Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are Gay Men to Blame for Racism/Sexism in Fashion?

Honestly, because I have no idea. But I hear and read this opinion all the time. It breaks down like this:

Gay men run the fashion industry.
Gay men secretly hate women.
Gay men are responsible for the racism and sexism in the fashion world and only want to work with models who look like fuckable androgynous boys.

I find it interesting that opinions like these bandied about like the gospel. I don't recall ever reading them challenged.

Now, I don't doubt for a moment that gay men have a strong foothold in the industry. The overwhelming majority of bold face designers as gay white men. And I'm not so naive as to believe that just because someone is homosexual and may have suffered bigotry because of it, that that person is automatically free of any racist notions.

I just wonder if this blanket statement is really true?

Part of me believes that it is yet another attempt by fashion magazine editors (who are overwhelmingly white and female) to shift the blame. Like when they claim that there just aren't any ethnic models at agencies or that the bookers never send them over for a shoot when they are looking for a fresh face.

It reads to me like the myth that if a black person is on a magazine cover, it will be the lowest selling issue of the year.

It makes me laugh to envision a scenario where Vogue's Anna Wintour is battling in her plush office for hours with Andre Leon Talley, just begging him to let her put a size 6 model (or actress more realistically) on the cover. It just doesn't ring true for me.

On the flip side I am convinced that she was more than a little reluctant to put full figured Jennifer Hudson and believe that the Dreamgirls star would never have made it if it wasn't for a certain 6'6" gay black man.

Wintour's passive aggressive side showed through however when Hudson's ill chosen gaping mouth photo was picked for the cover (which incidentally, was neither the worst or best seller of the year.)

Lastly, nothing will convince me that any gay man worth his salt would champion slack jawed yokle model Agyness Deyn because she looks like a hot dude. To me, the chick doesn't look fuckable to anyone.

I read somewhere once that true fashion magazine editors just don't care about making the names and faces they promote accessible, they just care about their own exclusive world in which everyone is whiter, richer, thinner (and slightly more miserable in my estimation) than YOU.

I mean, it's not like they're eating anything either.

So what do you think, who is to blame. Is it really all about the gay men in fashion?


CynthiaC said...

I'd say that it starts with the designers who design the clothes, ask for the sample pieces to be manufactured in a certain size and have a certain vision. With that vision, he/she goes to the casting people to tell them what he/she is looking for and then the casting people help the designers look. Now, since so many designers (and their design teams) seem to have that same vision of a tall, skinny Eastern European blonde who is barely of high school age, we end up with many tall, skinny, blonde Eastern European 14 year olds in magazines (though almost never on the covers these least the cover girls are not as skinny....actresses average around 5'4" or 5'5" and size 0 or 2, so it isn't as bad looking). If designers suddenly make sample sizes in an 8 and demand a variety of different-looking women who are 5'6", and in their late teens and early 20s, then we'll see a whole lot of slim and average-heighted women in magazines. Unless Ms. Anna and other editors don't want to have a magazine anymore, they'll have no choice but to use these girls.

Bridgett said...

I got linked to this from Racialicious. Nice piece! "Gay men run everything" doesn't make sense to me. It reminds me of the old myths about the Jews running the financial industry through a Secret Cabal. It's a way to shift blame to a less-popular group that 'everyone' was suspicious of anyway. Are there gay men in fashion? Of course. Are they influential? Yes. Are some of them misogynists? Probably. Are racism and sexism in fashion all their fault? Please.

Carmen Van Kerckhove said...

Slightly off-topic, but that food diary you linked to on NY mag is insane!

Ferocious Kitty said...

I've heard the gay man conspiracy theory given as the reason actresses are so skinny too. That and "the camera adds 10 lbs."

The other theory I've heard re: the fashion industry is that designers want their clothes on bodies that resemble clothes hangers, so the body is practically invisible and won't draw attention away from the clothes.

Whatever the real reason, the result is anything but attractive. I will never understand how anyone finds emaciation beautiful.

Sabina England, Playwright said...

to answer your question:


piggie1230 said...

This has been going around since the 70's (maybe earlier). My ex and I found this book called 'growing up straight' (i.e. horribly misogynistic and heteronormitive ways to make your child not gay) and one of the other books written by this same author was an exposition on how gays were ruining fashion, using roughly the same logic that you stated (we were never able to get ahold of that book). It was developed as part and parcel of the anti-gay scare rhetoric of the day.

I'm just kind of freaked out that the logic is still running amok.

marci said...

it's a good smoke screen for who is to blame..
the fashion industry is self perpetuating and bad press is better than no press at all...
a skirt is a skirt is a skirt..
i feel somewhat sorry for the models actually.. in any other walk of life they would be considered freaks... watch the public reaction when an 'ordinary' 6ft woman of any size walks down the street...
only the fashion industry has elevated these women to goddess status...