But during my exploration of feminism and fashion, I’ve also learned that it’s pretty darn hard to practice what you preach. For example, I just learned that Target, known for their anti-gay activities in the past, is still doing some questionable homophobic activities by suing a gay marriage activist group to stay off Target grounds. And yet, none of the fashion blogs I read has mentioned this. And I know that a popular item that is “going around” the fashion blogosphere is the Tucker for Target dress (featured in Academichic and What Would a Nerd Wear, among others). What disappoints me about this is that the two blogs I mentioned parenthetically are written by socially active academics, and Academichic bloggers identify explicitly as LGBTQ activists and allies of LGBTQ rights. Before I found out about Target’s donation practices, I once wished that Target stores would open up in Canada (expressed in a recent Q&A I did over here), so I’m not exactly an innocent party, either.
What to make of this disconnect? While I am disappointed the lack of commentary from the academic fashion blogging community, I also don’t want to condemn them too harshly – because in a capitalist framework, having a choice (to say no to unethically produced goods) always comes with privilege. The ability to be a more politically and socially conscious person must come with the material means to pay extra dollars for organic, fair-trade goods, and I know that it’s impossible to be 100% ethical in our purchases. I despise this reality, but I think it’s important to acknowledge it. The unfortunate correlation between choice and privilege is also why I don’t like it when people get overly self-righteous about how everyone should live and say things like: “everyone can buy fair-trade things if they try.” No, they can’t. Some people struggle to put decent food and clean clothes on them and their families, let alone have time to think about where they came from.
This difficulty is just another part of praxis – that we are not disembodied, abstract beings only existing in language (although being on the internet sometimes feels that way), but human beings with bills to pay, and a less-than-enough shopping budget. These imperfections are a part of a feminist reality, and I don’t want to ignore them. So I would like to start talking about these limitations honestly, and think about ways to create not only responsible consumers, but also responsible manufacturers (without needing privileged access). I have no answers on how this can actually be done, but I think I can at least urge style bloggers to become more aware of corporations’ practices outside of the shopping area. Because some of us style bloggers are big enough to actually influence the consumer market out there, and because it’s about time that we feminists started thinking about empowerment in more ways than just averting the male gaze, or becoming one enlightened human being at the expense of others.