When Did Empowerment Go Out of Style?

Glampage writer Madison Harakles says goodbye by challenging the morality of fashion advertising.

Madison Harakles, Writer

The Glampage has always explored the fun side of fashion through tips about the latest styles delivered in a peppy tone with endless alliteration. However, even the fashion industry has a dark side, and it is clobbering the very ideals that the business was founded on. Woman began the business of fashion, yet today, it is an industry that objectifies their bodies and eroticises violence towards them through advertisements.

In the late 1880’s and early 1890’s, women such as Jeanne Lanvin, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, and Elsa Schiaparelli tired of the clothing options available to them, and took style into their own hands. They became the designers and founders of their own fashion companies, making fashion available for women around the world. Fashion was originally a feminist industry. However, the degradation of women in fashion advertisements has become so normalized, that it has almost lost its shock value. Almost.

It was still a shock when American Apparel’s “Back to School” spread featured the backside of a young model as she bent over in her mini skirt, exposing her undergarments. It was still a shock when Lara Stone posed for Calvin Klein mostly unclothed, lying among three men, her face, a picture of modelesque pleasure. And, it was still a shock when 12 magazine’s “Victim of Beauty” spread highlighted a model with a black eye staring emotionlessly from the glossy, black page.     

When just parts of a woman’s body are used in an advertisement, the effect is dehumanizing. She is seen as an object instead of a person. Similarly, when fashion ads repeatedly depict women being raped, and enjoying it, sexual assault is normalized. Domestic abuse victims are mocked when bruised models are displayed glamorously in magazine pages. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in five women will fall victim to sexual assault at some point in their lives, and 1 in 3 women will be abused by their domestic partners. These are not glamorous statistics. The very women that the fashion industry should be working to empower are being mocked and degraded. We need to get back to where fashion started.

We need to bring empowerment back in style. The fashion industry was created by women, and it should be used to continue to empower them. While images of women being sexually submissive has become a major theme in advertising, companies need to become aware of what it is they are selling.