Women have been sexualised since the beginning of time. Despite getting the vote and finally being able to ‘have it all’, the objectification of females is still rife. A large part of modern day feminism has been taking control with consented sexual expression, but as this continues to be criticised it is clear society is not as progressive as we thought.
The BBC recently published an article unveiling how online fashion is twice as ‘racy’ as high street fashion, analysing over 18,000 images from various female clothing retailers. The images were given scores to suggest that online clothing stores like Missguided, Bohoo and Pretty Little Thing depict far more ‘racy’ images on their sites than High Street stores like New Look, Topshop and River Island.
The study completely disregards target audience. With the rise of fast fashion, consumers are more likely to go to cheaper online retailers for a one-off party outfit and invest more in essentials from a better quality High Street brand. These consumer preferences are represented in the items that various retailers sell.
Missguided responded saying: “Our website reflects what appeals to the young women who love to buy from us – sassy, empowered, unafraid of what others think”
The images analysed also took into account the model’s poses as well as the items themselves, ultimately penalising the depiction of curves. Online stores rely heavily on their websites to make sales, so advertising their clothes on sexy, confident women helps consumers envisage themselves positively wearing the items.
Anyways, it works. As of 2015, sales of internet companies have surpassed store-based UK retailers:
In fact, the BBC selectively used their evidence to support their sexist message; out of the ten websites analysed, six were online only and four were High Street, showing an uneven collation of data. Also, online retailer ASOS was classed as only 7% ‘racy’ by their AI algorithm, whilst High Street store Urban Outfitters had 25%, the highest score overall.
It isn’t a coincidence that only 6,200 images from men’s fashion retailers were analysed, determining only 2% as ‘racy’. Society’s fear of the female form never ceases to amaze me; why is it that men can flaunt their six packs, but we cannot accentuate the curves that make us feel beautiful?
Porn, an industry that profits from the depiction of women’s bodies, grosses as much as $10-15 billion a year, but when sexually expressive images are used for women to feel powerful and to sell clothing to a female consumer, it is suddenly inappropriate and ‘socially irresponsible’.
I am still struggling to understand the purpose of the BBC’s article; is it criticising retailers for sexually charged advertisement, shaming women for buying sassy clothing or highlighting society’s fear of the female body? It shouldn’t matter if the recent rise of online fashion is selling items that are ‘racy’, we should support women in their pursuit to feel sexy and empowered.