I adore fashion, particularly red-carpet parades of the rich and famous during awards season. It’s not the most feminist of customs (it’s the kind of idealism that can lead to a distorted self image) but it’s as American as baseball. Celebrity worship is one of our past times, for better or for worse. Seeing our icons float across a crimson sea in works of art, high on excitement is a form of voyeurism that makes me happy. If only it didn’t get so ugly, so quickly.
Fashion chatter—both professional and amateur via social media—has become awfully mean spirited. More often than not, women are the targets and the critics. It makes me wonder if loving the fashion parade is a betrayal of feminism.
It always starts out sweet and complimentary. Red-carpet reporters ask everone, “who are you wearing?,” tell them they look gorgeous and congratulate them. Moments later, the insults begin. Fashion bloggers try to out-snark one another. Newspaper reporters slip in casual insults to make their copy stand out on the wires. And the worst comments come from average anyones. Message boards, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates in the past 48 hours have focused on the “stupid,” “tragic,” “blah,” “slutty” or “boring” of certain women in certain dresses. In my feeds alone, Angelina Jolie was objectified (too hot) and vilified (too skinny). Jennifer Lopez was slut shamed (really too sexy). Meryl Streep and Glenn Close were called old (these folks have been unfollowed, trust). And everyone tried to find a way to insult Melissa McCarthy without calling her fat.