September 27, 2018

"What exactly is Saint Laurent saying about female sexuality and empowerment here?"



I'm reading Robin Givhan in the Washington Post. The post title is the headline. There are lots of photographs of glamorous clothes with an edge of trashiness. I clipped out part of one photograph. Not randomly selected. It's what caught my eye as I scanned the page with the idea of "female empowerment" foremost in my mind. I've left out what Givhan calls the "teeny-tiny shorts" (which are what we used to call "hot pants").

Let's see how Givhan answers the question posed in the headline:
Yes, the female form is beautiful, but is it made more beautiful by borrowing clothes from the boys, by wrapping it in a cloud of debauchery, by having parts exposed in a way that makes a woman “all legs” instead of full human?

This is not to say that the collection was bad or offensive or improper, only that it raised questions. And raising questions is good, particularly in this moment when the culture, both here and in the United States, is considering its male and feminine norms....
I guess I'm not going to get an answer to the question, only more questions. Questions good. Why not a column full of questions? Maybe we women writers should be all questions, just like the runway models are "all legs."
[Male designers at Saint Laurent] have told women that it is empowering and satisfying to wear teeny-tiny snakeskin shorts with towering heels, to splash through shallow waters with breasts bared on a night chilly enough that guests were swaddled under blankets. They have told them that the ideal female form has the spindly legs of a filly — so immature and scrawny that one half expects the model to collapse in a heap from the sheer exhaustion of having to walk upright....

Yes, the female form is beautiful. It’s inspirational. But what has it inspired? And has that been empowering to women or simply satisfying to men?
So, yeah, we do end with more questions. I was going to say it's the same old questions I've always seen about fashion designers, but really the questions have evolved. What I used to see (half a century ago) was the question whether the designers hated women. This idea was typically tied to the observation that they didn't sexually desire women at all: The designers are gay and that's why the clothes are hostile to women. What we see in this new column is the idea that male sexual desire for women is driving the designs. Are the designers not gay anymore? Why would expensive clothes be designed to "satisfy" men? The women are the clients. What's the logic here?

Oh, I see I'm doing questions, even as I want Givhan not to proceed in the form of question-asking. All right. I'll posit some answers to her questions. Why shouldn't I take the power to say what's what? I will! The clothing is designed to call out to women. It looks the way it does because that has been working to sell clothes. The women who buy those clothes think those clothes will benefit them, and the perception that this is what heterosexual men desire in a woman is a perception that needs to take place in the mind of the woman, and that is the perception the designer is trying to stimulate. If the woman buys clothes that she perceives as satisfying male desire, she is seeking sexual power over men.

And I suspect that one reason Robin Givhan doesn't say that is because it criticizes the woman. The question "has that been empowering to women or simply satisfying to men?" leaves women in the down position, where we can muse MeTooishly. That's a politically advantageous place to stop. And how much of the advertising in The Washington Post comes from the fashion industry? That's another reason to end with musing questions and not rough critique — economic interest.

Raising questions is good, particularly in this moment....

96 comments:

Big Mike said...

What is Saint Laurent saying about feminine empowerment? That you can’t wear their clothes unless you’re an A cup or at most a small B.

Phil 3:14 said...

Does anyone actually buy and wear these clothes?

Bay Area Guy said...

Q: "What exactly is St. Laurent saying about female sexuality and empowerment here?"

A: Hmm. I'll take "Crazy Leftwing Ditzy Woman" for $800, Alex.

Phil 3:14 said...

Exposed breasts and cold weather. Enhancing the texture of the dress.

Sebastian said...

"And has that been empowering to women or simply satisfying to men?"

"or"?

Fox Butterfield, call your office.

David Begley said...

Will DiFi, Kamala and Mazie wear that outfit today?

rhhardin said...

Breasts and hips but nobody's doing cameltoes.

Ann Althouse said...

Why did RG write "considering its male and feminine norms"?

