In Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2015 show, Karl Lagerfeld, head designer of Chanel, came out on the runway with a group of models behind him, all with signs proclaiming feminist wordings such as “History is Herstory,” “Ladies First,” and “Be Your Own Stylist.” Most of these slogans were vague and meaningless in the context of feminism—especially when the person leading them is Lagerfeld, who has openly claimed that Coco Chanel, a thoroughly independent woman in a time period where such a thing was looked down upon, was not a feminist because she “wasn’t ugly enough.”
Another recent correlation between appearance and feminism occurred when Annie Lennox, former lead singer of Eurythmics, revealed that she considers Beyonce’s feminism more of a “feminism-lite” citing her revealing clothing and sometimes sexual performances as a reason that Beyonce is “not liberating, not empowering.”
But what is a feminist supposed to look like? While some laud Nicki Minaj’s revealing outfits as a way of taking control of her own sexuality, others claim she is indecent, crude, and vulgar. Rihanna’s rather sexualized performances get the same duality. Meanwhile, Emma Watson received little to no criticism over her outfit at her UN speech—quite possibly because the outfit doesn’t matter.
An outfit should not determine whether someone is considered a feminist; it only matters if the individual believes in equal rights for men and women. Period. Part of those equal rights is the ability to wear whatever the individual wants without being judged for how feminist they must be. A hemline does not determine someone’s stance on equal rights.
This is why people like Lagerfeld and Lennox are seriously misguided in what makes a feminist. Appearances do not make the feminist, ideas do. Lagerfeld can hardly push a feminist theme in his show when he has openly attacked women for their appearances, calling singer Adele “a little too fat” and claiming that Pippa Middleton “should only show her back.” Lennox can’t call Beyonce “feminist-lite” for choosing to represent herself in the way that she—not Lennox—does. If a person claims that someone is not a feminist because of the way that they dress, it says more about their stance on feminism than the person that they’re judging.
It’s not about what they’re wearing. It’s not even about what Beyonce—or Lennox—are singing about. Feminism is them being able to do anything they want to do, wearing anything they want to wear, and saying anything they want to say. Nobody should be told what to wear to be a feminist. They should be told that having the choice to wear what they want is what feminism is all about.
Karishma Sonde is a staff writer Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.