The Visuality of Power Re-Visited

I have written about the in\visibility of power and the role of women before an extended holiday break. Now, after the Golden Globes and the opening of the 116thCongress and a couple of interesting debates on social media, which both produced some interesting ‘visuals’, it seems a good idea to visit that topic one more time.

I found the Golden Globes red carpet last December to be fairly predictable and ‘unpolitical’. The latter, however, is an interesting point in itself. A year ago, most actors wore black in support of the ‘Times Up’ movement. This sartorial choice was supposed to indicate a critical distance from fashion and its alleged ‘objectification’ of women. This year, the same women in their vast majority pretty much returned to conventional fashion choices, leading some fashion commentators to wonder what relevance fashion can have as part of political protest and resistance (As Robin Givhan observed, there were a few smatterings of politics here and there). Certainly, seeing one black dress after another made a powerful statement of women’s solidarity and commitment to the cause of fighting for gender equality and against sexual harassment. Yet at the same time, as I argued in an interview with a LA Times journalist, and in a subsequent blog entry,

given fashion’s inherent logic of constant change, how ‘sustainable’ is this sartorial strategy of muting colours and voices? I think this is what I referred to with the argument that fashion can only incite and act as a catalyst. This is not to be underestimated, but we should not expect fashion to be a reliable and steady ally of social causes. Next show, next runway, next fashion.

Political protest is little more than an element in the constantly ever-changing grammar of high fashion. Last year’s sartorial ideas and interventions are just that: so last year. Of course this does not mean that fashion is irrelevant to politics – there are a few blog entries here that should undermine that argument. And perhaps even the routine Golden Globes 2019 brought a harbinger of things to come and men adapting a more fashion-conscious attitude, perhaps as part of a long overdue re-definition of masculinity.

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