Protest props and shallow slogans: the problem with activist chic / Stuff
Feminism is very hot right now. There's nothing cooler than a Women's March, and for evidence of this you need only to turn to the world's runways.
As someone who is deeply vested in gender equality, I had mixed feelings as I watched a model approach during World's "Protest the World" show at New Zealand Fashion Week. She wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the be-glittered words "FEMINIST AF" and a long flowing skirt, and was carrying a protest sign.
She was gone before I caught what it said, but every model held one. "Fancy baubles for the rich," one sign said. "I'm married to an immigrant," read another. Later in the show, the predominantly white models walked down the runway in jackets embroidered with "GHETTO" and "TUPAC" to the sounds of Dr Dre's The Next Episode, feat. Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, and Nate Dogg (RIP).
The feeling I was left with was one of disquiet. During Fashion Week in 2014, Dame Trelise Cooper came under firefor sending models out in North American headdresses. Taking a culturally sacred object and reducing it to a pretty accessory is offensive, and Cooper later apologised.
This is blatant cultural appropriation, and Dame Trelise should have known better.
But what about taking the aesthetics of civil rights movements and using them to sell clothes? Does focusing on the transgressive elements of marginalised groups - like rap music, or catchy protest slogans - ignore the harsher lived realities of people who experience sexism and racism? Does World actually care about these things, or was this a hollow performance?