Fashion and Feminism

I've never made it a secret that I am a diehard feminist.  Have been as long as I can remember, before I even understood that my beliefs had a label, and that it was part of a movement.  When people ask, if I have time to explain, I don't merely say I was an Art History major in school, but that I was, specifically, a Feminist Modern Art History major.  I have spent a long, long time studying the history and nuances of the role of women in the evolution of art, both as subject and creator.  This is, simply put, A Thing for me.  It's...a big deal.

So you can imagine the inner battles I've had in my head as a female photographer working within an industry that hasn't exactly played the most positive role in women's lives. 

I was incredibly inspired by Kate Lanphear's [too-] brief stint as the EIC of Maxim--here was a woman in power, managing an editorial staff of several women, in charge of dictating the visual language of an audience of men.  I actually read nearly every issue of that magazine while she was still on staff, and I loved it.  I loved the creative shift, how there was an elegance and taste that wasn't forced, but still noticeably absent in a lot of men's magazines.  I appreciated that, while there was definitely a clear target audience to Maxim, it was never exclusionary to readers that didn't fall in that target audience.  I'm genuinely sad to hear of her departure. 

But I realized that I wasn't that much different.  I am a woman creating images of women.  I have a say in how women are portrayed and perceived.  And I have a responsibility to make sure those images only serve to widen the scope of what a "woman in fashion" can look like.  I realized that my shoots in themselves are fairly progressive:  most of my crews are almost, if not completely, comprised of female team members.  I am a woman filling a role traditionally and historically filled by men.  Instead of stripping my model of her agency over her body, and demanding she lose her identity in order to fulfill my creative needs, I actively work with her, as I do with everyone on set, so the entire production becomes a collaborative effort; she moves how she wants, based on how our creative direction makes her feel.  She is not my subject, she is my teammate.  Any [flattering] comments made about the intimacy of my work stems from this dynamic:  it's the model and me, working together, to make something special.

I recently attended NYCFotoworks, and for the first time ever, every single creative reviewer with whom I met was female.  All twelve.  And for the first time ever, I let my Feminist Flag fly with wild abandon.  No one ran away screaming.  Very few were apathetic.  Most were curious.  But everyone noticed me.

I don't think fashion and Feminism are mutually exclusive.  In fact, I think fashion and Feminism can fuse together to do something really extraordinary.  There are, obviously, systemic flaws within the fashion industry, but they're not permanent.  They can't be, otherwise we're facing the complete implosion of an entire industry.  We can start a shift by changing the language, by expanding the definition of beauty and nurturing discussion of gender roles within an industry that favors a binary system.  I can only hope my professional trajectory continues to move upwards, but I vow, here and now, to offer as much as I can towards a progressive shift within fashion.

I am a Feminist.  I work in Fashion.  And I'm not going anywhere.