Christian Louboutin, Tom Ford, Manolo Blahnik, should I go on? These big names in fashion are all gay men, and through no fault of their own, they have helped trademarked fashion as a “gay” industry of sorts. We commonly hear these gay men who are captivated by the world of fashion. The thing is that these men are labelled with greater success in the industry than many of the hardworking women.
But while this might be great queer representation, what does this trademark say about the world of Fashion?
The world of fashion is quite “feminized” in the media; hence, it is no surprise that the industry is mostly comprised of women whether this be designers or design students. And yes, while it is true that there are many powerful women in the world of fashion such as Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Stella McCartney, and more, we still see Queer men in many more positions of power in Fashion. Most creative directors of big fashion houses are queer men or even men in general. We even see these women in power giving importance to queer male youth over female youth such as “Anna Wintour being accused on only supporting gay men”(NYT).
Does the patriarchy give these men an upper-hand despite sexuality based discrimination?
Well, in Allison Stokes’ “The Glass Runway”, we touch upon this concept of a metaphorical Glass Escalator. This “escalator” gives men a boost in “women’s work” allowing them to get to the top much faster than a woman taking the “stairs”. On top of that, men are given the benefit of a “glass runway” in workplaces as well where they are pushed into the spotlight over their female counterparts. Essentially, it symbolises the systematic sexism developed by the patriarchy that we live in. However, we can’t simply take the “glass escalator” at face value without evaluating the intersectionality of identities. How does the glass escalator fare against Black men? Queer men? Queer men of color?
The reality is that intersectionalities put small cracks, fractures even, into the glass escalator and runway. These concepts are powered by themes of masculinity, race, and homophobia which are systemically embedded into every workplace. Since positions of power are correlated with masculinity, men have the advantage of the glass escalator; however, the system gives this advantage not exclusively but prevalently to white men. Black, Brown and Asian men tend to be prevented from growing in workplaces due to racism. Identifying on the queer spectrum can lead to similar homophobia and sexuality based discrimination. These examples of prejudice reduce the the effects of the glass runway and escalator.
How can we see the Glass Runway being applied in the Fashion Industry?
Ironically, the Fashion proves to be a counterexample, in the sense that the system of the glass runway and escalator embraces and supports gay men here. Though their “masculinity” and male identity provides as a step stool, it is dangerous to say that the system benefits gay men without acknowledging that they continue to face sexuality based discrimination. Obviously, many of these workplaces are queer friendly, but that doesn’t mean that they are free of discrimination. The success of many of these gay men are dependent on a judgement of their “masculinity”. Only those who are deemed masculine enough by their workplace superiors and counterparts seem to grow professionally.
Clearly, sexism has prevailed in pushing women down in the world of fashion, and while it is great to see more queer representation in Fashion over any industry, there needs to be a way to break down and destroy the inherent sexism in fashion.