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.