Why Fashion Bloggers Need Feminism


Feminism and fashion had always made for an uncomfortable mix. That said, women have always played a role in fashion. Designers, editors, photographers, models, have always been “acceptable” occupations for women. Yet, even Anna Wintour, the most powerful person in fashion, is not the  the CEO of Condé Nast. Charles Townsend is.

It wasn't until blogging was invented that women had the final word in steering the conversation about fashion. Bloggers have shed light on overlooked topics like the developing plus size community for one, and the accessibility of fashion for another. As bloggers, we have the power to put our own images out there, write our own commentary and share it with our own audience. We can call the shots on our own careers and become whatever we wish to work towards.

That's pretty amazing, no?

We have the opportunity to direct the conversation about the image of women in the media, because we're creating those images. Which is why, now more than ever, we need feminist principles to make sure we don't waste this opportunity.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but in my life of 38 years, I've never been more keenly aware of feminism as the last 18 months. Perhaps it's because I'm about to have a baby, and perhaps it's because I own a business. Perhaps it's because women like Marissa Meyer and Sheryl Sandberg are making the news with their success, because India's problems with gender inequality and rape are coming to a head, because CNN showed compassion for the rapists rather than the victim in Steubenville, or that Samsung launches their phones showing women more concerned about wet nails than new technology, or that women at tech conferences can get fired for outing inappropriate jokers, or the New York Times T magazine editor declares the end of “slut clothes” to promote an article about the “modesty trend.” The list goes on, and on.

It appears that we as a society have not yet resolved our collective issues about successful women, women who stand up for themselves, or even that pesky binary classification system of female archetypes.

So what's this have to do with blogging?

This morning on Twitter, a series of tweets from the Lucky FABB conference exploded when Kelly Osborne stated:

Sure, she was recounting advice from her mother, and was talking about show business. Jugging from the tweets, she had a lot of nice things to say about supporting other bloggers. However, the soundbite took off, and no one seemed to have a problem with this piece of advice, even if it might be in jest. But the signifies a very real problem that women who want to achieve success face:

Do you want to get ahead by pleasing others and being called a whore, or by getting things done and being called a bitch?

Sheryl Sandberg addresses this in her book, Lean In, “‘She is very ambitious' is not a complement in our culture. Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct… Female accomplishments come at a cost.”  A cost which Sandberg paid by enduring a firestorm of criticism when publishing this book (which was very good, by the way.) Osborne noted ambition and achievement's costs were being at the very least labeled a bitch or a whore, if not actually meaning it.

“‘She is very ambitious' is not a complement in our culture. Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct… Female accomplishments come at a cost.”~Sheryl Sandberg

The thing is, we see it all the time in our community. Successful bloggers endure criticism, anger and jealousy from our own community… sometimes justified, often times not. We shy away from business because we're afraid to negotiate, or afraid of being seen as to “business minded.” We hide our desires to achieve great things with our hard work by declaring any success as just “luck.” We put up a facade of glitter and cupcakes, when in reality, there is so much more going on behind the scenes.

Maybe it's just me, but perpetuating stereotypical archetypes, tearing down other bloggers, shying away from achieving, and not owning success are very much feminist issues, issues we have the power to change. We have the power to shape our own images and our own futures.

The feminists before us made it possible for us to choose a career, and to shape our own lives. They've built up a wealth of theory and pointed out issues and injustices in our culture. It would be a shame not to adapt principles of equality, achievement and success into an industry we've worked so hard to build.

[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]


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26 Responses

  1. Lauren // thepearshape

    Very, very well said. I think that given the platform that we as bloggers have, and the amount of female readership we command, it is our DUTY to put out content that is positive towards women and not perpetuate the “women bashing women” trend, or the notion that women are not interested or capable of success. Sheryl Sandberg has wonderful advice but even she isn’t relatable to the average woman. We as bloggers, big or small, have a captive audience, and I look forward to seeing the continuation of women encouraging the success of their peers.

  2. Ashe

    “The feminists before us made it possible for us to choose a career, and to shape our own lives. They’ve built up a wealth of theory and pointed out issues and injustices in our culture. It would be a shame not to adapt principles of equality, achievement and success into an industry we’ve worked so hard to build.”

    Yes! I think when you’re a young woman, it’s hard to feel connected to feminism, because you’re still learning what life is like as a woman on your own. As I’ve gotten older, especially in the last year or two, equality, women’s rights, and shared success (and burdens) have become more important to me as well.

