image: Illustration by Noopur GoelI
Earlier this week, Huffington Post published an article that listed 23 popular trends that are adored by women, but hated by men. Male commentators criticized popular styles like bright lipsticks (“It’s like hooker red lipstick”), pant suits (“Men’s business suits…you’re a woman, not a man”), peplums (“That top you wore last weekend, the black one. Looks like maternity wear”), and bandeau tops (“they just make your shoulders look like a linebacker’s”).
There are more trends listed but I cannot bring myself to mention anymore without banging my head repeatedly against my desk. It is deeply disturbing that a major publication like Huffington Post feels the need to suggest to their female readers that their personal style should be in accordance with male expectations.
Did it even occur to the writer of this article that females do not dress for men, but instead for themselves? Why is it that women are expected to care what men (or anyone for that matter) think of their appearance?
Of course, Huffington Post is not the only one guilty of popularizing the idea that men’s opinions have an influence on women’s fashion choices. Fashion blogger, Leandra Medine, otherwise known as “Man Repeller” marketed her own trendy personal style to be representative of what men consider unattractive.
On her website, she defines what a Man Repeller is, saying:
“She who outfits herself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs.”
Medine even includes an “Are You A Man Repeller” quiz on her site. The response for someone who is considered to be a Man Repeller states, “Congratulations, Man Repeller. Sartorial freedom is yours. You haven’t renewed your birth control prescription since Proenza Schouler’s debut collection but hey, more cash for you.”
Medine is obviously poking fun at herself with the above descriptions, considering that she too calls herself a Man Repeller. She even encourages her readers to take risks with their fashion choices.
But labeling women “Man Repellers” because they are unafraid to wear trends, perpetuates the idea that the way we dress sends a direct message to men about our worth or general availability.
Women are then confronted with making the inevitable choice of how to dress every day. They can either A) Wear whatever they want and consequently scare off men. Or B) dress to please men. Why is it that a female’s appearance is consistently measured by men’s approval? The way women choose to dress should not be influenced in any way by someone else’s perceptions.
In a world filled with fashion bloggers posting their daily outfits onto their personal websites, Tumblrs, and Instagrams it seems that women not only feel a pressure to impress men, but other women too. While these bloggers claim that they are just showcasing their creative styles to provide inspiration to their readers, they also create a standard for how other women should be dressing.
Is this approach contributing to an additional expectation for women to live up to? Not only do women have to worry about looking good for men, but there is this unspoken competition among women that we have to dress chic for each other as well. This is one more audience women are pressured to impress while deciding what to wear each morning.
Should we even care about what other women think of our outfits? All these different opinions, no matter where they come from, do not validate us in any way. This constant judgment of women’s creative choices only contributes to a dissatisfaction of self.
Today, women are bombarded with messages from the media that are constantly telling them how to change themselves in order to be considered more appealing to others. Each of these “advice “ lists targeted at women are doing the furthest thing from advising them.
Instead, these lists are essentially bullying females to adapt to an expectation of what the ideal woman should be like. Adult women are not the only ones viewing these messages as young girls also visit these websites and it can be particularly damaging to their growing self-esteem. Who will explain to girls that they do not need to alter who they are in order to be accepted by others? These media messages only serve to create and maintain insecurity among young girls and grown women everywhere.
It is necessary to remember that women do not exist to satisfy others. If we wear our bright red lipstick, peplum top, and harem pants–it is not because we think others will like us best in it, it is because we simply want to fucking wear it.