Dior is anti-feminist feminism

As fashion plays catch-up to a progressive culture, luxury brand Dior takes two steps back.


by Mckenzie Heffron, Writer

In her debut collection for luxury fashion house Christian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri emblazoned plain white T-shirts with the phrase “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS.” At first, I was enamored. It was refreshing to see a luxury fashion brand so blatantly recognize the female future. Then, I did a double take. As one model exited the screen, another emerged from backstage who looked nearly identical. As model after white model stormed the runway, my heart sank a little more. From that point, I knew Dior had entered the unfortunate sector of white feminism, which focuses on the struggles of white women while ignoring the oppression of other minorities. Under Chiuri’s helm, it cannot return from this place.

True feminism is about all genders embracing behaviors formerly seen as feminine stereotypes without fear of judgment. From there, one can incorporate these behaviors into their identity. This goes from women coming together for the annual WOmen’s March to the acceptance of drag in modern society. On the bright side of things, some luxury brands have embraced this idea. Last fall, fashion house Opening Ceremony invited drag queens to dance down the runway in its show at New York Fashion Week. Ashley Graham, a world-famous plus-sized supermodel, has become a runway regular. Halima Aden was the first hijab-wearing model to cover any Vogue publication. In practice, feminism disallows its members to discriminate in areas of race, gender and religion. To be a feminist is to understand its role in discrimination as a whole. This is where the concept of female empowerment is healthy. If I’m empowered, I can ally with other minorities. For me, it is a good place to identify myself in and with the increasingly inclusive global community

However, white feminism distorts such logic. This sect chooses to focus on white, cisgendered and generally heterosexual women. It robs cultures and communities under the excuse of allowing women to be whomever they want. I think if there was an award for such kind of racism, Dior would take the prize. Last fall, Chiuri made multiple looks in their latest ready-to-wear show that ripped off traditional West African prints for profit. What’s worse —every model wearing the print was white. The tacky design made blatant cultural appropriation seem less of a reality. But in that gray area is where white feminism thrives.

To define that gray area, I immediately think of a Barbie doll in various career outfits. I remember the distinct feeling of wanting to be a Barbie for a while. At face value, my idolization seems sweet. But consider Barbie’s face and body. Blonde hair, blue eyes, tan, skinny, cisgendered. Idolizing that type of women has been dangerous to my self-esteem in the past, and I face very little discrimination in my life. Imagine what this ideological thinking could do to a young girl with much less privilege. Dior darling Ruth Bell checks all these normative boxes. In fact, a majority of Dior’s runway favorites are all variations of Ruth Bell, save hair or eye color.

White feminists see no problem with girls like Barbie becoming astronauts, but could not see that for a young girl of color. Even if white feminists advocate for gender equality in the workplace, it applies to one kind of woman. While toxic masculinity degrades other genders, toxic femininity degrades its own.

A luxury brand like Dior should know that embracing white feminism means turning its back on the biggest and most profitable market shift in years. According to the Business of fashion/McKinsey report “The State of Fashion 2019,” Western Asian markets, particularly in China, have become the driving force keeping the haute couture (think luxury times ten) industry afloat and is expected to pass American and European markets in luxury fashion spending a few years from now. Indian markets aren’t far behind. A business-savvy Dior would recognize such changes and adapt with inclusive model castings, employees, sizes and ethics policies.

Dior has used a changing global community to take advantage of cultures. The Insta-famous shirt was the beginning of a pattern, and the prints were just a continuation of that. Of the 65 models that walked the runway featuring the shirts, 3 were Asian and 8 were black. Every black model was of mixed race or naturally lighter skin as if saying models without white ancestry need not apply. Not a single Hispanic model was present. If “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS,” then why aren’t we all represented? That isn’t feminism, that’s discrimination poorly posing as empowerment.