Can corporations cash in on an empowerment-for-profit trend?
When the cosmetics giant L’Oréal Paris announced a mixed-race British DJ as its first transgender brand ambassador last month, the fashion-industry press rushed to applaud the multibillion-dollar company’s latest gesture toward “diversity” and “inclusion.” Munroe Bergdorf got a byline in the British edition of Vogue for an article entitled “What Makeup Means to Me,” while W Magazine’s Marissa Muller praised L’Oréal for having “made huge strides” toward the “elusive goal” of “representation for all women in fashion and beauty.” Such representation now must include not only “women” with male genitalia, but also tattooed lesbians like Ruby Rose, who has been an ambassador for Maybelline cosmetics and other brands. Fat women are likewise part of the diversity-and-inclusion trend, with plus-size models doing fashion shows for designer brands, a “shift toward runway realism” that is “refreshing,” as Vogue’s Janelle Okwodu gushed.
If a girl wants to be truly stylish for the fall 2017 season, she must avoid being thin, white or heterosexual, and maybe she actually shouldn’t be a girl at all. Not only can boys become makeup models, but girls can become boys in the gender-blender Internet marketplace where young people shop around for trendy identities.
“Social contagion” is a phrase frequently used by those concerned about what they see as a disturbing increase in transgenderism among young people. One site paying attention to this trend, 4thWaveNow.com, includes many “parents of teens who became convinced they were the opposite sex after a steady diet of social media and/or peer influence.” Emotionally vulnerable adolescents sometimes quite suddenly reach the conclusion that they are transgender, according to parents who say their teenagers decided to switch genders after just a few weeks of watching the videos promoting “transition” that now proliferate on YouTube. Dr. Lisa Littman of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine recently published a study about “Rapid Onset of Gender Dysphoria in Adolescence and Young Adults.” There is no doubt that this is a growing trend, which the Internet has made a worldwide phenomenon. In England, for example, the National Health Service reports a four-fold increase in the number of minors seeking sex-change “therapy” at taxpayer-funded Gender Identity Clinics. And with transgenderism now being promoted as a fashion statement, this trend is unlikely to abate anytime soon.
Likewise, the obesity epidemic has given rise to marketing campaigns by companies eager to cash in on the “fat acceptance” movement which, likes the transgender movement, has spread its message via online social media. Fat women promoting themselves as “body positivity” role models on Instagram, Facebook, and blogs can get paid as fashion “influencers” by brands eager to sell their wares to this growing (pardon the pun) market segment. Here, too, the intersection between commerce and social-justice ideology is evident. Just as tobacco companies once used feminism as a gimmick to sell cigarettes (“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” the Virginia Slims ads proclaimed), now the rhetoric of liberation is leveraged as a marketing tool by companies selling jumbo-sized clothing to obese women who view their fatness as a feminist statement.
Among the promoters of fat feminism are lesbian fashionistas like Nicolette Mason, who wrote her college thesis on “Heteronormativity in Mass Media and the Impact on LGBT Youth” and whose wife is a research director at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Mason has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram and recently launched a new fashion line in partnership with Gabi Gregg (250,000+ Instagram followers) featuring products with slogans like “Feminist AF.” (If you don’t know what “AF” stands for, ask you teenage daughter, although it might help to know that “F” is for a word that Gregg applies to “the pathetic excuse for a human that is Donald Trump.”) Lesbianism has become a marketing trend all its own, as exemplified by the popularity of “The Future Is Female,” originally a 1970s lesbian separatist T-shirt slogan embraced by Hillary Clinton’s supporters in 2016, with a boost from L.A. boutique owner Rachel Berks and supermodel Cara Delevingne. Berks is a self-declared “queer feminist” who donates a portion of the proceeds from the shirts to Planned Parenthood.
Anti-male slogans as fashion statements reflect the extent to which the politics of feminism has become a dominant influence among the teen and 20-something audience targeted by companies selling clothing, cosmetics, and other beauty products. Cashing in on feminism is obviously a challenge, given that the movement’s grim young ideologues are generally anti-capitalist and anti-beauty, too. Feminists denounce ideals of beauty as patriarchal, heteronormative and toxic, even fascist and racist. “Eurocentric beauty standards have been a tool for destruction and dehumanization throughout history” and are “rooted in racism and ableism… xenophobia, imperialism, and white supremacy,” feminist Maya Gittleman has declared. It is wrong to be beautiful, many feminists believe. Far from wishing to attract male admiration, they consider it oppressive for men even to look at women, “objectifying” them with the “male gaze.” Feminists often pursue an aesthetic of deliberate ugliness — tattoos and facial piercings, hair dyed weird colors (green, pink, purple, etc.) — in an effort to make themselves as scary-looking as possible.
Feminism’s anti-beauty ideology would seem to make the movement an unlikely ally for the fashion industry, but as L’Oréal’s signing of Munroe Bergdorf suggests, corporate executives think they can co-opt feminism simply by making a few shrewd “diversity” gestures. This might be a miscalculation, considering the denouement of the Bergdorf saga. Just days after L’Oréal’s new transgender ambassador was announced, the Daily Mail quoted his/“her” Facebook rant attacking white people, whose “entire existence is drenched in racism” because “their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth.” Bergdorf had issued this racial denunciation, so sweeping as to include his/“her” own white mother, immediately after the violence at Charlottesville, and subsequently claimed his/“her” words had been quoted “out of context.” However, the controversy was enough to prompt L’Oréal to jettison Bergdorf, whom the company previously had hailed as “the face of modern diversity.” In a statement, L’Oréal declared: “We support diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender and religion.… We believe that the recent comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with those values, and as such we have taken the decision to end the partnership with her.”
L’Oréal claims to embrace “diversity and tolerance,” but the feminist movement, fighting against the alleged “intersectionality” of oppression, is the enemy of such values. In the 21st century, feminism increasingly seeks to silence dissenting opinions by defining disagreement as “hate speech.” This was why Google was forced to fire James Damore last month after his internal memorandum raised questions about the company’s “diversity” program.
Feminists are intolerant of basic facts about biological differences between men and women, which is why L’Oréal was celebrated for playing along with the charade that Munroe Bergdorf is a woman. An ideology that cannot tolerate truth is not a beautiful thing, and the fashion industry’s efforts to profit by cashing in on feminism as a trend are likely to produce ugly results.
JIP at English Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons