The Runway Talks About Gender and Sexuality
The Runway Talks About Gender and Sexuality
If we try to roam our eyes around, we could see that it has conquered our society in various ways. We are bombarded by popular culture through ads, fashion shows and celebrity endorsements. The culture of a society greatly influences the different aspects of the community, especially the lives of the people living in the particularly society. Culture is the ingrained distinguishable characteristics of a group of people. Culture is developed through the injection of various socio-political factors and the inherent values, beliefs and traditions.
The current prevailing culture, tastes, and preferences of majority of the people dictate the fad and what is hot in a certain period of time. Fashion is an inconstant thing; it is always changing. It is a way which enables us to manifest our views and ideals. It could transform an image of a person and it could implicitly declare a social statement (Nellis 2008). Thus, fashion could convey different messages. Ideologies, beliefs, and personality could be expressed through fashion. Fashion takes many forms. Garments, styles, and genres are among the popular forms of fashion.
Views about sexuality and gender could also be conveyed through fashion. Clothes say something about how gender and sexuality are perceived. Gender, which is the inclination or the preference of a person that is not biologically constructed but socially modified, is a concept that is often misunderstood. The term is often associated with women studies due to the prevalence of inequality in gender. As a result of this inequality, the capabilities and potentials of women are undermined (Food and Agriculture Organization 1997).
On the other hand, sexuality refers to the sexual character of a person. Sexuality defines the state of sexual preference of an individual (LoveToKnow. Corp 2008). It is concerned to our inclination towards either the same or other sex. Gender and sexuality are both reflected in the runway. When models start gracing the aisle, they just do not present the clothes but send a message to the spectators something that concerns gender and sexuality. Fashion Fashion is the current, dominant style, and custom adhered by most of people (Lexico Publishing Group, LLC 2008).
When one thinks of fashion, the first thing that will come into your mind are trendy styles of garments and accessories. People adhere to the culture to conform and prevent deviance. They just continue to go with the flow in order for them not to be ostracized by other members of the society. Fashion may influence the way we dress and even our behavior. Our attitudes adapt to the different environmental and social factors, these include the current styles and trends in fashion. Fashion is perceived in many ways.
It is considered as a product of art. For some who are really into fashion, it is almost a faith and religion. However, for some peoplem it is a means to manipulate clothes, garments, and accessories in hiding or showing something about oneself (Nellis 2008). Fashion can also be utilized to disguise individuals or extend their personality. It can also be used to expressed themselves and what they believe in (Nellis 2008). That is why the different genres are developed, such as the preppy, goth, punk, etc.
The different genres depict various style emanating the discernible characteristics of a group of persons who follow the genre. Fashion statement can be made through clothes, accessories, and shoes. Even the gadgets such as cellphones and i-pods are ornaments that do not just enhance the people’s style, but they can also say something negative about these people (Nellis 2008). Even though the majority of people adhering a certain style determines what’s in, the proponents and great thinkers of the fashion industry greatly contribute to the direction of fashion.
Designers could set new trends in clothing presented in the glamorous runways (Nellis 2008). Celebrities, socialites, and other glitterati that could gather attention also influence the course of fashion (Nellis 2008). This is because many people look up to them—they belong to the top of the heirarchy of social classes. They should always look good and fashionable. They should wear the latest styles and cuts of clothes. Nevertheless ,in the end, it is always the buyer who decides whether to buy and abide on the current and latest trends.
Cities of New York, Paris and Milan are considered the major places of great fashion designers and manufacturers (Nellis 2008). The cities were also known for its big fashion events. We might perceive that fashion is a useless stuff that cares only about the glamour and prestige. We think fashion only caters to the elites and people in the upper class. When people comply on a particular fashion trend, it shows that their thinking is contemporary and flexible. Fashion helps you escape some of your worries. It helps you to unwind and relax. Fashion gets you to send a message.
It helps you convey your emotion and what you feel. Fashion enables you to get across others by transmitting an implied message through your clothing (Nellis 2008). Gender and Sexuality in Fashion Part of the relevance of fashion is to convey a particular message, idea, belief, and emotion. Fashion also depicts the personality of a person. We may be unaware but contemporary fashion communicate ideas about gender and sexuality. When we wear a particular clothes, we somehow transmit a message reflecting our self-image. Fashion is a way of expressing ourselves.
It becomes an extension of our personality, depicting our inner self and emanates it outside for other people to decipher your identity. Gender and sexuality are one of the inherent and prevalent ideas that are always present when a person wears a set of clothes. When we see a woman who wears skimpy clothing, we would think that she is an outgoing and flirty person who aims to attract another person based on her preference. But when we saw a woman in conservative clothing, we perceived her to deny any sexual activity. Thus, we develop a connotation on other people’s clothing.
All of these revolve around popular culture. Pop culture is a web of multiple beliefs and practices of common people. In some context, some issues about gender and sexuality is still considered as taboo. Though we already lived in a liberated and open-minded society, some of the issues would still be discussed secretively or privately. Some sociologists studied the correlation of gender and sexuality in fashion. How fashion convey underlying concepts of masculinity and femininity. David Gauntlett is one of the sociologists who studied gender and sexuality.
Though his study focuses mostly on media and its relation to gender and identity, and its effects to its audience. We are trying to figure out what ideas about gender and sexuality does the fashion images reflected. This type of communication is an example of non-verbal communication, wherein a message is conveyed without the use of vocal chords and speech. David Gauntlett is a professor of Media and Communications of the University of Westminister, that is the reason why he studied the concepts of masculinity and femininity in relation with media.
He focused on how media depict gender roles, women and sexuality. Gender and sexuality is the center of a person’s identity and individuality (Gauntlett 2002:1). A person’s behavior, attitudes, and ways are anchored to his gender and sexuality. These two related concepts influences our tastes and preferences. Fashion is also one of the many things that could be found in the complex web of topics presented by media. Fashiomn through ads, coverage of fashion showsm and events and the reality shows about searching for the new model and designer.
People tend to imitate the fashion sense and statements of the celebrities they see on TV. Gauntlett (2002: 1) also said that we our lives are in a constant change. What could have been portrayed and accepted in the 60s and 70s could no longer be acceptable today. Role models pass by and could be a laughing stock after several years (Gauntlett 2002:1). Fashion is impermanent. Fashion always changes as it adheres to the changing needs of the members of society. Different periods of time has its own distinguishable fashion styles.
The 70s is famous for its polka dots, bell-bottom jeans, and radiant colors. However, eventually, fashion changed and the contemporary society now prefers skinny jeans and metallic colors. David Gauntlett borrowed the ideas of Foucault and Butler, who expounded the premise of the queer theory. Queer theory, unlike it is always perceived, do es not only focus on homosexuality though the topic will always be touched. Queer theory is said to be developed from poststructuralism, a term used to describe selves and social that breaks to the normative views of the society.
This concept is often associated with the writings of Foucault and Derrida (Seidman 1996:194). Poststructuralism argues that individuals are not the sole creators of themselves and their social worlds. Instead, they are embedded in the complex web of different social relations. Poststructuralism further contests that the subjects or the individuals are not the antecedent of political and social structures, but they are constituted and embedded in the political and social arrangements (Seidman 1996:195). Foucault related the concept with the perception of sexuality of western society.
He said that the topic of sexuality has always been taboo. It is something that has always been unallowed to discuss in public. However, sexuality is something that has been discussed all the time in Victorian society. It is something that is a product of discourse and is well-regulated (Seidman 1996:195). Gauntlett (2002) mainly probed on how media depict the past and contemporary representations of gender and sexuality. He utilized the ideas and claims of other sociologists in attempt to explain the effects of media in changing the personal views and identity of people.
Through this, he was able to show how not only communication shape the way we interpret the world and ourselves but the media possesseses an ability to shape our views through communicating discourses that they want people to perceive (Gauntlett 2002). For Gauntlett, media influences our way of living. Media offers various messages and images that is in the form of ‘role models’, which causes men and women to use them as guide in living (2002). It was a long-time issue until media distorted the images and roles of sexes, utilized the traditional roles, and stereotyped women.
On the contrary, he assessed that today’s media is more balanced and reflect equality in gender. He added that the media depict men and women no longer in their stereotypical roles (Gauntlett 2002). This is related to fashion, for fashion goods or products were delivered directly to our homes through the utilization of media. High-profiled celebrities and and the people create statement and styles. Because people look up to these people, they tend to acquire, borrow or copy their styles and looks. What happened was people also borrow the ideas and messages that the certain fashion style is trying to create.
For example, Angelina Jolie wears a tee shirt saying “Feed the hungry. Donate! ” One may eventually buy the same shirt and unconciously borrowethe advocacy that Angelina Jolie is trying to promote. In relation to gender and sexuality, the styles and cuts of clothes send out messages about the ideas of the person toward these two particular subjects. Fashion may seem masculine and feminine. It may reflect the gender of a person, a man may wear women’s clothes reflecting he is gay. If you borrow the style of Pamela Anderson or Carmen Elektra, you also send out a message that you are open and sensual.
