Feminists and Fashion

by NeW Staff on March 20, 2010 · 0 comments

“We’ve always felt that the fashion industry was misogynist. You can’t run from a rapist in pumps,” said Tammy Bruce, president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Organization for Women quoted in in article from the Baltimore Sun from 1991.


Feminists have been using fashion as an area of combat since the second wave of feminism arose in the 1960s.

One early major protest against femininity was in 1968 at the Miss America pageant. The Women’s Liberation Movement had their own reasons for being at the pageant but one of the important things that occurred was after the pageant. The women protesting  placed a “Freedom Trash Can”  on the ground with which they filled with makeup, bras, high heels, false eyelashes, curlers, hairspray, girdles, magazines, corsets, and other ‘instruments of torture’ which ensured ‘enforced femininity’. It has been highly debated whether or not there was an actual burning of bras, since a permit was not granted at the protest, however the myth of bra burning lived on.

Today, feminists participate in what some call ‘oppositional fashion’.

In a speech at Oakland University in 2008, the Woman’s Studies Director, Jo Reger, stated that feminists “are now reclaiming the feminine as something powerful.”


Her research was based off of Bust Magazine, where she found contemporary feminists being featured in a monthly fashion column, and and she said they were ’embracing femininity’ and promoting feminism in a new, political way.

“In politicizing fashion, the body has become a sign of resistance,” said Reger.

Women going topless to make a point, is seen just as that.

“They want you to look at them in a certain way,” Reger said. “Where they’re drawing your eye has a political message.”

Well if going topless is okay, what’s wrong with high heels?

Some feminists, specifically in the second wave of feminism, have argued that high heels were designed to make women seem helpless and vulnerable. This added to the idea that men would have to further protect women, ensuring traditional gender roles. Heels have also been associated with high sex appeal and reducing a woman into a sole sex object.

So, are the feminists of our time fashionable? They claim to be against the contemporary style of our times, but fashion doesn’t seem to be as large of an issue for feminism anymore. Or is it?

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