I had to write about a ridiculous article I read last October. I’ve been sitting on it, actually, waiting for a chance to spatter it with vitriol. It’s about the four ‘Girl Tribes’. Yep, you heard me: FOUR.
|Window of Hamleys toy shop, October 2010
That’s right – Company magazine decided to get four male writers to spew some rubbish about Brit Girls and their apparent diversity:
“Women come in all shapes and sizes, and hurrah for that…”
Promising start, no? But when the examples given are Keira Knightley, Posh and Alexa Chung, you soon realise this article sure ain’t gonna be about body diversity. On the one hand we have a fawning celebration of ‘The English Rose‘ – an original concept, I’m sure you’ll agree – who is lucky enough to have “pale skin, glossy hair…” – and, wait for it! – “…a brain.” To nail this look, ladies, one must be “from a good family” and possess “true beauty”, but more important than that, one must be unaware of these transcendent good looks. Got it?
The English Rose is also known to display a distaste for falseness, including “fake tan, acrylic nails and chemical peels” (au naturel armpit hair a step too far, I assume), unlike her sister tribe ‘The High Glamourati‘. The HG, aka the “high glam Brit Babe”, would, never dream of owning a pair of trainers. And stop comfort eating in front of your weekly soaps, girls, because in tough times the HG should be able to get through with a high-gloss slick of lippy and 6″ heels, something comparable to the war effort, if this young man is to be believed. Apparently, “every man dreams of coming home to a woman stirring a casserole wearing skyscraper heels (no other clothing required)”. Now Mr Bossa is a red-blooded male, and all that, but even he in his practicality pointed out the dangers of ‘gravy splashback’.
In contrast to this highly-coiffed saucepot, ‘The New Romantic‘ girl (ref Florence Welch and Natasha Khan) “doesn’t belong in a dream that looks like it’s sponsored by Nuts Magazine. She’s better than that”.
So, ditch the sexy shoes and beauty products – if you want respect rather than a quickie over the cooker you should swathe yourself in chiffon and “celestial wonderfulness” – casserole not required, presumably. The NR looks “stunning, almost goddess-like” whether her willowy limbs are wrapped in flowing clothes or “a jumper that looks like it’s been borrowed from Wogan’s wardrobe”. Well I don’t know about you, chicas, but the goddess look is a little grandiose for northern Lancashire, and if I don a Wogan jumper, well…I certainly ain’t gettin’ any.
|Terry Wogan: horny devil.
|For those feeling a little excluded from these virgin/whore dichotomies – never fear. If you’re prepared to chug down crap lager while regaling fellas with your encyclopaedic knowledge of indie bands, then you are no doubt a ‘Rock ‘n’ Roller‘. A refreshing alternative to American girls and their ‘boob jobs’, “MGMT remixes” hold more appeal for you than silicone augmentation (or the fight for equal pay, presumably) and all you need to do to capture your ‘own style’ is to don some wellies and er, a band t-shirt. So rad.
So what have we learnt so far? If you can’t be brainy with lips like rose petals, then it pays to be cool. If you can’t be cool enough to brave the mud in festival moshpits, then get flaunting those buttocks in a pair of Louboutins. And if you can’t be a sexpot, then simply stash your sexuality (and your hairbrush) away. If you manage to knock out a few “miniature love poems on fallen leaves”, then, honey, the deal is SEALED.
There is no denying that what we wear is part of our identity (more on that next week), but the lack of scope in this article is infuriating; we are all so much more than these lazy stereotypes. I hate that each group is pitted against each other – the dreamy romantic versus the high maintenance glamour girl, the mud-spattered rock chick versus the brainy English rose. More significantly, I can’t bear the idea that each of these ‘tribes’ is legitimised by some bloke’s wet dream – each group either inspires extreme veneration or a knowing dirty wink…from men. Who exactly do they think we dress for?!
I was appalled when I first read this article, but this has waned into condescension over the months that followed. The stereotyping from these four dreamy idealists may be feeble, but you’re not telling me it doesn’t ring a few bells. I don’t think I need to fight my corner by stating I might like to listen to an odd bit of nu-metal when I’m flitting about in tea dresses. Applying make-up, for me, is a creative and therapeutic process, not the bait on the end of some hook. I may enjoy the stature that heels give me, but I have also been known to use these heels to threaten would-be attackers on the streets of London. Screw your nude cooking.
So, Company, don’t use some glib article to pigeon-hole your ‘girls’ by the height of their heels, the litheness of their limbs, the band on their t-shirts. We’ve had enough. Give us real diversity and let us run amok with our fashion choices. Women come in all shapes and sizes…and hurrah for that.
Who do you dress for, readers?
How much truth is there in these silly stereotypes?
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This is part of a series of blog posts by the Feminist Fashion Bloggers. To learn more, click here. To join the group, click here. And to read submissions by the other members, follow the links below: