In the words of Jarvis Cocker, "you got it so wrong. These are the questions addressed by American academic Linda M. January 1, David I was surprised by this book. I was looking at the question of can you be fashionable and still be a feminist? I learned a great deal of the history of women in the United States, and the early feminists.
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Marc A. However, in Fresh Lipstick, Linda Scott argues that the line of inquiry has become more than a commonplace and instead has itself become an industry. Moreover, she finds that several developments in feminist thought, and especially the rise of key personalities as intertexts, obscures the puritanical roots of North American feminism.
Indeed, the coquettish behaviour of key figures not only contradicts but also hampers the very effort. At the same time Scott demonstrates that Betty Friedan, as leader of Second Wave charge against fashion—a charge allegedly based on her own lack of beauty—helped foster the myth of the superwoman in the very masculinized business suit.
An equally institutionalized argument projects that feminism as an increasingly distanced discourse which only serves an elite cadre of self-congratulating white, academic women. Feminism produces the alienating discourse. In contrast, North American women are not alienated from feminism because of an all-powerful fashion industry. The argument, which usually comes from conservative pundits and AM radio talk shows, is usually fairly easy to ignore because it is too closely related to the anti-intellectualist motive which makes any academic an always already target regardless of their disciplinary affiliation.
For Scott, the anti- fashion agenda of certain feminists has become a self-perpetuating and self-justifying discourse while carefully avoiding any discussion of the contradictory discourses on which it is based.
Instead of accusing feminism s of having an anti-sex, anti-beauty agenda based on the usual circular argument which cites a few anecdotal sources, Scott reveals the historical sources of a particularly powerful puritanism , especially among those who comprise what has become known as the first-wave.
Furthermore, as Scott reveals through studies not only of figures such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but in their responses towards fashion and fashionable women.
Their puritanical motive is deeply rooted in a Victorian, Calvinist sensibility and is firmly rooted in feminism. The moral motives, Scott argues, take precedence over gender equality. Taking a decidedly demand-side view of the fashion industry reveals that successive iterations of feminine liberation have been accompanied by changes in fashion which echo the social progress.
She elaborates that the honour might well go to Cady Stanton, who proudly pushed cleaning products on the public as part of the Puritan effort to eradicate uncleanliness everywhere. Such a reminder makes one reconsider not only the first wave but also the celebrity of contemporary feminists. One of the more contentious arguments Scott makes is that fashion provides working class women especially with freedom and liberation. In doing so, she highlights the very frequently forgotten roots of feminism in not only abolitionist and suffrage movements but also in temperance leagues.
It is this final motive which begins to reveal a rift between the theoretical premises of the more elitist feminisms and the mundane practices of especially working class women. These women were marginalized by virtue of religion, ethnicity, class and their gender An attention to fashion became a source of pride and of resistance to the institutionalized structures, including a feminism based on conservative white anglo-saxon protestant social values.
The economic power the Irish immigrants earned was often expressed through the mechanism of a trendy style of dress when they were not on-duty. This contrasted the servants uniforms which maintained a Victorian look and the lack of mobility which came with it, well into the twentieth century. The case could not be more clear when several of the raunchiest role models are themselves the models, the designers and the proprietors of the fashions.
What about teaching young women the history rather than simply encouraging the raunch liberation espoused by the current crop of bleach blonde pop princesses? The trouble is that the critical gap exists on both sides of the debate—assuming there are only two sides—since it is clear, especially after reading Fresh Lipstick and after seeing the evidence pile up at the mall and in the classroom, that the beauty myth critique seems to have had little real purchase outside a few circles and that the situation is actually declining.
Simply put, self- objectification is still objectification, but self-subjection is probably a more insidious form of subjection. Have we learned nothing from Foucault? Perhaps my take is too facile, but I do wonder about the extent of self-subjection masquerading as self-empowerment on both sides of the debate. Clearly, the familiar critique of the patriarchal imperative of fashion falls on many deaf ears but—and I can bear quite easily the charge of paternalism—the new liberation looks a lot like the old oppression.
Authorial intent becomes the intent, which occludes any other available reading. Related Papers.
Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism