You know, honestly, why do I even read magazines anymore? Why is it that I etenrally have these epic high hopes for W, as if it’s somehow naturally superior to the rest of the bullshit out there? The September issue had a few hooks reeling me in again, though — a handful of gorgeous editorials (Mert and Marcus’ stunning oversaturated wide-angle golden-hour shoot in Red Hook, DROOL, and Georgia May Jagger looking slightly less Lara Stone than usual and Lara Stone looking slightly more Marilyn Monroe than usual) AND a whole gosh-darn article on Riccardo Tisci. The fact that I slavishly worship at the altar of Tisci’s Givenchy is no secret by now (lions and tigers and monochrome tailored androgynous goth luxe warrior princesses, oh my! What else could I want in life?! Other than maybe a Helmut Lang leather jacket.) So I mean, seriously, love.
Plus, I figured maybe there’d be some interesting commentary or something. I even forgave the asinine “gender bender” cover headline since I figured “genderfuck” or at least something less rhymey and twee just wasn’t okay to put on a magazine cover, especially not after the entire universe flipped its shit because OH MY GOD TISCI USED THIS MODEL WHO IS A WOMAN BUT LIKE USED TO BE A MAN OR SOMETHING, WHAT THE HOLY HELL in his ad campaigns/runway show, cool, whatever. There was some fun shit there I was waiting for someone to talk about, and maybe even something about Rad Hourani and whoever else breaking with the menswear/womenswear shows and so on, and manskirts, and whatEVER, just make it better than that dreadful NYT article on ‘unisex’ dressing from last year or whatever.
The fact that fashion digs androgyny in various ways is nothing new (or is it just prepubescent fetishism? OMG ARE WE GAY OR PEDOPHILES?! no surprise that we love our broad-shouldered flat-chested women and slim hairless delicate-featured boys) but I feel like there’s been plenty of more obvious, deliberate (and fun!!) things going on there within the past few years and plenty of half-assed commentary about it and I JUST WANTED MORE OF IT because my life consists of feminist/queer theory faux-academic intellectual masturbation, IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. We can’t talk about the fact that Freja’s gay in her profiles in British vogue (though we love her looking like a man! as long as she still at least sort of also looks like a woman, though side note omgz cass bird and freja!), but maybe W could like write something cool/fun/sexy/interesting/smrt about Givenchy’s clothes and design and models, or you know maybe something about the commodification of performed gender [via fashun] or the performance/spectacle of the runway show and how that relates to things we gotta BUY BUY BUY.
(Parenthetical paragraph time! Like: what does it mean as a marketing decision to not gender your clothes, and what do the marketing difficulties thereby encountered say about the rigid concepts of such? what is the social/financial impact of that and vice versa? how is that the same or different than sending your models down the runway in drag, or to send a transgendered person down the runway? is there social impact or does the spectacle/circus freak/fashion-ness of it make it irrelevant? how does this relate to other concepts of androgyny and performance in fashion, if at all, on both a conceptual and business level, socially and practically? why an mtf in a womenswear show instead of vice versa, and what, if anything, does that say, and how does that relate and reflect to our other ideas about drag in general? but then how does that relate to the internet being totes grossed out by that editorial with a guy in a corset but loving pretty girls in menswear? and even if those creating these images etc aren’t thinking about these concepts, what does their decision to do so anyway say about changing ideas in society, if anything? Fashion tends to, in my opinion, function as a mirror and a barometer rather than a dictator, per se; it reflects and perpetuates attitudes that exist elsewhere in society, concretizing them in both artistic and commercial ways. Can we draw any conclusions from all of this?) Plus, FOR SERIOUS GUYS I MEAN IT, I’m still drooling every time I think of those past three collections.
