In the previous episode, we analyzed and interpreted the “Agender Fashion” with various concepts about gender involved in our discussion. In today’s program, we will interpret the phenomenon of “Agender Fashion” from multiple aspects.
Formerly, fashion was more likely to shape female’s body. However, currently, it actually poses a new kind of requirement to male’s body.Body has always been the most important media to present fashion during the historical progress of fashion.Fashion continuously poses new body standards while the individuals constantly adapt themselves to these newly formed standards. But this aesthetical standards are changed constantly, because the notion of nature involves in the ideology of ideal figure in each period. From the aspects of history and society, natural figure has always been a constantly changing entity. A typical example is the bulging stomach in the late Gothic Age.At that era, a woman’s charm and attraction were not influenced by her bulging stomach.
Therefore, the image of natural figure varies and moves forward with the changing of sense of beauty. In today’s society, personally identity mainly relates to body shaping. Thus, in modern society, self-identification, to a large extent, consists of body while clothes are the most direct extension of body.
When Hegel talked about body and clothes, he definitely elaborated the relation between the two:Clothes has been objectified and the existence of clothes no longer functions to satisfy the demand of subject or the demand of body to be covered.
For example, The well-known designer, Rei Kawakubo, integrates the elements of structuralism, three-dimension, dissymmetry, and crush in his design.Thus, the clothes designed by him never reflect one’s figure.
Moreover, the body wearing no clothes actually wears clothes. The concept of ideal body has always constricted human beings’ physical changing and pursuing of ideal standard. All the physical skills, such as walking, smiling, and social contact, are social skills. Our body is constricted by the social standards no matter when it acts or stays static.
Therefore, naked body is always interpreted as a kind of tenuity or loss. The difference between fashion and nature is doubted by many people.As pointed out by Simmel, the life form of fashion, for every people as social existence, is natural. Fashion constantly creates new ideal standard: physical self-ideal state, the so-called natural body. However, this standard seems to beyond the reach for every people. In consumer society, the method adopted by current people to reshape their body has evolved from makeup, fitness, and diet to prevailing plastic surgery.It vividly demonstrates our desire to pursue that standard. French philosopher Jean Baudrillard once claimed: “ Makeup is not a kind of work imitating nature but a work surpassing nature.” Our clothing and appearance, at present, is regarded as a kind of positive skill to modify the physical self, namely, self-creation.
Although these choices seem to be the result based on free choice, actually speaking, they are built on the basis of the internalization of the overall social standard. Therefore, fashion shall be regarded as the symptom of ideal interest and the continual attempt of modified nature. Thus, consumption is no longer driven by demand but by desire.The difference between imagined object and the real object causes the continual desire and the desire generates consumption. The nature of fashion is to produce effective symbol and make the symbol quickly become unnecessary by excessing the demanded quantity. In consequence, fashion may aim at the next new object to continue producing new symbols. By doing so, the economic benefit with sustainable growth can be created. As Michel Foucault’s saying goes: “We human beings shall constantly implement self-creation.” This may be the destination of us as modern people.
Currently, fashion media and advertisement are instigating each individual to become a betrayer or an individualist. The real objective is to make the consumers to generate consumption behaviors while express personality. Therefore, individualism, subculture, and counterculture have always been the important basis of these advertisements. These advertisements avail the above three strategies to persuade us to conduct more consuming behaviors. Just like philosopher David Riesman’s saying that what we really need today is not the machine, wealth, or works but a kind of individuality. Fashion always uses art, subculture and counterculture as the strategies to increase cultural capital and decrease the economic elements, in nature, increases the economic capital although it may seem to drift fashion from the market.
Compared with the mass culture, subculture and counterculture contain more symbolic connotations. They encourages individuality and highlights a certain sort of attitude. However, during this process, these elements (subculture and counterculture) tend to lose the original meaning. Fashion brands also prefers to be interrelated with art in innumerable ways and gain intimate connection with art field by sponsoring museums, exhibitions or something, hoping to get benefits from the countless symbol value that art contains.
