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  • Writer's pictureMarsaili Mainz

The Celebrity-Fashion-Media Alliance: Unmasking Celebrity Feminism's Stylish Facade

USA Vogue, 2022

Hello again; today, I'll be diving into the world of celebrity-driven feminism, the rise of "new momism", and the commodification of empowerment. Grab a coffee (or tea!), sit back, and let's dissect these intricate issues.

Celebrity Feminism: A Double-Edged Sword?

Fashion, intersectionality, and neoliberalism have been tightly knitted in the celebrity culture fabric, sparking debates on empowerment's true essence in our modern feminist world (McDowell, 2017). While celebrities highlight global concerns, intensifying their reach (Rivers 2017), some face criticism for placing personal branding above activism. Chidgey (2020) argues that celebrity culture sometimes pushes aside the political heart of feminism, veering more towards individual successes. So, is the media portrayal of women through a celebrity lens a blessing or a curse? It seems the picture is multifaceted, with both applause-worthy and eyebrow-raising facets (Fernandez-Hernandez, 2017).

The Rise of "New Momism"

Post-2000, the narrative of motherhood underwent a transformation, with the influence of celebrities like Beyonce leading the charge (Tsaliki, 2019). It's no longer just about embracing motherhood; it's also about its portrayal. Beyonce's seamless balance between career and motherhood has made her a symbol of contemporary femininity (Caron, 2018). Yet, it's essential to acknowledge that this narrative has been further amplified through corporate feminism (Moir, 2015). At the same time, celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow have been hailed for their portrayals of white, middle-class motherhood ideals. These stars, captured always at their best, epitomize the modern fusion of domesticity and identity (Petersen, 2017).

The Pregnant Paradox

Pregnancy, particularly celebrity pregnancy, isn't free from societal biases. Kim Kardashian's media portrayal during her pregnancy starkly contrasted with Kate Middleton's, revealing racial biases (Hallstein-O’Brien, 2015). This comparison ignites conversations about media biases based on race, leading to a competitive portrayal of pregnancies.

But it doesn't end there. Celebrities like Beckham and Beyoncé are often spotlighted as business moguls and impeccable mothers. However, beneath this lies a drive for perfectionism and personal achievement (McRobbie, 2015). As Macleod and Howell (2015) argue, such representations often reinforce white, middle-class pregnancy as the norm.\

Neoliberal Feminism Meets Celebrity Endorsement

Modern feminism often intertwines with capitalism, with figures like Ivanka Trump and Victoria Beckham embodying corporate feminism's stylish success (Hopkins, 2018). This confluence of empowerment with celebrity endorsements has gained momentum, especially in magazines like Vogue, reinforcing social hierarchies (McRobbie, 2015). The rising trend of "fantasy feminism" interlaces feminist values with capitalist gains, demanding a re-evaluation of such narratives in our times.

Empowerment for Sale?

The term 'empowerment' seems to have been commercialized. But are such portrayals genuine, or do they merely mask underlying sexism and objectification? (Gill 2012). This brings forth pertinent questions about the actual meaning of empowerment in our neo-liberal feminist age (Evans, and Riley, 2013). In summary, media outlets like Vogue play a significant role in shaping modern beauty and empowerment standards. Yet, it's vital to question if such representations are merely age-old tropes in new packaging or genuinely ground-breaking.

The Media's Powerful Role in Shaping Gender and Racial Narratives

Uk Vogue, 2020

Media and its visual narratives have always been a driving force in sculpting our perceptions, especially those revolving around gender and race. This holds true as we navigate a world where marketing images are interwoven with our daily lives. We live in a world saturated with media. And while we've come a long way from the days when women of colour were either invisible or painted in a negative light, the struggle is far from over. The evolution of their representation, although more visible now, is still marred with stereotypes. Remember the times when they were dubbed as "troubling" or "out of control"? Now, while they may be seen as ‘activists’ or ‘rebels’, we must question if these are mere labels replacing old ones.

One cannot underestimate the power of visual media. Whether it's an advertisement on a billboard or an Instagram post, it’s shaping our perception, more so, in the case of gender and race. The danger lies in the media's silent reinforcement of societal norms, often deep-rooted in patriarchal beliefs. Delving into art history, we get a mirror reflecting the age-old portrayal of women in visual arts. Using this as a foundation to study contemporary gender representation in advertising can provide deeper insights. The nuances of representation aren't just about the present; they're a continuation of historical practices. And this is where an understanding of art history becomes indispensable.

Now, let’s talk about a word that’s been making rounds for a while - objectification. There's a troubling trend in advertising where women often, are reduced to mere objects. They're presented as entities to be admired, possessed, and even fantasised about. Though there's been a shift in this narrative, tensions persist. The media stands as a double-edged sword - while it serves as a ground for sexualization, it's also the platform for its critique.

What's missing in the vast sea of research is the intertwining of celebrity culture, consumption, and fashion within a feminist discourse. Given the enormous influence of these factors, it's startling to see a void in understanding their impacts. And as media shapes the psyche of young minds, there’s an urgent need for “media literacy”. This becomes crucial in debunking myths and alleviating pressures stemming from the media's portrayal of gender and race.

Also, while we're at it, there's an unmistakable need for intersectionality in research. A richer understanding of media portrayal will emerge when gender representation and racial narratives are studied together. Diving into specific research, Schroeder and Borgerson's take on Gamergate throws light on conventional gender portrayals. They advocate for a method that blends elements from diverse fields like social psychology and art criticism. Such interdisciplinary methods can pave the way for a clearer understanding of gender portrayal in media.

Further, Barthel's insights on advertising strategies, especially beauty products, reveal how they amplify gender stereotypes. The narrative isn't just about selling products; it's about defining selfhood through those products. Barthel's analysis drives home the point that personal choices, especially appearances, aren't individual decisions - societal expectations sculpt them.

To Wrap it Up...

The portrayal of fashion, celebrities, and even the glossy pages of magazines like Vogue reflects the intricate dance between changing societal standards and their semiotic meanings. This article underscores the need to assess the media's portrayal of gender and race critically. The landscape is vast and complex, and as consumers, it becomes our duty to discern and understand these portrayals and their implications on society at large. The interplay between media, celebrity culture, and fashion demands closer scrutiny. Our research aims to bridge this gap, providing a clearer understanding of the dynamic relationships and their societal impacts.


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