The backlash…..with more bones, fewer ruffles
One of the more interesting parts of Susan Faludi’s Backlash isn’t as famous as her examination of the “women over 40 never get married” myth or her explication of the popularity of “Fatal Attraction”. Yet, I’ve always thought it was interesting the way that she examined how the fashion industry tends to put its full weight behind anti-feminist backlashes. In retrospect, the transition from the 40s to the 50s is probably the most obvious example—as women were ripped from their jobs and bullied back into the kitchen, fashion changed dramatically from sensible, mature-looking clothing (that flatters a whole lot of different bodies) like this:
To clothes that had bigger skirts and often emphasized smaller waistlines and bigger bustlines that often required a lot more painful underwear, but limited movement either way:
In The Second Sex, published in 1949, Simone de Beauvoir praised Americans for sensibly embracing women wearing pants as a normal fashion, but from what I understand, this was also undermined in the 50s, where the casual pants look was increasingly frowned upon. Similarly, Faludi noted that the fashion designers of the 80s were, like those in the 50s, bound and determined to get American women to wear clothes that limited movement and were feminine to the point of parody—heavy on ruffles and even on petticoats. The difference was that women were more empowered in the 80s to rebel, and they did rebel, and a lot of the more extreme clothes never sold well.
I bring this up, because I think the fashion industry has found a way to get around this problem. This time around, the backlash is less about making women look infantile and overly feminized, and more about making them feel they have to be skeletal. Nonny mouse at C&L had an angry post up about this situation, and while I think she’s a bit cruel to women who are super-skinny, I have to say this image she uses tells the whole story:
You don’t even have to know the whole story to figure what’s going on, but basically, these two women were contestants on a British modeling contest TV show, and the viewers rebelled and picked the woman on the left to win. The show judges were outraged, told this woman she was a fatass, and gave the woman on the right the modeling contract anyway.
Rebecca Dana’s rant against these horrible malfunctions of fashion she calls “jeggings” is funny, but I’m not so sure I buy the idea that the fashion industry didn’t bring this evil upon us. Even if this is more of a street fashion, it evolved because the fashion industry has been shoving skinny jeans and leggings at us for years now. And the main point of all this is that these pants and pant-like items are made for the bodies of women that have absolutely no flesh on their bones. Everyone else, no matter how svelte in actuality, looks like a sausage stuffed into casing. Witness the pictures Dana uses as an illustration of “jeggings”:
As you can see, the only real way to pull these pants off is to have really skinny legs. Mariah Carey, who by any estimation is a beautiful woman, looks fucking ridiculous in these pant-like objects. These jeggings not only don’t forgive having thighs that aren’t concave, but they also punish you for having calves at all. Whenever I see someone who can actually pull these jeggings off walking down the street, I have mixed emotions. On one hand, there are women out there who are beanstalks, for sure—and many of them have been shamed for it—and I’m glad they have clothes made just for them. On the other hand, this kind of shit encourages anorexia. Also, there’s more than a whiff of insinuation in fashions like this that if you can’t pull it off, and most of us can’t pull it off, it’s probably best if you don’t leave the house at all. Which I can’t help but think is the point.