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Woman as Status Symbol

While it may have begun the other way around, fashion is now the preoccupation of the fairer sex. The focus of men’s compulsion to idealize has shifted from their own bodies to those of women. Moreover, female fashion is about male status; while men may care less about the woman’s social standing than women care about the man’s, they are concerned about their own standing in other men’s eyes. The adorned woman is status symbol for her man. This might include her social standing, but by no means needs to. It is not how she is viewed in her own right that counts for him, but rather how she is viewed by other men as a sexual object—his possession—which reflects not her wealth or standing but his. This male objectification of woman serves to contain the feminine within the bounds of male culture and definition. That way, he knows just what she is, and her power over him is limited to her wiles and sex-appeal. It is the woman’s subjectivity, her empowerment as an agent, that is resisted, contained and minimized through objectifying her body and limiting her social power. The male’s more conservative approach to his own appearance reflects his insistence on subjective being and power, projecting bodily presence rather upon her. The near invisibility of the man in the gray flannel suit emphasizes his desire to be all subject and no object; and he wants the woman to be the opposite. The woman in patriarchal society can only claim her subjectivity through the man, or in traditional ways he approves, such as motherhood, which will not challenge the political structure of male supremacy. In modern, democratic, post-sexual-revolution society, women are free to become virtual men, though women’s economic power remains fixed well below that of men, at a magically persistent ceiling.

RELATED TAGS: [fashion and status, fairer sex, status symbol, objectification of woman, woman as (sexual) object, female subjectivity, masculine conservativism/invisibility, man in gray flannel suit, post-sexual revolution, woman(en)’s economic power/status, male supremacy]

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