    I want to create my own narrative; I want to help others create theirs, and I want us to both know we can be successful in doing so, at the same time, without competition or hard feelings.

    • Jennine Jacob

      I agree… I think I took feminism for granted because superficially, it looked like I could do anything I wanted. My mother has a great career, and chose not to stay at home… it seemed like feminism sussed itself out and we didn’t need to think about it anymore. Now it’s more subtle.

      And it’s even more important to create your own narrative to help address the subtleties that are ultimately holding us all back.

      • Mia

        “I think I took feminism for granted ”
        That’s the really scary part about feminism nowadays and it scares me how disrespectful young women talk about elder generations without acknowledging on whose shoulders they’re standing, but at the same time enjoying the freedom those generations built.

      • Ashe

        Mia, I think it’s scary, but I can only hope that those young women, like me, just haven’t lived enough to figure out what feminism means to them. That they haven’t had the experiences to prove that they’re…well, living a naive and privileged life.

        I think it’s when we have to stand on our own that we become more grateful for those who came before us and the strides they made, but also make us scared about the generations to come as well!

  3. Marci

    Great post! I think the shift has already begun. We will see a majority or at least a good representation of women in tops position as the majority of women help and support each on the way up. No one got to the top without some help, whether it be a ladder, sherpa or a high heel.

  4. Donna

    I once had a man (on a date no less) ask me, “Why does a pretty girl like you want to work so much?” I couldn’t understand what he meant at the time, I couldn’t understand what the difference was between myself and him. I’ve been following Sheryl Sandberg’s speeches and find them fascinating. I’ve watched my mom run a construction company for 30 years, and attribute the success to my dad when (now that I work there) I see that nothing is done without her. Funny enough, my mother raised 3 daughters to be the exact opposite of her; women who take charge of their lives, work for themselves, and don’t take less than the best. I think we need to find a new term, rather than use Feminism, it has gotten a negative connotation that I believe we need to get away from. Why not start a new women’s movement? Make it current, make it real, make it respected by men and women and children. Women now have the capability of being whatever they want to be, and I think this generation, starting with bloggers, knows that. Leandra Medine said something that I think encapsulates the blogging era and those women in it, that “we are the entreprenuerial generation, we couldn’t land the jobs we wanted so we created them.” We are brilliant, overeducated and overqualified and we are taking the world by storm. Maybe this generation is ready for the shift that Sandberg is talking about, maybe we’re done watching our male counterparts take the credit and the promotion, maybe this generation of younger women is the shift in status. I think it is, I know I’m reaching for nothing but the top. See you ladies there.

  5. Kate

    YES! I am constantly proving that feminists can be into fashion and that fashion blogging can be feminist. I love hearing that others agree with me and even see it as a necessary part of being a blogger.

    Kate from Clear the Way

  6. Rachelle P

    What a great post Jennine! and so true we must not take the work of the feminist before us for granted. Without them our lives would be a lot different.

  7. Bike Pretty

    Great post!
    Thank you so much for bringing up this topic. Fashion desperately needs feminism in order to be a relevant means of self-expression.

  8. Sabrina + Mariana

    One of the best posts I’ve seen on IFB, and as someone who is very academically involved with feminist theory, I commend you!

    I’d also add that we need to look at feminism as something diverse, there are many strains in it. One thing I like to consider is that in one specific strain of feminism, other relations aside from gender relations are also taken into account. I think a lot about how so many of the garments we wear were made by other women in a much less privileged position and at times in terrible working conditions. The feminism in fashion blogging has to consider that too… how our consumer patterns affect other women is one way to add to the analysis we see of gender in the media, women in business, etc. The feminist lens offers us a gateway into critical thinking that is a must if we want to escape the stereotypical association of fashion and style with superficiality!


  9. Kate

    So timely! I wrote about this just the other day. It seems that sometimes people, even fashion bloggers themselves, forget that we can still be interested in fashion and make-up and traditionally ‘feminine’ pursuits and still be total feminists!

  10. debi c

    i love, adore, admire this post so so much! blogging has been a passion of mine for so long. i have been telling my reluctant friend that blogging has changed hugely how the plus sized community is viewed and fashion industry has sat up and taken notice. i have been a feminist my whole life. being an indian made me aware of the sexism that exists in our society from a real early age. perpetrators of misogyny rile my bones. i cringe away from bloggers who harshly criticise other women/bloggers(yes that bunch does exist) or stereotype all women as girly/only pink loving/ditzy poor math or sports aficionados. i am vastly aware of the existence of different kinds of women and men and I choose my words carefully every time writing a post. keep up in this stream ifb.

