THE ROLE OF FASHION IN THE ERA OF MALE GAZE
From building a profile on Instagram with pout selfies to picking an outfit at a retail store, undoubtedly, a personal expression of oneself isn't as personal as we think it is when it is widely influenced by the society we live in. The journey of self-expression within patriarchal boundaries has always been a tough ground to break. Yet, many of us grew beyond the limits to truly reflect our personalities, either on social media or personal life. But can we laud this journey as our own if our choices directly correlate with the male-driven society and mostly male-owned fashion industry? Have you adopted a look that should attract the male gender being out of your comfort at one point or another? The credit goes to the birth of 'male gaze' by the fashion industry.
A quick search online would tell you that the male gaze manifests unequal social power between the gazing man and the gazed-upon woman. Laura Mulvey was the first human to put the 'male gaze' in theory in 1975, and according to her theory, men and women are portrayed unequally in films. She argued that a woman is only meant to be an object of the gaze. As one can reasonably agree with Mulvey in between lines, the reality faces the larger truth here, at least in 2020. We can agree that media holds power in portraying genders on every platform, then in films, magazines, advertisements, banners, labels, fashion marketing, etc. Since the be-ginning of time, the media has portrayed women in men's views. How men will like to view a woman has always been the most robust foundation of how a woman is shown. But somewhere this idea is widely accepted by the women themselves. When the fashion industry realized in its earlier days that advertising is the most vital tool in making profits, they also found a way to sell a lie. A lie which many women bought. A lie that we adopt and continue to live. A lie that a woman is only considered beautiful if she has a certain physique (generally a thin body, cherry lips and clear skin). A lie that isn't only evil but has shaken many women's confidence to reflect their true selves. Unfortunately, a lie that was only meant to be a tool to make money is now a truth for many women.
Undoubtedly, the Fashion industry has played a massive part in selling this negative representation of women. From cologne ads to every significant ad segment to every issue in magazines to banners, we saw women portraying the epitome of perfection and nudity. "According to Berger (2004), advertising can be regarded as a type of communication that is influential and effective, which can also use 'sexploitation of the female body' as an instrument." In the world of advertising, a photo tells a story, a lifestyle, choices, and, most notably, a belief. The fashion industry left no stone unturned to make sure this belief was downright feeding patriarchal society. A nude body, a thin waist, fuller lips, big booty and breasts, every single body autonomy of a woman is projected to make a woman look hot, but why and for who?
To change this narrative, we need to move towards body positivity. We need to see the natural. To build a great society where every woman owns her body and represents herself as she is, we need the fashion industry to bring real-looking women on their platforms. The industry should strive to empower all women and make them feel beautiful and comfortable in their skins. Women we see in our daily lives, walk past by, work with, these women need to be heard and, most importantly, seen.
By: Ekam Rai