At present, cultural elements have become the necessary part of every commodity. When culture becomes commodity, the commodity is doomed to become star commodity. In that instant, it’s the cultural element instead of the material element that is to be sold.In today’s society, influenced by gigantic homogeneity effect, different contents of production and consumption, such as culture, wealth, product, service, and difference mentioned just now, are closely connected and are produced in the same mode at present. As customers, we have to accept these basic differences if we want to live in this social symbols network in consumer society. That is to say that our nature, everyone’s intrinsic uniqueness, have been erased. At this time, a strange phenomenon may occur: For other people, each of us is an entirely different individual. Whereas, our intrinsic differences is erased by the giant sea of symbols created by all of the social media including media culture, information technology, and advertisement. Even human beings and product start to become homogeneous. Jean Baudrillard once said that consumers belonging to different social groups will be connected together by the same restrictions of difference and personality. This is a kind of personal value mode. Honestly speaking, no matter what we do to distinguish ourselves, we are converging to a certain kind of example.The thing is that each of us can find our own individuality, the uniqueness, during the realization of this example.
The new poor, put forward by David Riesman in his book The Lonely Crowd. The new poor refers to the kind of people who earn a lot of money but spend more because they are willing to descend themselves to be poor people due to the pursuit of cool lifestyle and fashion consumer goods. They can be called the most competent and hardworking member in consumer society. The basis of new poor’s self-identity has transferred to consumption area from production area. Besides, more and more people tend to equal self-identity to the self-presentation of an image of the others. Thus, at this time, they may feel anxious about their identity, which will definitely cause the excessive consumption demand and the excessive concerns on self-image. The reason behind our favor of the consumption of personalized product is that it’s the consumption not our intrinsic nature that directly gives identity to us.
In 1968, Jean Baudrillard proposed that if consumption was of some significance, it would be the systematic operation of symbols. He directly defined consumption as the consumption of symbols, namely, all of the consumptions are consuming symbolic symbols. We can say that the consumer society is a society in which more attention is paid to the symbolic value of goods compared with the attention paid to the practical value. Thus, it’s implied that in consumer society, some people’s thirst and hunger for symbolic goods are definitely generated by his own uncertainty and anxiety about personal identity. Besides, the uncertainty and anxiety are closely related to each other. Each individual increasingly tends to be consist of ideal content that are trying replacing the real personal characteristics and traits. Great efforts shall be made to maintain the personal characteristics and traits to keep each individual’s uniqueness.
Consumer society creates smoke screens of free selection. Like fashion, the most important function is to promote the formation of identity. The nature of fashion are differentiation and assimilation, refers to the pursuing of diversity and the pursuing of universality. The resulting personalization and is often confused with the concept of “ego”, “individualism”and “egoism”.
“individualism” was first proposed by the philosopher Sutter systematically. His theory primarily affirms human being’s absolute freedom while he emphasizes that absolute freedom is accompanied by absolute responsibility. That is to say each individual shall be responsible for himself. So, “individualism” is a kind of philosophy from the layer of morality, politics, and society, which is a positive concept. But the “egoism” is to interpret the world and deal with things in a self-centered way. From the perspective of psychology, selfishness is always contained in egoism. There are large differences exist between the two concepts. The word, “ego”, originates from Freud’s analysis of personality structure in psychoanalysis. In his opinion, personality structure consists of three layers: id, super-ego and ego. “Ego” here means rationality and correct judgement.
When frequently used, these concepts lose the original meaning and then become symbols or slogans. For instance, we often talk about ego, which never equals to personality or uniqueness.
Liang Wendao once pointed out that the ego shaped in internet age is increasingly inflated. People nowadays are busy sharing themselves thus they have little time to reflect themselves or listen to others’ opinions. The basis of mass culture is eroded by media culture. What on earth is the era we are living in?
It may be an era with abundant materials and information while with insufficient thoughts. In such an era, personal voice is easy to be submerged in the clamor of numerous sounds. People tend to believe constitution, capital, and statistical figures instead of personal will. For most people, they either give up the perseverance in the individual uniqueness or hide themselves in a close and narcissistic tiny world.
In such a blatant ear, there are various voices trying to educate us how to achieve self-realization and how to find sense of achievement or satisfaction. Among these voices, some are useless mumbles, some are insipid chicken soup for the soul, while a few voices are lurked with economic and political benefits. In the era featuring both noisy and aphasia, we should try to reflect and face the problems that how to see clearly the antinomy can be found everywhere in life and how to find and maintain the real tranquility of mind.
People are always dissimilated. On the contrary, this kind of dissimilation shall be constantly alarmed by people. At least, we should soberly reflect and gaze at our dissimilation, which may decrease the degree of dissimilation.