A bit on the history of mannequins. It is so pinnacle that old mannequins’ nipples were shaved off in the postwar ’40s and ’50s to discourage sexual expression. As westerners, we think we are so sexually liberated, and yet our mannequins have yet to get their nipples back.
– Ilya Parkins, Teaching Fashion and Feminist Theory: The Pedagogical Promise of Ambivalence
Fashion connects our innermost selves to the broader world; it is a bridge, a barrier, a shield, a pleasantry. How are costume and character combined in the concept of sartorialism? Is there a more personal and political form of visual self expression?
I have been thinking about the relationship between femininity and sexual objectification as expressed through dress. I’m working out ways to explain my Femme Fashion Politics.
The symbolism of traditional feminine garb denounces subjectivity. Its purpose is to please the eye, decorate the space, titillate the traditionally masculine subject. Femininity is profoundly connected to sexual objectification, historically, culturally, socially, politically and economically.
The process of adorning oneself in sartorial items laden with cultural meanings reflective of dominant/submissive heterosexual tropes is an act that is either engaged with at a conscious level or treated as a natural whim. When consciously engaging in the submissive costume, one can be said to have objectified themselves as they have actively taken the role of the object in the subject/object binary represented in traditional heterosexual dynamics/aesthetics. In this conscious effort, one is both subject and object, subject of their own objectivity, thus dismantling the historically embedded hierarchical binary that assumes masculine = subject while feminine = object.
Further, when photographing and disseminating images of the self as object, one situates themselves as voyeur as well as spectacle. I believe this is the critical bit about being femme(inist) online. We can be objects ourselves and also actively see ourselves in the images we share portraying personal and political sartorialism. In this act of image dissemination, we consume ourselves in a way that might be metaphorically likened to auto-eroticism in the sense that we both give and receive the pleasure. We blog about sexuality and fashion and feminism in our efforts to extend ourselves to our communities, and perhaps more importantly to further discover/define/articulate/express ourselves for the sake of our own pleasure.