Via Dazed Digital
Just a few months ago, Karl Lagerfeld chose to close his Spring/Summer 2015 show with a protest. Of course it was only simulated- no the models did not camp out on “Boulevard Chanel” in tweed tents, Occupy style- but their message reached not only fashionistas but the whole world. Images of models yelling into quilted calfskin megaphone, waving posters demanding “Feminism Not Masochism”, and reading “Boys Should Get Pregnant Too” were not published in Vogue, but in Time Magazine, NY Post, and CBC among others.
While Lagerfeld was praised by many for his clever slogans on the new collection and the posters carried by the models, not everyone appreciated the use of the show as a platform for political issues. Lagerfeld commented on his critics, telling Fashionista magazine: “I thought it was right for the moment. I couldn’t care less if people are for or against. It’s my idea. I like the idea of feminism being something light-hearted, not a truck driver for the feminist movement.”
And Karl isn’t wrong by saying that it was right for the moment. Feminism is a hot topic right now. I was recently talking to my peers in my film class and we were discussing whether or not The Hunger Games was feminist. Initially I had said it was. The protagonist was a strong, complex, female whose goals did not revolve around finding someone to save her, but instead, fought for herself and defended her beliefs.
When we got deeper in the conversation, my peers began bringing up points I hadn’t thought about.
One girl claimed that the only reason that we believe Katniss to be a strong character is because all her attributes are, what I like to call, “socially-deemed-masculine” attributes. (i.e her hunting abilities, her strength, her control) According to her, you’d be able to replace Jennifer Lawrence with a male actor and nothing from the plot would change. And this made for an interesting case. Someone argued that in that case, equality was achieved: if we can replace a character by either a man or a woman, can’t we say that we’re equals?
Someone else claimed that it was in fact not feminist at all. Her main point was that in order to “raise” one woman- Katniss- they had to “put down” another- Effie Trinket. Throughout the movie, Effie is seen as a flat character used for comic relief and visual appeal. She is the stereotypical female we see in films all the time. In contrasting with Katniss, Effie possesses “socially-deemed-feminine” attributes (i.e. her attention to her appearance, her vanity- the fact that she is almost always seen in McQueen) and made fun of for it by the characters around her. She is not taken seriously. If we, as a public, are only able to take women seriously when they bear “socially-masculine” attributes, what can we say about part the population that chooses to be more “socially-deemed-feminine”?
And this reminded me of Chanel’s little red bag that reads “FEMINISTE MAIS FEMININE” in pink lettering. The idea that enjoying “feminine” things doesn’t make you any less of a feminist, or any more or less of a woman- an idea that I don’t think that everyone is able to comprehend.
I like to consider myself “socially-deemed-feminine”. But the fact that I enjoy painting my nails and wearing high heels, I attribute to myself- not to my gender. Those are just my own character traits and they’re not particularly feminine– they’re just me.
I also like to consider myself a feminist. I may not march in my own feminist marches (but hell would I have taken part in Chanel’s) but I am a firm believer that men and women are equals, and should be treated as such.
I’m glad that we’re seeing strives. If Chanel shows feminism, it becomes part of our culture, we soak that message in and become influenced by it. That’s what’s so great about fashion, and especially high fashion- they have the power to create social change because of their platform. And media has also come a long way- it’s not typical to have a strong lead in a blockbuster like The Hunger Games, but we do. While it has its faults, initiating a conversation about why it does and what it can do to change, only keeps us moving as a society.
On that note, let me invite you to converse. Comment or message us your thoughts on Chanel’s protest and feminism in films and the media. What does feminism mean to you?
Anna J. Stainsby