectification within fashion attempts to endorse sexual appearance and uniqueness, which the fashion industry is also working hard to do. Regardless of sexual orientation or body type, being comfortable in your skin creates a positive movement for one’s own sexuality.

When you think about it, there are enough sexist ideas about the way contemporary fashion works. For example, because women are the main target group for most fashion brands, there are suspiciously fewer jobs in fashion. The catwalks at the world’s leading Fashion Weeks, as well as high positions in large fashion companies, are occupied by men. And women certainly do not make it any easier.

The initiative to support each other as women in career growth is very small. The fashion industry has a reputation as a stressful working environment, where competition prevails. A great example is one of my favorite films, “The Devil Wears Prada”.

The long-standing practice of fashion thrives on objectifying women. In recent years this has often included, hyper-sexualizing fragrance ads, for the market’s biggest fashion brands, only aiming to appeal to their audience. There are countless examples within the past 10 years of fashion demanding women, in the name of commerce.

Just take a look at every Dov Charney ad from American Apparel. Also, we cannot forget about Tom Ford, who came out with the controversial campaign, of Gucci’s logo edged in the pubic hair of a woman. Lastly, the shocking Dolce & Gabbana 2015 advert, which was depicted as a “gang rape ad”, which portrayed a strong negative look against women.

Source: Gucci

An industry for women, designed by men

So far, I am looking at something that is mainly for women but made up of men. American fashion critic, Robin Givhan, submits that one of the possible reasons for men’s fashion success is that they approach design differently.

Despite the recent trends for gender neutrality on the catwalk, behind the scenes, female designers are still outnumbered. Women, unfortunately, are still seen as a minority, says Julie de Libran, artistic director of Sonia Rykiel. Nowadays, the fashion industry has more creative leaders that are men.

So, what is stopping women from rising to the top? Some associations are between the lack of females leading top brands and men’s dominance on senior executive positions.

The study also came up with results showing: >Family >Lack of Confidence >Less Aggressive pursuit of promotion

are aspects why women’s, career advancements have been so difficult.

Unlike women, they do not design women’s clothing “for themselves”. They are seen as just being a part of the creative process at a greater distance. Nevertheless, this work still brings also artistic value to a company, but is it impossible for more women to design? I think not!

Models also perceive sexism very strongly. It is these (and it should be noted that they are usually very young) that most often become victims of objectification in fashion campaigns. It is not difficult to recall an example of advertising that shows a model as a mere object – in a cheap pose and a paradoxically costly dress.

Sex positivity campaigns in fashion

On the contrary, I support “sex positivity” campaigns such as alternatives for fashion media. The works of nudity and sexuality are meant not to show a woman as an object of male desire, but as an independent human being who may not always look like a “doll” who has her own needs, desires and deviations. But the difference between sex positivity and objectification is as striking as it is between an artistic act and porn.

In the fashion industry, great emphasis is placed on beauty, and women around the world are outraged at how limited the global ideal of beauty is. Models are under enormous pressure to maintain a slim figure, and many of them suffer from eating disorders. Campaigns with these models, which are often not yet adults, then determine global trends and make women with absolutely normal characters feel fat and insecure.

Fortunately, this trend in today’s society is slowly changing. Social networking sites are now flooded with “plus-size” models and campaigns of well-known brands that encourage their customers to love themselves as they are.

Many brands retreat from retouching and work with “imperfections”. But it sometimes happens, that they use the keyword “feminist” as a trend, only as a marketing campaign which contradict their actions. As an example, when Zara posted an ad saying, “Love your curves” with two very thin models. Or those “We should all be feminists” T-shirts.

So, what am I trying to say? Sex positivity in just like other industries, it is evolving and should not to be constantly criticized. Therefore, I wonder if we can conclude that “plus-size” models shouldn’t have a label, but just considered models that add diversity in campaigns. We, women, need to start supporting each other.

Fashion is slowly moving in the right direction with sex and body positivity by taking vital steps towards achieving heightened inclusion The industry certainly remains a long way from being as inclusive and diverse as it should be. But, it’s impossible to deny that the calls for real change are far greater than ever before – which in itself is arguably a positive signifier.


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