Monday, October 13, 2008

Fashion & Feminism: Frances Varian

Here are a couple of paragraphs from "Lighten Up, It's Just Fashion: How to Be a Gorgeous Revolutionary," an essay by Frances Varian that I've given my freshman writing class to read for tomorrow's class:
...we do not have to die by our own hands. We do not have to grieve for the death of our dreams. If you cannot walk yourself to the movies at night for fear of what will happen to you, you are not free. If you cannot wear whatever makes you feel alive for fear of repercussion, you are not free. If you cannot allow your spirit to soar because you have never been told it is your inalienable right to be moved by something beautiful, however you define beauty, you are not free. It takes courage to reach for freedom and it requires strength to fight for an authentic life, but both require far less energy than a fear-based existence.
The intrinsic artistic merit of fashion is not diminished because the world of fashion can be unsafe for women. . . . What is not up for interpretation is the desperate condition that women face globally. If we do not find a way to bridge our differences and reach for each other, we are likely to face even more disastrous realities. The first step to thinking outside of the box is to step outside it, and for most women that means claiming beauty, claiming ownership, and claiming personal freedom. The battle lines were drawn before any of us were born, and up until now we have not been able to sustain any kind of unified resistance. I can't guarantee you a safe and easy outcome if you fight, but I can promise I'll be standing next to you. If we have to go down, we might as well go down together and looking fucking fabulous.
This speaks quite convincingly to the empowering and potential of fashion and to its ability to coexist with feminist ideals. Varian does acknowledge elsewhere in the essay that the relationship between beauty, feminism, and the lives and experiences of individual women can be quite complex, but she refuses to compromise her love for beauty or her passion for a feminist movement that works to uplift all women.

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