Bad Company

A couple of days ago I received a text from a fashion blogger I’d recently met an event. “There’s a column about male fashion bloggers in Company this month,” it read. I was silently pleased at this recognition of diversity, until I read the rest of the message. “It says blogging is a women’s thing.” I was taken aback – surely my friend must have gotten the wrong idea. Company couldn’t endorse such a shallow and restrictive belief…could they? When I read the article for myself I came to find that, actually, yes they could.

The article, written by Pandora Sykes, briefly mentions a few male ‘big guns’ in the world of fashion blogging, only to brush them aside and assert that female bloggers have ‘a higher profile’ than their male counterparts. ‘For years, men have been the ones closing financial deals and creating billion dollar ad campaigns, but now it’s our turn,’ she says. ‘It cannot be denied that from a feminist angle, this is a triumph of sorts.’ I disagree. Feminism is about equality and treating a person the same way, regardless of their gender. To belittle the efforts of men in the blogosphere and boast that women are ‘winning’ is no triumph.

I’d like to briefly quote Martin Luther King – ‘I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.’ King understood that the past should be left in the past as, while it will always inform it, it should not and must not define the present. To capitalise the first letters of the words men and women defies this notion and is, in my opinion, absurd. While ‘Men’ may have been creating billion dollar ad campaigns for years I, a man, have not. For the same reason, I am disturbed by Ellie Mae O’Hagan’s assertion this week that men cannot be the victim of institutionalised sexism. Here’s why.

It would be foolish not to recognise that, as a straight white middle class male, I enjoy certain privileges – strangers don’t comment on my choice of partner, I am rarely (though it does happen sometimes, and no, it isn’t flattering) subjected to ‘compliments’ from people on the street and I’m not aware of the police ever regarding me suspiciously, even when I am wearing a hoodie. However, I am an ‘outsider’ in at least three out of four of the social groups I consider myself as belonging to. While the majority people at screamo gigs may look just like me, most fashion bloggers don’t. Nor do most basketball players. Nor do most hip hop fans. Every time I go to a fashion event, a basketball court or a hip hop gig, I risk sexual or racial discrimination. I fail to see how anyone who claims to be a campaigner for equality can’t realise that.

To return to the article, one blogger is quoted as saying for a man ‘to overtly celebrate and share his image? That just wouldn’t be, well, manly, would it?’ This is almost offensive as the article’s opening statement, which states that ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged that women like to talk about fashion.’ How, in 2012, people can still think it’s acceptable to make such sweeping statements about gender, I don’t know. However, there are still plenty of examples of it going around at the moment – take, for example, the ASDA Christmas advert that states that ‘behind every great Christmas, there’s mum.’ This slogan manages to simultaneously insult all mothers, single fathers and families that divide the Christmas workload equally.

The other day I was embarrassed and encouraged in equals measures when Maria, of Miss Drifted Snow White, told me about how I’ve inspired her boyfriend, who blogs as The Blogging Bloke. ‘You’ve shown him that it’s ok to be vocal with his opinions and that you can still do that and make it, whether you’re a guy or girl.’ It’s with that sentence ringing in my ears that I write this blog post – I wish I knew a better way to soothe all the bitterness around race and gender that still exists, but writing some words about it is the best I can do.

The article ends with the following musing – ‘You could argue that makes us no better than the sexist male controllers of Mad Men-era advertising, but surely it’s our turn to gloat.’ First of all, congratulations for acknowledging that rather than working to end sexism, you’re choosing to perpetuate it. Secondly, goodbye. I’ve long been a fan of Company, and I thought that they understood the evolving role of bloggers in the fashion world. Clearly that doesn’t apply to me, so I won’t be buying any more issues.

32 comments

  1. H

    This makes me so cross. Some of my favourite blogs are by men. Hell, it doesn’t matter who is writing it, as long as I enjoy it.

    I have to be honest, I loved Company’s whole “blogger vibe” at first but I seriously think they’re just doing it because it’s “cool”. Company have latched onto this market of fashion bloggers and made a mag just for them and their readers. Sure, that’s exactly how you go about making money but there’s an air of being fake about it that I’ve picked up on for a long time.