That's a pointed lack of parallelism. Intentional?

Should be "male and female" or "masculine and feminine" if you're following the neutral norm of grammar.

rhhardin said...

Masculine would bring in strength and chivalry; female would leave out modesty.

Ann Althouse said...

"MeTooishly"

Meade misread that as "MeToolishly" and laughed a lot.

Jersey Fled said...

This is supposed to be satisfying to men?

rhhardin said...

October is breast awareness month.

MadisonMan said...

I did not click on the image and enlarge it (really!) so I don't know: Is that circumbreastial decoration drawn on, or some kind of applique?

I don't expect to see any of this in the near future in the Real World. Maybe a starlet will wear it ("It's Fashionable!!") for a meeting with a Producer though.

Sydney said...

I agree with you. Fashion is designed to catch the attention of heterosexual men. A lot of high fashion borders on porn. This made me laugh:
to splash through shallow waters with breasts bared on a night chilly enough that guests were swaddled under blankets
Cold water and chilly evening, natural breast enhancers.

EDH said...

"What exactly is Saint Laurent saying about female sexuality and empowerment here?"

"Nipple hair - Lame."

Kevin said...

Yes, the female form is beautiful, but is it made more beautiful by borrowing clothes from the boys, by wrapping it in a cloud of debauchery, by having parts exposed in a way that makes a woman “all legs” instead of full human?

She is saying you can’t sexualize a woman who’s sexualized herself, and you can’t debase a woman who’s debased herself.

And since you’re not allowed to criticize a woman for sexualizing or debasing herself, this is somehow empowering.

Unknown said...

Personally, if certain female groups demand proportional representation based on sex, I say let them start with the fashion designers. The girls certainly could not do any worse.

Bob Boyd said...

"to splash through shallow waters with breasts bared on a night chilly enough that guests were swaddled under blankets."

That'll put hair on your chest.

gilbar said...

Why would expensive clothes be designed to "satisfy" men? The women are the clients.

'They' say that men are visual, women are verbal: That's why men lie, and women wear makeup
What makes you think The women are the clients? Maybe the women HAVE clients?

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

"The designers are gay and that's why the clothes are hostile to women.

The angry gay male influence is everywhere now. TeeVee is all "teh gay, teh gay, teh gay" Day time TeeVee, Night Time TeeVee - PBS Sunday nights - it's all "teh gay"
You will accept teh gay, and you will worship teh gay and you will allow teh gay into every corner of your life, or else. and all the chip on the shoulder that comes with.
It's not enough to live and let live.

I think the guy who took over Restoration Hardware is gay. The interior design is all what I call "Angry gay male" Dark gray walls, heavy angry weird furniture.
Who would want to replicate this? Yuck.

When that catalog arrives in the mail, I don't even look. I just toss it.

*I've been sick lately and watching more TeeVee. Ugh - not a treat. It's horrid.

And all the leftwing lady talk shows are one gassy lynch mob against Kavanaugh. Due process? forget it. Because bitchy ugly leftwing hag worship the abortion.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

As to the model in the photo

That's a MAN baby!

Rick said...

What's the logic here?

The same logic used everywhere in media: facts are whatever they need to be to support the narrative.

William said...

Literally dozens, nay hundreds, of words have been written here about sex and women, and Kavanaugh's name has not been mentioned once. It can be done. It's possible to think about sex and women and not be bothered by intrusive thoughts of the Supreme Court confirmation process.

gilbar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Sorry William.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I was going to say it's the same old questions I've always seen about fashion designers, but really the questions have evolved.

Here is a question that hasn't evolved.

Who ,the Hell, in real life, is going to wear those things, in public? Your Aunt Maude, at the grocery store. Miss Walls, your 3rd grade teacher. The clerk at the DMV?

Same thing goes for the ridiculous mens fashions Gucci Men's summer 2018 Seriously? You want to see your auto mechanic in that? Or your Doctor come into the exam room in one of those?

Second question: Who can afford this stuff? Not the normal woman or man. Also the normal person wouldn't wear this stuff, except at Halloween.

mccullough said...

These designs reinforce Cisgenderism.

Where are the designs for the Transwomen? And Transwomen are not all one shape and size.

Givhan is a disgrace. A tool of the Cisnormative, Heteronormative Matriarchy.


gilbar said...

The more things change...
Anatole of Paris

Bill Peschel said...

Fashion at this level is no longer about the runway clothes. It's about marketing the brand, which is slapped on anything and everything.

This gives an economic edge to anything which pushes boundaries, looks edgy, provocative and outrageous.

CJinPA said...

particularly in this moment when the culture, both here and in the United States, is considering its male and feminine norms...

"The culture" is considering something? Reminds me of the South Park episode in which residents were encouraged to show proper respect to "The Economy" lest it unleash its wrath.

In this case, "the culture" is a relatively small collection of influential people. The masses are not considering its male and female norms.

gg6 said...

"the woman buys clothes .. ... seeking sexual power over men." Yes, in this case she buys clothes she believes make her look 'rape-able'. Why? Because she is told it does by Male designers who, yes, are still overwhelmingly Gay and have ZERO sexual interest in her of their own. How interesting. Yes, the current and ongoing Gay designer game is making heterosexual women look as androidish and bizarrely 'sexually perverse' as possible - because normal heterosexual-sexuality is sooo, so boring, darhling. Now, women who dressed like trashy, Japanese under-inflated sex-bots ? - NOW you're talking interesting!! Almost as interesting as sick women who get off fantasizing being raped by a Supreme Court Justice.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Seeing all of this "empowerment" of women and where it has gotten us with the #Metoo BS and the joke of the Kavanaugh hearings where we must believe the most fanciful and obviously false accusations because..women....survivors....waaahhhh!!!!

......I sometimes think that maybe the Muslims have it right after all.

(joking...sort of).

mikee said...

Oddly enough, some of those acts which men do with women, done because they are "satisfying to men," are at the exact same time satisfying to women. Hard to believe, as Ghivens makes zero note of this well-recognized detail of human sexuality. But I am assured by experts in the subject, experts who are in fact women, specifically women without penises at all, that this is true, believe it or not. This is perhaps one of the reasons women do those things with men.

I believe actress Madelaine Kahn expressed it best in Young Frankenstein when she stated, "The feeling is mootchal!"

Darrell said...

Blogger rhhardin said...
Breasts and hips but nobody's doing cameltoes.


You forgot mooseknucles. Some women have mooseknuckles, according to the NYT New Guide For Today's Woman.

Oso Negro said...

These questions, about an article discussing high fashion in the language of academic feminism,
demonstrate lack of perspective on what is appealing to men. They also lack acknowledgment of the animal nature of human females. Normal men don’t process what a woman is wearing as they spend the microsecond determining whether they find her sexually desirable or not. It’s her shape, her walk, the interest or lack of it in her eyes. That’s it. The man glanced at you and knows if he would do it or not. Women dress partially for men, but primarily to signal status and attitude to other women. That’s all. Something new and novel is a big signal, ergo high fashion.

mikee said...

Terry Garr. The other hot woman in the film Young Frankenstein.
I need coffee.

Чикелит said...

That stippling is pretty crumby breast enhancement.

Ughs all around.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

accusations that arrive right on time to delay the vote...

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Fashion design parallels Hillarywoodland.
Out. Of. Ideas.

Stoutcat said...

Gilbar at 8:09 said...

Ah, yes, Anatole of Paris.

Darrell said...

Shouldn't the Hillary look be "in" now?
How else can you stick it to Trump and mean it?
Why treat Trump to legs and bare boobs?

tim in vermont said...

Feminism was designed by horny teenage boys. I mean if you look at it from a cui bono point of view.

tim in vermont said...

Maybe the designer is just trying to get rid of her translucent nipples.

policraticus said...

"What exactly is Saint Laurent saying about female sexuality and empowerment here?"

Short answer: Nothing.

Long answer: Be empowered to buy more clothes.

This is marketing. The clients of Saint Laurent are meant to project their own emotions onto the collection and, if all goes according to plan, fill up Saint Laurent's bank account with millions of dollars. What will they project? Some self-deluding pablum, no doubt, about how women are fierce, independent, strong, have agency, need not bend to the patriarchy and blah-blah-blah.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Good point, Darrell-

The hospital gown shower curtain pantsuit muu muu should be all the rage.

Cornfed said...

The target customer here is almost entirely the urban chic. They dress to impress each other as much (more, probably) as to attract men. This cutting edge fashion nonsense is socioeconomic signaling, mainly. If you think it is primarily to attract men, then I must tell you, as a red blooded hetero male, my reaction to these fashion shows alternates between laughter and revulsion.

mockturtle said...

Bored but affluent women will fall for anything and gay designers know this.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Mockturtle...
I imagine bored wealthy women in the South of France (and Hillarywoodland) wearing fancy designer clothes in front of mirrors inside the house. Do they leave the house? I doubt it.

mockturtle said...

Come to think of it, on a visit to Tokyo [business] our hosts took us to a Las Vegas-style club where some of the showgirls were dressed similarly to that and they were able to twirl their breasts in opposite directions. Impressive! But empowering?

Matt said...

Are people really, I mean REALLY, confused as to why an industry dominated by gay dudes regularly makes women look like freaks?

Cmon, man.

Matt said...

I always feel like fashion runway shows are saying something very specific to those who are plugged in and I am missing the point completely.

Take that photo of a half-dressed model. Is there something special about that half-shirt the model is wearing? Is it a technological change in weaving or dyeing that I should be noticing? Did Yves St. Laurent's designers find a way to use the materials in an unexpected way? Should I expect to see those feather-looking things on shirts, etc. in the near future? Should those appliques (is that the right word?) on the model's breasts mean something to me? What about the scarf? It's like fashion people speak a secret language to each other, while trying to distract me (and Robin Givhan, apparently) with breasts and legs.

tim in vermont said...

has that been empowering to women or simply satisfying to men?

Embrace the power of “and.”

Carol said...

Nah, it's a perfect synergy of men's love/hate for women ("let's see how far she'll go"), and women's tendency toward exhibitionism.

Win-win!

tim in vermont said...

It’s kind of funny how the writer just assumes that fashion designers are part of the unified cultural revolution to which they subscribe.

Spiros Pappas said...

Can't wait for how protesters are going to dress for Judge Barrett's confirmation. This woman is a member of some sort of cult called People of Praise that, improbably, call(ed) their regional female leaders “handmaids”!

Trump almost caused me to change my political affiliation.

Laslo Spatula said...

So the fashion column shows how many women will throw away their own judgment and easily be led to look ridiculous because they believe it is in fashion.

Of course, the recent political headlines of that paper show this, too.

I am Laslo.

buwaya said...

They are still gay, and they still hate women.

You can tell, the models are all glum.

Static Ping said...

My first impression upon seeing the picture you chose for the article was not "wait, she's got her boobs out" but "wait, is that a guy or a girl?"

I would say that the outfit is not especially flattering.

Jose_K said...

They don't sell clothes. They are trying to position a brand. Money comes from licensing
all legs.. high heels make legs look longer too. because that is a sign of fertility

mockturtle said...

Laslo @ 9:00: Precisely.

Seeing Red said...

I don’t want to wear a mustache on my chest or look like a guy.

Caligula said...

"the perception that this is what heterosexual men desire in a woman"

The word "costume" describes this clothing better than clothing. Other than a model who's well-paid to display these clothes, it's hard to see a woman who's mentally well-adjusted wearing them in public.

So, perhaps the perception is that heterosexual men desire crazy women? Perhaps in some situations and at some times, but my perception is that straight men mostly will do just about anything to avoid getting involved with crazy women.

Which brings us back to the first hypothesis: perhaps this is what gay men think straight men desire? Or is it what crazy women think (or wish) heterosexual men should desire?

bagoh20 said...

"Questions good. " I have one:

What are the new bounds for female behavior? We now see that for men there is no way to be above reproach, regardless of how you have lived your life - no way to actually deserve respectability or even the presumption of innocence. So, what are the standards for women? What could a woman possibly do 35 years ago to be ineligible for the Supreme Court today? What uncorroborated, or even proven behavior in high school would make her unacceptable for such an office, and what politician could make that argument without committing suicide? Women are still not equal - they are super citizens - above reproach - victimizing at will.

bagoh20 said...

BTW, My boobs are way bigger than that.

Seeing Red said...

I never understood this feminism idea that if you let your boobs hang out you have freedom. I understand empowerment because the guys will drool because they’re looking at your boobs, but the movement was also eyes up here.

OTOH, have you ever sunburned your boobs? I saw a really bad case in my 20s and no thanks. I’ve protected them ever since.

I swear women are nuts. Don’t look at my boobs, I shouldn’t be defined by my boobs but how many millions does that plastic surgery market do a year?

Look at me, don’t look at me, forget 3 boobs. Size one down to feel more androgynous.

Francisco D said...

Does anyone actually buy and wear these clothes?

Of course not. It is all about pushing the edges of the design envelope.

It says "look at the outrageous crap I can wear and you can't." It is meant to shock the average woman who then beats herself up because she will always look frumpy in comparison.

In other words, it disempowers the average woman.

buwaya said...

Whats up with those faces?
Its been going on forever too, theres nothing new there.

Do the model-girls have to be taught to be perpetually unhappy?
Or is the whole business just so depressing?

I've seen men at the end of their rope with a high-stress task, exhausted, and still smiling and joking.

A pretty girl with a smile works wonders, one would think a smile would help sell clothes, even to women.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

As a woman, I feel sexy and empowered to wear a black-and flesh colored depiction of Super Mario on my chest.

SGT Ted said...

Ignorance of biology and thinking that women are too stupid to think for themselves and simply do what men tell them to do.

That's what passes for "empowerment" these days.

SGT Ted said...

Feminists reveal the contempt they actually feel for heterosexual women every time they assert that the only reason women dress sexy is because hetero men demand that they do it. Cis-Het women are dunderheads, according to feminists.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

btw- I've had gay friends since high school, back when I defended my gay friends form the cruelty of anti-gay sentiment that was alive and well back in the day.

I have nothing against gays. My broader point is that the gay culture is too pushy and depressing. Stop already - we accept you.

Professional lady said...

I really wonder sometimes why people want to look so hideous and unattractive. Seems to be the style for a good percentage of the population male and female. I know it's subjective, but most tattoos, piercings, etc. seem to me to be a purposeful degradation of a person's body. Seems like a purposeful act to make oneself ugly. I don't understand it.

~ Gordon Pasha said...

My daughter-in-law is a top fashion model in the Middle East. She tolerates wearing the weird stuff so that she can get comped with great classic clothes from designers like Chanel, Givency, etc.

Anthony said...

I see our Patriarchal Authority's "Turning Feminism To Our Lurid Benefit Master Plan" is continuing swimmingly.

When is the Body Paint With No Clothing Is Empowering Plan going to start bearing fruit? We can only wait.

hstad said...


Blogger CJinPA said...".....In this case, "the culture" is a relatively small collection of influential people.....?" 9/27/18, 8:12 AM.

I think your opinion and facts are mixed up here about "The Economy". The IRS data base shows there are some 22 million businesses in the USA which make up our economy. I would not call that a "....small collection of influential people...." Try not to get your personal bias' into your comments. I know its hard, but on something like this [easily checked out] it will change the point you are trying to get across.