But then the article, natch, ended up being kinda disappointing - blah blah, smarmy mess glorifying Tisci’s goth kid teenage days blah and making sure we really, really understood that he’s really good friends with Marina Abramovic (guys! we know about art too! this is about IMPORTANT PEOPLE having dinner parties together! they wore nice things! and talked about art! ART!) weird kind-of-uneducated comments about gender or whatevz and then this epicly depressing paragraph about how the whole collection was inspired by circus freaks, which really does a lot to un-other Lea T and defetishize Mariacarla Boscono’s masculinity. Especially with fun comments like “transgender and gay sit at the divide between male and female, and that’s a very alchemical place.” Right on, kids. Queerness is just so, like, INSPIRING, right? Let’s make a collection about circus freaks! GREAT, thanks, Ricardo. Love you too. I HAVE FAITH IN YOU FASHION, YOU DON’T HAVE TO SUCK THIS HARD ALL OF THE TIME. I HAVE FAITH.
So I swallowed my pride with a small sigh of disappointment and remember that, in general, I’m always vaguely disappointed by W’s articles (remember that lil’ Lara Stone freakout I had back in the day?) and told myself that “well at least they maybe sort of tried” and made myself content analyzing how exactly they pulled off the lighting and filters in that aformentioned M+M ed. And then I flipped a few pages and came across this charming tidbit.
I’m sorry, WHAT? I guess it’s supposed to be funny — I sort of smirked at first and felt bummed that they’d left out the Rick-Owens-wearing eyelinertastic grouchy punk rock goth queer feminist band geek (I played trumpet) bookworm whatever-stereotype-I’d-get-here in the corner who is NOT sitting at the cool kid’s table (hey y’all! ‘sup!). But classifying those gorgeous womanly dresses as “the one who eats her feelings” — because, let me tell you, when I see Doutzen Kroes size 6 (O NOEZ!) body in a full-skirted impeccably tailored plaid taffeta Prada dress the FIRST thing I think is “man, I bet that bitch spends her Friday nights in sweatpants in front of the television with a few pints of Ben and Jerry’s and some White Castle.” Yeah, dude. And those Victoria’s secret models Louis Vouitton sent down the runway too, they are just EATING THEIR FEELINGS. Also, not offensive at all, no.
Also, it gets better.
Postfeminist? What does that word even MEAN in this context? What does that have to do with Alex Wang and green hair? It’s so totally fourth wave to be reading articles in W about how Givenchy is so, like, sexually transgressive and gay things are cool. Obviously we don’t have any issues involving women and their bodies and their roles or anything, since we smirk at the sassy fat girl eating ice cream in her Prada dress, admire the anoerexic vegan Missoni-wearing hippie (wearing “ethnic prints” we might note, I think now completing the circle of everything problematic about fashion EVER basically), and love to hate the smart successful businesswoman in a suit? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LET’S ALL JUST DYE OUR HAIR GREEN, ANY AND ALL GENDER CRITIQUES ARE TOTES OVER! PASS ME A FEATHER HEADDRESS TOO WHILE YOU’RE AT IT! Somebody get me a drink, now, or I’m going to start eating my feelings.
So please, W, if you’re going to get all progressive on our asses attempting (I’ll give y’all credit for the attempt, I guess) to write about gender flexibility, can we at least start by not deliberately promoting these sort of destructive, carefully created stereotypes of the feminine as well? If you’re going to talk about gender — which therefore involves defining what it means, physically, socially, psychologically, to “be a woman” and whether or not that is or isn’t even a valid statement, and, in fashion, what it means to market and sell clothing to “women” (dear everyone ever, queer theory can be relevant to you too!) — you should at least make sure that most of your staff understands what that even means, and possibly try to make sure that the other pages of your magazine to some tiny extent at least convey some marginal awareness of that. I’m not asking for a feminist dissertation here — look, I just want to look at pretty pictures and squeal over shoes too — but it’s been 20 years since Butler and a solid 60 since de Beauvoir, kids, you’d think this was common knowledge by now, at least among the college educated privileged white upper class elite running major publications. Editors can flex a few of those red-line muscles and we can come up with better ways to write about trends than cutesy illustrations of puerile and marginalizing high school stereotypes, no? Please?