There is an article by Hadley Freeman in today's Guardian with the header: "Amal Clooney's maternity wardrobe:more important than genocide?"
I think Freeman's argument is wrong-headed on three counts. The first is the assumption that it is sexist to talk about women's appearance. Women's appearance matters. We are sexual animals and, in our species, for ancient biological and evolutionary reasons, it is the females who are the more flambuoyant in their appearance than the males. In many birds it's the other way round. And in both cases it is the result, so animal behaviourists argue, of sexual selection. In short, women's appearance matters for propagation of the species. This may not be as important now as it once was but it's still there in our psyche, 'our' referring to both men and women.
The second count of error is that Amal Clooney's role as a human rights lawyer is not reduced in any way by talk about her clothes and general appearance. Hadley seems to think it does. No. Talk about her fashion choices is in addition to her role as a human rights lawyer. Half the world is talking and writing in newspapers about Islamic State's brutality. We're allowed to write and read about other things in tandem, especially in the Fashion sections of newspapers, which is where the article appears.
Thirdly, if women really objected to their fashion choices being commented upon there's an easy solution: wear boring clothes, like men do; have boring hairstyles, as men do; wear boring shoes, as men do. In other words stop feeding the sexual selection meme. Stop behaving as if our appearance mattered by being colourful and interesting and attractive to look at.
I think people ranting about sexism and the objectification of females have a point but I think they stretch it too far in not recognising that the fact that women spend a good deal of effort on their appearance is not necessarily a bad thing. Plus, people like talking about fashion. People are interested in clothes. Female beauty and attractiveness matter to us all, women and men.
You can enjoy a description and a critique of a woman's clothes as well as appreciating her talent in other areas and her intelligence. When men start dressing with as much colour and flair as women do, we'll talk about their appearance and their clothes too.
thatbags Tue 14-Mar-17 09:09:05
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