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Fishnets and Feminism

Female & Proud – A Timely Spotlight On Fishnets And Feminism

Fat shaming, slut shaming, body shaming, food shaming, mum shaming – even period shaming. It seems we’re a shaming society these days. One thing really stands out in all this shaming – a hell of a lot of it seems to be directed at women and even between women. Throughout history, there have been plenty of people who fervently ‘know’ that their world view is the correct one. This has also been the case with the feminist cause. Some women at times even attacking others for being the wrong kind of feminist.  Women’s clothing has often been the focus of such condemnation, so does revealing clothing and sexy lingerie help or hinder feminism. Let’s take a look at “fishnets and feminism”.

Waves of Feminism

One strand of feminism that’s come to the fore in recent years is ‘Lipstick Feminism’. This third wave of feminism seeks to underline the rights of women in society, while celebrating their sexuality and femininity. A host of pop stars, actresses and models have embraced this concept and regularly proclaim their strength, femininity and sexuality whilst wearing – let’s be honest – nothing much more than their bra and knickers. Their predecessors, the so-called ‘Second Wave’ of feminism, were all about a woman’s legal and social rights and some were actively hostile towards the idea of celebrating their sexuality.

Girl Power

Back in the 90s, the Spice Girls beamed out their message of ‘Girl Power’ for all to hear. I always found them a lot of fun. But to me there was more than a whiff of a marketing angle to all those protestations of female empowerment. Was that just because they were wearing hot pants, push up bras, fishnets and micro minis? If Geri had turned up at the Brits in a sensible trouser-suit and matching flats, would I have curbed my cynicism? Is this all about a very human predilection to judge a book by its cover and to assume the most negative scenario to be the truth?

Card Carrying Feminists

Can you really be a ‘card-carrying’ feminist if you’re prepared to pose in your pants for a national newspaper? Do you hand in your ‘Loud and Proud Feminist’ membership at the door when you decide to revel in the naughty and revealing? Are you allowed to don raunchy fishnets or sexy lingerie if it’s to please you and not necessarily anyone else? How on earth would you judge that anyway? Clothing and in particular sexy clothing is certainly one of the fault lines in the evolution of feminism.

Who Shouts Loudest

When it comes to any impassioned debate, the voices you tend to hear most are often those that shout the loudest. They’re not necessarily representative of the majority and not necessarily those who make the most sense. Social media can act as a very effective megaphone, especially for simplistic and extreme views. It’s not so effective in dealing with complex issues requiring nuanced debate. Add to that the lightning fast speed with which people can now group together and condemn others online, with great efficiency and nearly zero accountability, and you have quite a murky soup.

Intersectional Feminism

Intersectional feminism is an inclusive movement that’s actually been around for decades. It has recently come back to the fore with a series of women’s marches. Intersectional feminism essentially calls on women of all backgrounds, diversity, and respective challenges to bond together, making a more powerful, rather than fractured, movement. It suggests that those feminists with more perceived privilege or power as their starting point should be shouting for the rights (such as increased wages etc) of the female sections of society who don’t hold power in that area. One of the challenges for intersectional feminism is how to accommodate such a diverse set of views on sexuality and it’s expression.

Expression, Oppression and Exploitation

In the past few weeks, we’ve learnt about the scandal at the Presidents Club dinner in London. Some businessmen reportedly harassed and groped the Female hostesses. This has had a domino effect on many events where ladies are hired to ‘adorn’ the scenery. For the first time, 2018’s Formula 1 World Championship season won’t feature the traditional ‘grid girls’. Likewise, the ‘walk-on’ girls, who’ve traditionally accompanied darts players at tournaments, have been told that the practice won’t continue. “Quite right too”, “totally archaic”, came the response from some. However, more than one now out-of-work ‘walk on girl’ has appeared on TV saying they “loved” their job and felt “honoured” to do it.

Fishnets and Feminism

So is being sexy synonymous with being demeaned? Can you wear fishnets or revealing lingerie for the enjoyment of yourself and potentially your partner without somehow diminishing your power as a woman? Is it ok to indulge and express your sexuality for the enjoyment of others? Is there a right type of feminist and a deluded or ‘fake’ type of feminist? Has the concept of what type of clothing women can wear been rightly or wrongly conflated with the problems of harassment and abuse?

“Acceptable” Clothing

Many recent newspaper articles about the harassment of hostesses at events like The Presidents Club dinner highlighted that women were asked to wear matching lingerie and revealing outfits. Are we in danger of heading further down the road of the ‘revealing clothing makes you vulnerable to attack’ warning? And if we do decide to turn in that direction, where do we stop? What clothing would be acceptable for a woman to wear? Famous retailers on both sides of the Atlantic have been criticised recently after the launch of  “Modest” ranges of clothing. Some would argue they are appealing to a wider market; others would point to a slightly sinister turn towards conservatism and restricted freedom for women.

Sexy – for whom?

I’ve purposely used the term ‘sexy lingerie’ in this article. But is that really a phrase that trips off the tongue for many women? Is ‘sexy lingerie’ in reality a male construct? Would “sexy” necessarily appeal to women without the element of ‘pleasing men’ driving it forward? What would a woman really choose to wear to feel sexy? Does lingerie tick your box when it comes to feeling powerful and sexual?

Shifting Boundaries

Something’s really happening in 2018 that’s shifting a lot of boundaries concerning the acceptable depiction, treatment and employment of women. Scandals in Hollywood, for example, have rooted out some pretty sickening attitudes towards women. This will hopefully help change things for the better.

Celebrating our strengths, relationships, bodies and choosing to demonstrate our sexuality, in our own individual ways, are surely all massive positives. However, a fair few cards are in the air at the moment. New scandals and issues are emerging on an almost weekly basis.  The profile of the strong, liberated, sexy, confident woman may continue to shift a little, as we make our way through this rollercoaster 21st Century.


28th March 2018: US supermarket chain Walmart removes Cosmopolitan magazine from thousands of checkout displays. This follows pressure from The National Centre on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a US conservative non-profit group. NCOSE objects to what they perceive to be the magazine’s “hyper-sexualised” content. Read more in BBC News’ article Walmart shelves ‘hyper-sexualised’ Cosmopolitan.

2nd may 2018: A High School in Michigan USA sparked controversy when it threatened to make girls wear a “modesty poncho” if they don’t conform to the dress code when attending their High School Prom. The teacher who proposed the modesty ponchos explained that “We are trying to focus on the inner beauty of people and not draw attention to something that doesn’t need to have attention drawn to it. It was really intended as a deterrent and a really light-hearted one at that.”.  The school’s prom dress code includes “no exposed cleavage”, “no backless dresses” and “hemlines no shorter than one inch above the knee joint”. Presumably this means that if you have small breasts then it is ok to wear a low cut dress but if you have cleavage then you have to cover up.  Read more about the modest poncho on the BBC News website.

About the Author Isla Torsten

Isla knows a good set of underwear when she sees it. Isla firmly believes that attitude and confidence are the key ingredients to looking just fabulous in your lingerie. She’s also an avid online shopper, capable of spotting a bargain at 20 paces.