In light of Jenni Murray’s inflammatory comments about the trans community, a rebuttal is needed. How better to do this than to use the language of fashion; critiquing and celebrating feminism and gender fluidity through a fashion lens.
Jenni Murray earlier this month (on the 5th March) said that trans-females, or men who have undergone a sex change, are not “real women”. How can this be said, when to many, ‘to be a woman’ is an abstract construct. No one has a clue what it is like to be a ‘real woman’. And feminism should be non-discriminate to everyone and anyone. Women know better than many what it feels like to be discriminated against; to be put down in a conversation, or side-lined because of our high-pitched voices that lack a certain gravitas in a debate. If anything, the feminist movement could benefit from this new era of females who have experienced firsthand what it’s like to socialise as a male, reject it, and now to embrace womanhood and fight for the female cause.
It is sad that these arguments still needed to be discussed in the media. But there is still hope on the horizon. The fashion world is currently evolving a gender neutral space that is appropriate for this day and age. Think about the androgynous revolution that has swirled around Milan, New York, and London fashion weeks, Burberry being at its frontier by combining men and women fashion shows and lines together. This is creating the space for more democratic gender fluidity. But for the trans sphere of sexuality, things are more ambiguous (please excuse the pun). What kind of femininity are they trying to perpetuate through fashion? Is it hyper-feminine with bold lip-liners, busty dresses, and killer heels? Or do they cultivate this image/stereotype in response to the ‘male gaze’? Having been on the other side of this (ridiculously) binary gender interaction, do they have better insight into what men want to see?
However, for older generation feminists or women such as Jenni Murray, maybe some clarification is needed for them. Clothes are the most tangible gateway to enhancing and experiencing our sexuality. Maybe they are just trying to capture a certain type of beauty or that feeling of beauty that clothes and fashion can present/evoke. Validation or verification of their sexuality can be seen through the number of trans models that have graced the catwalk or the fantastic new trans vogue cover stars. This is a great symbolic statement for the trans community.
Everyone goes through a different journey of becoming a woman. Body sculpting fashion has revolutionised and sexualised the way women dress. La Perla, in their SS17 collection, has designed cutting edge body shaping underwear and clothes for women. They intend to and successfully accentuate and distort the waist and hips to give that ultimate hourglass look.
People take for granted how difficult it can be for a trans woman or man to try and achieve these same things. Trans women tend to have narrower hips and wider shoulders; trans men are smaller in shape, with wider hips and narrower shoulders. However, a Seattle-based designer, Leo Roux, is making waves with his fashion line that is tailored exactly for trans females and men. He has designed clothes that boast of eye-catching cardigans (that disguise broader shoulders) and dresses with empire waistlines that mask the narrow hips.
For the more normal (but still fabulous) trans community, these designers are not only helping them express themselves, they are endorsing and spreading that attitude that they can be ‘real women’.
Words: Emma George Anderson
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