Monday, March 07, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Oh the bias of the press

Galliano's Fashionable Beliefs is a remarkably arrogant article by Laurie Penny who is usually rather more prone to writing articles that I have sympathy for. Instead of letting my fury have full reign, with that sympathy in mind, I am going to attempt to dissect the problems with her New Statesman post a little more calmly than I generally would.

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. I'm ignoring the headline and byline since she probably had no part in writing them and getting straight to the meat of the post. The first thing Laurie does is launch an assault on the fashion industry. She gives no indication of whether she discerns the breadth of the industry or the difference between a designer, buyer, model, agent, independent dressmaker, gentleman's tailor and High Street retail assistant (to name just a few jobs in an international industry) but rather accuses everyone involved of unexamined prejudice. If it's a joke it's a particularly insulting one and if it's not then I'm sure I don't need to enlighten you all as to the logical flaw because in writing about prejudice in fashion she has made a statement that suggests rather a lot of it.

In the third paragraph she makes a little jibe about fashion being about appearance rather than clothing. This would sit better if she had either revealed a better understanding of the industry's breadth initially or described the section of the industry she was finding fault with. She goes on to point out that the fashion industry, specifically modelling, is racist but doesn't tackle the issue of racism in the industry sufficiently, doesn't discuss complications or how it might be resolvable. Then Laurie points out that "model agencies recently suggested that perhaps consumers just don't like looking at black people" but gives no source for this piece of information. If you have read other pieces on this blog you will see that I can find no fault with the statement that racism is inherent in modelling. I disagree with the recent statement by Alex Wek that it isn't racist but Laurie's criticisms are undermined by her blase attitude to specificity and an obvious misunderstanding of the importance of describing the section of an industry that you find fault with. This is also a separate issue to Galliano's alleged anti-semitism because while Galliano is a well known and influential designer he does not run modelling agencies and is not a magazine editor and conflating all of those issues together is too simplistic. Even if few black supermodels are present on the runway (catwalk) that does not mean they should automatically be ignored by magazines but open a copy of British Vogue and it's clear that there's a problem across specific sections of the industry in terms of modelling. It is unclear whether Laurie lacks the clarity needed to write on this issue or if she is ignorant of what she's describing but her article doesn't quite crack the issues she alludes to.

The fifth paragraph essentially shrinks the entirety of the fashion industry down to one man: Galliano. The sixth discusses misogyny but yet again Laurie uses hyperbole when she says that fashion has an "apparent conviction that any woman with the temerity to do more than silently starve herself is abhorrent". This would be a minor exaggeration if Laurie was describing fashion models but again she is not, this time she uses the term "fashion culture" so anyone involved in the culture of fashion has that conviction which presumably means that I believe I am abhorrent. Well, as a 5'7" 10 and a half stone woman I can tell you quite emphatically that I eat 3 meals a day, snack inbetween, eat dessert very regularly, am a feminist and think Laurie Penny has just insulted me and some other lovely people rather horribly.