A couple of days ago, the March cover of Vogue US appeared on the Internet. She is wearing seven models in black turtlenecks. This is how the American editorial office begins to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the publication. For the whole world, the picture serves as a reminder of the Eighth of March, which began to be celebrated a century ago. And if we consider that the magazine was published after the world “Women's March”, the ideas about women's courage and “the absence of a norm as a new norm” sound much more powerful. Anna Wintour invited girls with different eye shapes, different skin tones and different complexions to shoot (plus-size model Ashley Graham can be seen in the company). And still, this cover blew up the Internet - many called it hypocritical.
Ten, twenty, thirty years ago it was impossible to imagine that on the cover of Vogue US one of the heroines would wear the fourteenth clothing size
Readers' claims to the picture are quite logical. Some wrote on Twitter that “there are no girls with skin darker than a craft paper bag” on the cover, others that Ashley Graham was the only model to cover her thigh with her hand (to look thinner?), Others suspect that Gigi Hadid's arm was lengthened in a photo editor to hide the belly of the same Ashley. As a result, the "variety", which is mentioned in the takeaways and to which the huge text on Vogue.com is devoted, turns out to be very dubious, combed. In addition, the frame is built around Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner - the main stars of the cover, who are supposed to symbolize the Instagram generation, but in fact (according to many) represent Anna Wintour's two favorite clans.
The opinion of both sides can and should be taken into account: this discussion is important, because we are witnessing the emergence of a new language in glossy media, which continues to influence women's perception of themselves. But no less important is the answer to the question: if the cover is controversial, does it mean that it is bad?
Remember the 2000s with their desire for "cocaine chic" and the painfully thin Nicole Richie as the ideal of beauty, remember the nineties with their supermodels who looked more like careless goddesses than the vast majority of women, and even more so remember the top models of the eighties - decades obsessed with sports and physical perfection. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago it was impossible even to imagine that a photograph would appear on the cover of Vogue US - an allusion to the canonical photograph of Peter Lindbergh, where one of the heroines will wear the fourteenth American clothing size, even if the most “favorable” angle will be chosen for her.
Aggressively expressed progressive views often prevent more conservative people from expressing their opinions and asking questions
Of course, Anna Wintour did not make a revolution. Vogue Italia 2011 was entirely devoted to girls with real parameters, and Beth Dito, at the peak of her popularity (also about five years ago), constantly became the heroine of realistic photo shoots. We also have Lena Dunham's Girls series and actress Amy Schumer, with her emphatically believable shots and videos. In addition, Dove was the first to urge in its commercials not to be ashamed of stretch marks, abdomen, cellulite, asymmetrical facial features, and in general proved to be a pioneer in the field of adequate attitude to female appearance. Due to the fact that the conversation about different types of beauty has been going on for a long time, it seems that this is a settled issue, but such statements as the March Vogue US are outdated and unnecessary. But it’s not that simple.
The slogans with which the participants of the "Women's March" came out showed: we do not live in a bright future, but in a harsh present - and it is still necessary to pronounce the basic calls of feminism. There are a lot of people who will be confused even by the well-presented figure of Ashley Graham on the cover, because in their view the model in Vogue should look like the conditional Karlie Kloss, and these people are also the audience of the magazine. 2016 showed that aggressively expressed progressive views often prevent more conservative people from expressing their opinions and asking questions. So maybe it’s worth explaining softer and slower? Maybe slightly different skin tones and slightly different complexions of models in the canonical shot are just a good start and a great chance to change the idea of the world, if not everyone is ready for the conditional Lena Dunham yet?
Anna Wintour is not a prophet or a revolutionary - she is a business person. And she makes, first of all, a product that should be sold. Within this product, however, there is room for maneuver, and she uses it very well. With her, Michelle Obama and Serena Williams, Lena Dunham and Adele appeared on the covers of Vogue US, in the materials they talked about age, about violence, about equality. She also lives in a country where dramatic changes have taken place over the past six months. The fact that in the new information field Wintour decided to make money on circulation, armed with the anti-trumpist slogan "all people are brothers", does not make the effect of the cover less valuable.
Perhaps, thanks to clothing, people are beginning to treat the word "feminist" not as a curse?
Is it so bad that businesses realized the relevance of activist movements and began to use them as a marketing tool? Is it under the prism "You are not progressive enough!" Is the effect of even insincere, but formally progressive actions devalued? Dior T-shirts "We all should be feminists", covers with photoshopped plus-size models, the scandal with Amy Schumer, whom the media recorded in their own fictional plus-size, although she has the most ordinary complexion - this, of course, is not very sincere … Copying such marketing is also not about sincerity. However, even such, even absurd pseudo-empowering advertising creates a completely different information background, in which the voices of real activists sound louder.
It seems unfair to turn the fight for equal rights into another tool that draws women into consumerism. But let's say H&M T-shirts with feminist slogans, on which the brand certainly earned - are we so sure that they did not help us? Perhaps, thanks in part to clothing, scandals, and the advertising and music industries turning towards sisterhood and activism, people are beginning to treat the word “feminist” as more than a curse?
It is possible and necessary to criticize the modern gloss or the latest cover of Vogue US. There are a million reasons, and criticism in this case is perhaps even more important than photography itself. But it is worth remembering that we live side by side with very different people. Most of the American Vogue audience could not read indie magazines and European publications with pro-feminist views. The sincerity of the message is not always more important than the result, and there is no such phenomenon that it would be superfluous to chew on in a language understandable to a specific segment of readers. All this reminds us of how different we are. It seems that this is exactly what Wintour wanted to devote to the anniversary number twice.