This dress has been circulating around the internet for the past couple of days and may very well be extinct by the time I post this. My intention isn’t to draw more attention regarding the colors of the dress or to comment on ideas of perception. Instead, I want to highlight the other type of response I observed that’s a greater issue than the color of the dress: commentary on its aesthetics.
I saw something similar play out on my newsfeed when several friends carried on a debate about the colors of the dress and one friend end the conversation by asserting its ugliness. What was even more problematic about the comment was the fact that it came from a self proclaimed feminist.
At first, I didn’t understand why it was an issue to comment on the “ugliness” of the dress. It wasn’t until a friend of mine explained it to me that it became clear why it is a problem: to comment on the dress is to insult women’s fashion choices. My friend argues that “women’s fashion is always heavily criticized… [by] policing women’s clothing in general and how women spend so so so much time on how they dress out of fear for how they dress being criticized by others. I believe we should praise women when we like their outfits and NEVER dislike or passionately dislike an outfit, and if we do then to never express it because women don’t need that. If men can get away with a t-shirt and shorts or a simple suit anywhere or not be heavily criticized for looking sloppy then I see a huge problem. Women’s fashion is already advertised to women in a way that implies that they’re imperfect (see “slimming” clothing for just one example).”
Indeed, individuals (feminists or otherwise) from all over insulted the dress. It’s evident then that despite active pushback against domination over women, it’s still deeply embedded in our society. Personally speaking, I even wanted to mention about how unflattering the dress looked, and I consider myself a feminist actively working to dissolve any misogynist/patriarchal thoughts and behaviors. In this way, I believe it’s really important to be observant of the subtle ways misogyny manifests itself in digital spaces (and all spaces, but digital instances tend to be easier to revisit).
At the same time, not everyone thought the dress was ugly. My friend mentioned that “[the] dress has lace in ALL the right places. Thin stripes near the hips, thick stripes at the waist. If a woman wore it, she’d look fine.” On the link above, a user named paragone comments that “that dress looks fabulous on the right body, whatever color it is.” Many more similar comments were made defending the dress and asserting its beauty. I think these instances of rebuttal are important models because it’s much harder to push against sanctioned criticism but they effectively prompt reanalysis of privilege. In this way, these models should be emulated as a means of kindling nuanced conversation and reshaping thought.