Phil 3:14 said...

Blogger Bill, Republic of Texas said...
As to the model in the photo

That's a MAN baby!


On second glance that was my thought. and then I thought of this song.

n.n said...

That's a MAN baby!

Neo-female? Possibly. Perhaps part of the male-female congruence movement. It would explain emphasizing the chest, while obscuring notable feminine attributes.

Earnest Prole said...

Haute couture is created and worn to attract the female gaze.

Alpheus said...

"Does anyone actually buy and wear these clothes?"

Yes, I think so. But they all live in Hollywood, and they usually buy these things to walk on long, thin, red carpets. Once in a while they wear them in a movie...

Dave in Tucson said...

The way her hair is cut/arranged so that her face looks like nothing more than a nose and mouth, and her breasts are made to look like eyes... it's sort of the opposite of the old saw, "my eyes are up here", right?

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Front page (below the fold) of article in Harlingen TX "Valley Morning Star": Border Patrol's first female chief hopes to inspire women/"

I would be more impressed if she hoped to keep the border secure.

n.n said...

Border Patrol's first female chief hopes to inspire women

Diversity. It's important for people to be #Judged and #Labeled by their sex, when there is no credible cause for that discrimination. Color, too? Perhaps she lacks a name, so they reverted to sex as a means to cut the sample space in half.

Earnest Prole said...

A friend told me he knew at an early age he was gay because he was profoundly and utterly repulsed by fleshy female hips.

rcocean said...

I dress for women, I undress for Men.

Angie Dickinson.

rcocean said...

So despite almost having a female POTUS, and having female combat officers, SCOTUS judges, CEO's, Senators, etc. Etc.

We're STILL talking about "Female Empowerment"

So when are you ladies going to stop playing the poor little victim?

When every single Senator is a female?

Henry said...

I keep having a double-take when I scroll past the post picture in the feed. Batman signal? Or crazy eyes man with big beard?

PM said...

It's simple what's being said about sexuality and empowerment:
"I can wear whatever I want and you cannot stare, comment or do anything about it, so fuck off."

Cara Membuat Obat Tidur said...

Obat Bius Di Medan
Obat Bius Di Palembang
Obat Bius Di Makassar
Obat Bius Manjur
Obat Bius Ampuh
Obat Bius Asli Manjur
Obat Bius Asli Ampuh
Obat Bius Asli
Obat Bius Di Jakarta
Obat Bius Di Pontianak

zefal said...

I didn't get past her bangs. I wonder what robin would say that says about me?

BJM said...

Althouse said: Givhan calls the "teeny-tiny shorts" (which are what we used to call "hot pants").

Um...no. they're called kootchie cutters nowadays.

mockturtle said...

I've said this before but most women dress for other women or for their own enjoyment, not to attract men. Unless they're after a particular guy.

DrBerkeley said...

Ironic that this story is posted next to the Kavanaugh story. Sex is ok in some instances but not others.

Spiros Pappas said...

Republicans are going to have a tough time explaining to female voters that this wasn't a "legitimate rape." Todd Akin anyone?

BJM said...

Spiros Pappas

Would that be the same female voters who elected Trump? /sarcasm

Identifying voters by their gender is not only patronizing and sexist, it's also transphobic.

How ya like the new rules?

RK said...

I've left out what Givhan calls the "teeny-tiny shorts"

I'm noticing, as a veteran of the 70s and now an old guy on campus, that some young women are cutting their shorts as absolutely short as possible while still keeping the crotch intact. It's interesting...

One woman (girl) I saw today kept tugging on her shorts as she walked along. Possibly to prevent her vulva from falling out of her pants.

Saint Croix said...

This is supposed to be satisfying to men?

Yes! Works for me. She is way hot. Those bangs are annoying but in a good way. She could definitely play Nova in the next Planet of the Apes. You got it going on, jungle girl.