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What Ideas About Gender & Sexuality Are Communicated by Contemporary Fashion Images?


Solomon argues that since the advancement of technology and with a great number of people depending more on the media, society has continued to view aspects of sexuality from different perspectives. In the earlier years, any form of nudity in the media was seen as pornography and was highly discouraged because it was seen to negatively influence social morals. However, with more usage of the media for advertising and passing information, women and men are taking nudity to a different perspective.

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According to Creed (2003), the media today contains quite some images of men and women acting as a form of advertising and promoting fashion. It is quite clear that with these images and with messages on sexuality, the social ways of living with dignity are likely to be affected. People have tried to borrow their identities from the media as a way of trying to be like the fashioners, making society a great change from the earlier years. Most of the young people are using most of their free time on the web, trying to make new friends and making social interaction indirect participation.

In the U.S. fashion industry, sexual images have been used to sell fashion for decades, with celebrities like Laura Mulvey, Germain Greer, and Kate Millet and there have been many objections from people while yet others supported it. In the current advertising campaigns, brands have started looking into people’s different views towards sexual images in advertising (Kegan, 2006).

Fashion and the media

According to Creed (2003), the glory of fashion is not just in the art but also in the way people take it in their day to day’s way of living. The fashion industry is very engrossed in gender and technology and most especially in feminism. It uses technology to make women beautiful and promote the fashion industry. Fashion magazines, television, movies, and the internet are examples of technology working towards advancing fashion, and to have the ability to determine what is beautiful and what is not in the fashion industry is a major challenge that must be critically looked into.

BenStock (1994) argues that fashion can be said to be a powerful aspect of art that assists us to express our personalities and feelings towards a particular thing. In today’s society, men are perceived differently than women in fashion. Women are more exposed to staining their public image than men. Some people argue that a woman who shows interest in the fashion sector risks be taken as one who lacks dignity and who is disrespecting feminism. Fashion is seen by many people as the cause of many irresponsible and bad behaviors in society. It is therefore in this aspect that despite the growth in the sector, critics are also rising and there have been campaigns to restrict the extent to which fashion is taking its course.

Since the beginning of the art of fashion as early as the 19th Century, there have been different views of the way people relate it with feminism and the images that are used. As technology improves and as more people gain confidence in posing for pictures, the industry can be said to be taking a new direction that is heading towards social immorality. On the one hand, people feel that if women continue participating in the media and fashion, sexual immorality may become a norm and society may accept nudity as a formal way of promoting art. On the other hand, others feel that fashion and women ought to go together for the industry to grow. They fully support the use of female pictures in the media and they feel that images do not necessarily pass sexual messages to the public (Creed, 2003).

The rejection of feminism in fashion was taken by some supporters in the UK as the destruction of sexual stereotypes. The supporters argued that a woman’s way to attain power is to use her sexuality and power in fashion is a key factor to possess. In the late 1960s, Kate Millet who wrote an article entitled, Sexual Politics tried to criticize the people rejecting feminism and according to her, these were the people who wanted men to dominate all areas of life. She argued that feminism in fashion was the only way to its success and by rejecting feminism, people were rejecting growth. According to her, the campaigners against feminism in fashion were reasoning in terms of politics where men dominated and women hardly had a chance (BenStock, 1994).

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There was also Betty Friedman, a feminist in the US who fully supported the role of women in fashion. According to Gamble (2006), Betty contributed to the establishment of the Woman’s Liberation Movement and was also one of the founders of the National Organization for Women. In her view, anyone who was restricting women to participate in fashion was preventing them to advance their talents. Beauty, according to her was something to be appreciated and women could do this through fashion.

Laura Ashley Mulvey brought out the theme of improving the feminine look in the 1980s. She failed to comprehend how people would restrict women from using their strengths in beauty to promote fashion. She was a professional designer and she used design as a way of bringing in more women into the fashion industry. She had her counterparts like Susan Brown Miller who emphasized masculinity as a factor to consider in fashion. Brown worked with Mulvey’s concepts to bring in the important aspects of fashion. Other supporters of feminism in fashion were Luce Iragaray, a Belgian feminist, and Helene Cixus a French feminist writer (Kegan, 2006).

On the other hand, some were less concerned with feminism and valued women as sex objects. Helmut Newton, one of the most famous photographers in the world, considered women to be sex objects and he had no great value for feminism. He showed the power of women in a fashion, not through feminism but their bodies and images of nudity (Kegan, 2006).

