You’ll remember a couple of weeks ago, I posted about the Feminist Fashion Bloggers network to explore the intersections between fashion and feminist issues and make friends across blogging niches. The group now has an amazing 40 members so far and there’s been some great discussions already!
Anyway, today is the first of the weekly coordinated posts the group is doing. To kick things off, we are each featuring a personal feminist/fashion icon – a feminist who also has great style, or a fashion icon who also works with and for women, someone from history, or someone active just now.
I was having a really hard time time picking someone. I had initially wanted to pick someone who was primarily known for being a feminist, but it was hard! I spent quite a while researching Germaine Greer who is not particularly stylish now, but was very glam in the seventies, but I’ve never read any of her books, so in the end I didn’t feel I could do her justice, and I kept coming up against her appearance on Celebrity Big Brother which put me off.
So in the end I decided to go with Björk, a strong independent woman who has consistently inspired me with both her style and her music.
I have followed Björk since her very first record and I have never stopped being amazed by the strong artistic and stylistic concept that accompanies each album. Björk’s style always seems highly thought through at the same time as being very conceptual and off the wall. I think she is beautiful, but her clothes are never about being pretty or sexy, which I love. They’re clothes as art and as something to play with and explore. That swan dress she wore at the Oscars is generally seen as a complete fashion faux pas and the only thing most people remember her for, but I loved it and still do! It didn’t take itself seriously, it was poking fun at the spectacle that is a red carpet event, and it was ace!
Björk are also never in danger of simply following fashion. Everything she does is so uniquely her. Whenever she wears a fashion designers’ clothes it seems more of a collaboration that her simply taking the designer’s clothes and putting them on. Her collaborative relationship with Alexander McQueen is a testament to that.
While most of her outfits are quite obviously stage wear and not normal clothes, and therefore not directly translatable into everyday wear, I have still been massively inspired by her. Not necessarily by any specific items, but by her uniqueness, her confidence in her own choices and the sheer joy of playing with clothes.
As to whether Björk is a feminist, in this interview from 2005, she said that she initially did not see herself as a feminist and got into knitting, sewing and housework as a reaction against her second wave feminist mother, who refused to do anything domestic. But as she grew older and had a daughter she recognised the problems around gender roles and the expectations of women to take care of everything and became more interested in women’s rights:
It’s interesting for me to bring up a girl. You go to the toy store and the female characters there – Cinderella, the lady in Beauty and the Beast – their major task is to find Prince Charming. And I’m like, wait a minute – it’s 2005! We’ve fought so hard to have a say, and not just live through our partners, and yet you’re still seeing two-year-old girls with this message pushed at them that the only important thing is to find this amazing dress so that the guy will want you.
I have been noticing how much harder it is for me and my girlfriends to juggle things than it is for men. In the 1990s, there was a lot of optimism: we thought we’d finally sorted out equal rights for men and women … and then suddenly it just crashed. I think this is my first time in all the hundreds of interviews I’ve done, that I’ve actually jumped on the feminist bandwagon. In the past I always wanted to change the subject. But I think now it’s time to bring up all these issues. I wish it wasn’t, but I’ll do it, I’m up for doing the dirty work!
This raises some interesting questions about whether being interested in activities traditionally done by women makes you unfeminist. A lot of the discussion in the FBB google groups keeps coming back to this question and I’ll be doing some more thinking and hopefully some writing about this topic in the next few weeks.
The other thing that fascinates me about Björk is that she had a child in 1986, aged just 21 (she has had another in 2002). This is possibly more of an Icelandic thing than a Björk thing – according to this (pre financial meltdown) article, it is perfectly commonplace for 21 and 22 year olds of all educational and social levels to choose to have children, without feeling like that would compromise their future. Children are part of life and everyone is involved in their care, including lots of men who are the main carers. And where relationships end, it tends to be amicably, and custody is shared equally. At least that’s what the article says.
I don’t want to go on here about my recent preoccupation with childcare and parental leave and suchlike (though more than happy to at another time, should anyone be interested), but it really made me think. Even if everything goes completely according to plan, I’m going to be 31 by the time we have a baby, and it just fascinates me to imagine what it would be like to live in a society where having kids young was normal and not a tradeoff with the mother’s career (never the fathers) and a choice to be timed just so. Where I didn’t feel I needed to get the promotions at work and the housebuying out of the way first. It’s almost impossible to picture and I’d love to seem more women find a way of doing this without always having to enter Nicola Horlick superwoman territory.
So there you are! I was already in danger of veering off into various tangents, but I’m saving that for the next few weeks. So much to talk about!