    • stu

      As well as an air of fakery, it also creates an air of elitism – ‘Oh, you didn’t get that reference? You must be so May 2012.’

  2. Ondo Lady

    It’s a real shame to hear this because male fashion bloggers are just as vital to the industry as female fashion bloggers are. It’s really offensive to state otherwise. Also Company have rebranded themselves and embraced bloggers in their publication so it is very surprising to hear this kind of statement coming from them. I think you should write to Victoria White, the editor of Company telling her exactly how you feel.

  3. michael murray

    You got to admit it, Stu, some peole are just plain bonkers. Sigh, and pass on.
    And some people are still stuck in the over-extended rhetoric of over-emphasis to prove a point/redress a wrong, long due/ etc etc.

    Sigh, and move on. Just don’t go hyperventilating – there is an awful lot to sigh about.

  4. Joseph Kent

    And I thought it was going so well for us… *sigh*
    The majority of fashion bloggers are women, yes, but men ought to have equal standing. I’m going out to buy Company, so I can read this article for myself.

    • Joseph Kent

      “It seems both apt and deserved then, that Leandra Medine, aka The Man Repeller, won 2012′s Blog of the Year, at the BlogLovin Awards.”

      I bet Pandora is pleased I didn’t win at the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards.

  5. Mari

    It always pains me to hear comments like that, especially from other women. What gets me is how they think they’re being so clever by doing things like slipping in Jane Austen references (was she trying to be ironic?), but then destroy whatever argument they’re making by using some warped logic & in the end do more to hurt their cause. As a woman it pains me to see other women do this. Then again I may be too bitter after all the bs that’s been tossed around the election in the US.

    • stu

      I’m not sure about that JA reference…feels a bit forced to me. As does the caveman analogy; things have moved on a bit since then…

  6. mat

    that sounds like a terrible article written by somewhere with a chip on their shoulder. they do seem to have come down on the wrong side on a non-argument. it’s stupid to think that lads don’t talk about clothes and want to share as credibly (maybe that’s not quite the word but i’m sure you get me) as females. it’s all i talk about with some of my mates. “up with clobber chat”.

  7. Kb

    I think there’s a lot of exciting things going on with menswear, Mr Porter, London Collections Men, The Gentleman Blogger; so silly to just dismiss it. I think it would have been a more interesting article to feature the emergence of menswear blogs. the differences in their approach to fashion and the reason why they choose to put themselves out there. We can’t forget that there were blogs long before the fashion niche came along and I’m sure plenty of men would have been sharing then. It was very refreshing to see you at the Bertie event (plus the subsequent Next event) and I hope companies cotton on and invite you to more!

    • stu

      Great points, Kristabel! I think the issue is that a lot of people see men as curators or consumers when it comes to blogging, rather than creators. Hopefully I’m an exception to that rule! Hope to see you at more events soon :)

  8. Lotte

    It’s a bit nasty when white people use Martin Luther King and other prominent black figures as a rhetorical tool, out of the context of civil rights. Black struggle isn’t a trick you can whip out when you want to talk about ‘equality’.

    • stu

      Why should the fact that I’m white have any bearing on my quoting a great man to comment on the absurdity of inequality based on skin colour and/or gender?

      • Melissa

        Hey. I haven’t read the article in Company (I will be) but I’d just like to encourage you to remember that Pandora’s article doesn’t represent all of us female bloggers. It’s refreshing to see male bloggers with a healthy interest in fashion – you’re somewhat of an enigma.

  9. Anna

    Hi, this is the first time I’ve read your blog, having seen this post mentioned on another I follow. I appreciate your thoughtful approach to this article and the critiques you shared. I completely agree that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement is relevant here. We must not allow the past to tyrannize the present. That certainly does not mean ignoring what has happened before or recognizing its effects on us here and now. Rather, it means acknowledging what happened but working to overcome it, not be enslaved to it.

    This underscores your later point on feminism, as well. Women shouldn’t try to “get ahead” or be “equal” by destroying or emasculating men.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • stu

      Thanks Anna, I was certainly cautious of bringing in the MLK comment – I’d never want to compare my own situation to that of the segregation or hatred directed at African Americans, I just though that particular comment was illuminating!