The proposition of David Gauntlett is supported by the theory formulated by another sociologist, Anthony Giddens. Gauntlett borrowed some of the ideas of Giddens in explaining the effects of media to its audience. In Giddens’ structuration theory, he stated that people are knowledgeable agents. It just appears that they are swayed by images they see and messages they hear (S Poore/The Hewett School). It was always thought that social agents are greatly influenced by things that is accepted by the majority of members of society and they adhere it as a sign of conformity.
But Giddens try to explain that people are aware of these messages and images, it is up to them to decide if they will adhere to the normative culture. He explained that people are thinking through their mode of expression and perception of self (Gauntlett 2002). Giddens also formulated the modernity theory. He developed a theory that attempts to explain the distinctive modern culture and he rejected the idea of postmodernism. He states that modernity’s culture is in constant change. New culture developed and replace the existing norms (Tucker 1998:126).
In relation to fashion, new trends and styles comes out every season styling out old styles. Every particular period is defined also by a particular set of fashion styles. There are different fashion eras. There are times when dresses are so in, and was phased out by jeans and spaghetti straps. Issues about identity and sexuality and their correlation never fail to arouse and kindle society’s conciousness. Giddens also explained the concepts of feminism, sexuality and self-identity. He firmly believes that the idea of feminism make way for the realization of modern self identity to a certain degree.
People suddenly become cognizant about the relation of peronal identity and political and social issues (Tucker 1998:186). Fashion has always been aware of these issues and designers unconciously depict them in their collection. The rise of feminism give rise also to the number of women in the workforce, with some of them holding top ranks in a company. Due to the sudden change resulting from femisnism, designers venture in providing executive clothing to working women holding top positions and clothes that is comfortable and appropriate to any kind of job women take. Conclusion
The existing popular culture greatly influences the different aspect of society including the prevalent fashion. Culture is shaped by individuals and socio-political factors which includes beliefs, traditions, and values that arw accepted and agreed upon by majority of people. People adhere to the revised culture as a sign of conformity or compliance to defy deviance. Fashion is the current custom or style adhered by people. Fashion is often associated with garments and acessories, fashion shows, and events with celebrities and gliterrati. Fashion revolves around the lives of people.
It influences our behaviors, attitudes, and principles. Fashion serves people in various ways. Fashion can be a tool in disguising yourself into, attempting to hide something. Fashion could also be an extension of your personality, a person could manifest their personal identity through the clothes they wear. Fashion is also a form of self-expression. Through the clothes and accessories you wear you could express your ideas and beliefs. It could also advocate for change. Gender and sexuality are the two topics that are frequently discussed in society. Gender and sexuality are two of the concepts that raise the concern of people.
These two topics are conveyed and manifested through fashion. They implicitly crafted in garments and clothing. Our perception of sexuality is also conveyed through our style and looks. Sociologists attempt to explain the phenomenon through various theoretical approaches. David Gauntlett examine the effects of media on its audience. Sexuality and gender are two of the topics catered by media. He stated that media influence our ways of living and act as role models. People use the images and messages they perceived as guides and incorporate it in their lifestyle.
Fashion is delivered to us through media. They were sent to us in the form of ads, endorsements and runway shows. The styles and trends that we see influence us on the contemporary fad that will soon be adhered by members of society. Anthony Giddens, on the other hand, explained in his structuration theory that people are knowledgeable beings. They are aware of the messages and images and decide whether they will conform or comply on it. Sexuality and gender are manifested in the styles and trends of contemporary fashion. Fashion is impermanent and will constantly change.
New styles and cuts will deliberately attract the attention of social agents. List of References Food and Agriculture Organization (1997) ‘What is Gender? ‘ FAO Corporate Document Repository [online] available from <http://www. fao. org/docrep/007/y5608e/y5608e01. htm> [3 July 2008] Gauntlett, D. 2002, Media, Gender, and Identity: An Introduction, London: Routledge. Lexico Publishing Group, LLC (2008) ‘Fashion’. Dictionary. com [online] available from <http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/fashion> [3 July 2008] LoveToKnow. Corp (2008) ‘Sexuality’. YourDictionary. com [online] available from <http://www.yourdictionary. com/sexuality> [3 July 2008]
Nellis, C. (2008) ‘A Definition of Fashion’. About. com: Women’s Fashion [online] available from <http://fashion. about. com/cs/historycostumes/a/whatisfashion. htm> [3 July 2008] S Poore/ The Hewett School ‘Anthony Giddens and Structuration’. [online] available from <http://www. hewett. norfolk. sch. uk/CURRIC/soc/giddens/tgiddens. htm> [4 July 2008] Seidman, S. 1996, Queer Theory/sociology, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Tucker, K. H. 1998, Anthony Giddens and Modern Social Theory, London: Sage Publications Ltd.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 November 2016
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