All these brought out the different people’s views towards feminism and sexuality in fashion.

Fashion in culture

Solomon (2006) argues that there are quite a several ideas and perceptions about gender and sexuality that are continuously being communicated by contemporary fashion images. Most of these ideas are on sexuality and feminism which are portrayed by gender and society. Different cultures perceive sexual means and feminism in fashion and this has led to many controversial issues arising as a result.

On the other hand, people have different specifications on the kind of gender that they find most appealing. In different parts of the world, people have different opinions about feminism and in the earlier years the art of fashion was condemned by feminists and factors like dressing and beauty were considered to be a means towards destroying feminism. However, by the 1970s, gender had become an important factor to be taken into analysis while identifying oneself in fashion (Solomon, 2007).

According to Kegan (2006), the cultural aspect of feminism and feminine appearance implies the kind of standards that women are to bear to make fashion clear and to ensure that sexual identity is enhanced. These standards that have been put up by different artists have tried to re-examine the behavioral expectations of the women and men towards the existing social set-up. This way, society will be more informed about the changes in fashion and the fashion industry will also be able to understand the needs of society and its views towards fashion and gender.

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Today’s provocative and pornographic images are all over the billboards, movies, advertisements, magazines, and the internet with women, and since, in the recent world, people believe that sex and nudity sell, there is the possibility that the social norms may soon be put aside. Pornography is likely to continue appearing as a normal issue and women may become sexual objects when their bodies and sexuality are linked to marketing goods through the media. The cultural values seem to be ignored with more extensive use of fashion in the media (BenStock, 1994).

Media, gender and identity

With the improvement in technology and with higher reliance on the media for information, it seems like both men and women are in a battle to who ought to be powerful. In the early 80s, men were seen to be powerful in all aspects and the world was dominated by their activities. Today, however, both sexes have become equal and competition has been going up for the most recognized positions, both in politics and in art. There have been formal rights for the woman, making them equally superior and this has created concerns regarding what people have been taking as healthy feminism (Embree, 1970).

According to Solomon (2007), confusion of identity has arisen from the effects of media to the extent that intimate relationships and marriages have been based on what is going on in all other parts of the world and not on the traditional norms. Many children are now being born out of wedlock and as women fight their way into recognition, they have been more involved in economic productivity through employment making their time at home minimal.

In other words, democracy has gone deep into the emotional aspect of society and most is that feminism has gone to a deeper level not just in fashion but also in the concept of social identity. Women have risen from just being perceived as objects to taking control of development and it is also through this that feminism and masculinity haveare been over-used to create recognition for same-sex relationships (Gamble, 2006).

Solomon (2007) argues that by supporting the legal recognition of civil unions for gay people and lesbians, the media can be said to be heading in the opposite direction for social identity. Sex and sexuality have come to be taken in different ways in society, resulting in the rejection of the old practices and the introduction of new ones.


In conclusion, diverse ideas about gender and sexuality are communicated by contemporary fashion images that are taking dominance in the media. The sexual and cultural aspects of feminism and masculinity have been identified by the fashion images through media. Identity has also been greatly affected by these aspects mainly because those who possess a dominant factor in terms of masculinity or feminism may not feel powerful in society and may distinguish their characteristics to create power.

It is therefore clear that the media can be taken as having both a positive and a negative impact on society and towards fashion. Feminism and masculinity are the key aspects towards the growth of fashion, but when they are over-used they tend to go against cultural dignity and pornography takes effect. However, with photographers like Helmut Newton and other artists, sexuality is one way of bringing out the real art of fashion and this, according to them, is what makes fashion.

Works Cited

BenStock, S, 1994.On Fashion: Rutgers University Press, UK.

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Creed, B, 2003. Media Matrix: Sexing the New Reality: Allen & Unwin Publishers; New York.

Embree, A, Morgsan, A, 1970. Burning Femininity: Article.

Gamble, S, 2006. Feminism and Post-Feminism. Article.

Kegan, J, 2006. Masculinity Studies, Feminist Theory: Article.

Nava, M, & Richards, B, 1997. Buy this Book: Studies in Advertising and Consumption: Routledge.

Solomon, M, Bamossy, G and Hogg, M, 2007. Consumer Behavior Enhanced Media Edition: A European Perspective: Pearson Education Ltd.

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