  10. Isa

    I have to say that even with all the amazing female fashion bloggers out there, you have been one of my favorites since I first stumbled upon your blog. And I especially love that you are an even further minority among male fashion bloggers in that you model normal but classy guy style (nothing against the rest of them, and maybe it speaks to my boring/minimalist taste, but it’s nice to see stuff that isn’t all over-the-top and trying too hard to stand out). Company is clearly delusional. And as more of your demographic comes to show us that no, fashion blogging is for anyone with a sense of style and the motivation to keep a blog, they’ll eventually be forced to realize it.

  11. Lori Smith

    I don’t understand why some women thnink that feminism is about hating men – why they think that to fix the wrongs done to their gender in the past, they need to do the same to others. Fashion isn’t just for women. The people who think that usually also think that fashion is for women because it’s superficial. It’s so sad to hear that a magazine like Company is publishing such hateful opinions. I’m tempted to buy it (one last time) to read the article myself so that I can write and complain.

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  13. Miss drifted Snow White

    What I find ridiculous is that it also kind of denotes the fact that a lot of stylists, MUAs, designers and photographers in this industry are male. As if the industry is all female. Yes, there are decidedly more female bloggers out there, but to be fair, that’s also partially society’s fault – and the article just proves that! it’s supposedly not ok for a man to care about fashion (unless they’re gay maybe?!) let alone write about it? WTF also, to be very, very honest, it’s not like the fashion world produces as many choices in clothing, shoes, accessories and all that jazz for men as it does for women. there’s a million and two mags for women’s fashion but i can only think of GQ and Men’s Health that sort of discuss men’s fashion. SO, it’s no wonder why there’s fewer male bloggers. THAT DOESNT MAKE IT OK.

    Rather than celebrating or gloating about the fact that there’s more women who blog, a magazine like Company that prides itself in being hip and trend-defining should encourage men to blog too!

    And again, thank you for inspiring my man :)

  14. GabriellaSofia

    Oh my goodness, I literally couldn’t have said it better myself! As a self-confessed feminist, when I read this Company article on my lunch break today I internally cringed that my favorite magazine which has seemed so on-the-ball for the past couple of years had seemingly lost is with all of the gender generalisations made. It is alleged ‘feminism’ as is seen in that article that gives us feminists a bad name… it makes us seem bitter, vengeful and hypocritical. I’m with you all the way, man. And I’ll definitely be checking out your page more often.
    Love
    GabriellaSofia x

  15. Morganvsmorgan

    Wow- what is this fuckery?? I feel like there’s nothing for me to say that you haven’t summed out better yourself – especially just the acknowledgement that what this article is endorsing is NOT feminism at all – just blatant, embarassing sexism.

    It also pisses me off on a more basic level- that alot of my favourite blogs are written by men, and I seem to find more male fashion bloggers every day that I love reading – the last thing I would want is for men to feel uncomfortable with blogging because of these archaic ideas about masculinity.

  16. Molly

    Urgh I find it so boring that things like this are still an issue. Well done Company Magazine for taking 3 steps backwards. And alienating a lot of people. I’m writing my dissertation on how the idea of feminism has become skewed to allow ‘man hating’ so I think I’ll include this as it’s very interesting to see how a woman has reacted to men encroaching on a female dominated scene which is one reason why, in a seriously simplified way, feminism was opposed for such a long time because men felt threatened by the idea of women being able to do what they do. Bull shit. The only good thing about this is that I can use it in my essay. Everything else about it is just crap. And horrible because like Melissa said it doesn’t represent all women but it’s in a national magazine for christs sake… it’s got some reach ! What a terrible example to set !!

  17. michaela Hoyte

    Thank you for bringing up the Asda commercial, it really annoys me how they go on about Mums creating the special Xmas.What about the Dads? my Dad raised me and my sisters after our Mum left and he moved heaven and earth to give us an amazing Xmas each year.

    As for the article, it is clear that some people just aren’t up to date with the 21st century,some women are so quick to cry inequality but when it comes to inequality for men they just don’t care.It’s sad that it exists it really is.

  18. Ellomennopee

    From what you describe, the kind of “feminism” that the article was advocating is not my kind of feminism. I think it’s fantastic that you don’t feel restricted by gender norms.

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