  11. Donna

    Fantastic post! It’s such an important thing to think about and to discuss. I worked in tech for a long time, and I was surprised to find that there was still gender discrimination. I did manage to get to a position where I was often the only woman in the room. But there was a definite glass ceiling. And what I got to due all depended on who I had for a boss. It was frustrating and draining. Eventually I just got tired of the constant fight to be respected.
    I know that women can do more now than before, but we aren’t there yet. We still only make .71 cents for every dollar a man makes. There has never been a female president, and as you pointed out, Janine, the majority of Presidents and CEOs are still men. Don’t forget this, all of you women just starting out! We still have a way to go, and feminism is still an important issue.

  12. Sabina

    Very good points in this post. Feminism is something many women no longer think about on a day to day basis, since we’ve of course come a long way since the Mad Men days. But still these issues come up when women can seem like we’re not family-oriented enough (and therefore too ambitious or bitchy) or in other cases when our male colleagues who are less experienced or skilled get the raises or promotions because there might be concerns that we’re too family-oriented and not ambitious enough. These issues still do rear their ugly heads to this day.

    Fortunately for those of us who blog, whether it’s professionally or as a hobby or to supplement other activities, it does offer a much needed outlet, at the very least for its elements of creative control, and also because the blogosphere it a great equalizer.

    P.S. Congrats on your pregnancy, Jennine. Somehow I missed that announcement.

  13. Kelsi (@Stylesmith)

    Just a quick note – that’s the sound bite that took off, but what Kelly Osbourne actually said was that’s the advice her mother gave her (and took) – she followed it immediately with “times have changed and it doesn’t have to be that way anymore” – it was referential to the 70’s when her mother was fighting to work in a womans world.

    Just a little context.

  14. Amee

    “We have the opportunity to direct the conversation about the image of women in the media.”
    When I was in college studying Software Engineering (about 12 years ago) my good friend who was studying English at another university called me one day to talk to me about how I need to be more of a Feminist. She said her Women’s Equality class was having all these discussions (many listed above) and she had written this big paper about the topic and I really needed to get on board with supporting the Feminist cause.

    I paused for a moment and then I said, “While I don’t disagree with any of your points I think that a stereotypical difference between the way men & women solve problems is that women tend to discuss issues or problems while men like to take action. Of course different people & situations can cause different responses but that’s the generic male-female problem solving stereotype.

    So, you currently are taking your class with 90% women writing papers and having conversations about Feminism. I’m currently in a data structures class with 300 boys and I’m the only girl in that entire class. My major is somewhere around 94% boys. And once I find a job – it’ll be a similar ratio. But I will be helping to tip the balance the other way just a little bit.

    You are solving the Feminism problem in a stereotypically feminine way – by discussing it. I am taking an action that is shifting the world’s female paradigm. Now no guy in my class can say there are no girls in the class because I’m there. Taking an action to fix something is a stereotypical masculine way to solve problems.

    So from that perspective – who is doing more to support the Feminist cause?”

    Now she agrees that I’m both an annoying friend and a Feminist. 🙂
    My reason for sharing that story is to say that while having a Feminist conversation is great and can lead to ideas and collaboration and many great things – don’t forget the other side of the coin – action. DO something to change things instead of just discussing them.

    • Jennine Jacob

      I agree with some of what you are saying, but where I disagree is that there is still a great deal of areas in fashion blogging that are not essentially “stereotypically female.” One is entrepreneurship, taking charge of your business, negotiating better deals and that is where things need to change.

  15. Alexandra

    I love this post, Jennine! Though I’ve long been a feminist, I think feminism is having a moment of resurgence right now, and I think bloggers can help lead the charge in reversing many of the damaging trends you site. As you note, blogging is a uniquely powerful world for women, and knowing that is the first step in making sure we use our power wisely and in the advancement of causes we believe in.

    Thank you for this post. It’s really caused me to stop and think.

  16. Ashley

    What a well-written, sharp, MUCH NEEDED article. I’m pretty feminist-minded as it is. Honestly I will say, sometimes I keep my mouth shut about it because I feel people get annoyed when it’s brought up…or because it’s kind of a bummer to think about what a huge issue it is. It’s a very real issue in our society, and this article totally inspired me to talk about it more, especially on my blog.