Helena Christensen and selfhood

Helena Christensen, activist, mother, international photographer and model.

I was called by Channel 5 News to challenge the opinion of former Vogue editor Alexander Shulman, that super model Helene Christensen had committed a crime so foul by matching a shapely black basque to her denim jeans for a birthday party occasion (thrown by modelling mate Gigi Hadid) that justifiable condemnation, penned within a national newspaper, was deemed appropriate.

Shulman judged the offending garment to be tacky before blaming the age of the wearer (and her declining fertility) as the reason for wading in with an opinion from the dark ages.

The fact that Christensen may be 50 but she has the body of a 25 year-old is NOT the point - any woman can wear what they please... to please themselves. Schulman's assertion that Helena was not entitled to display or enjoy her body if it did not meet age and fertility criteria, had both my co-guest Karen Dobres, former model herself, also 50 and now marketing manager at Lewes WomenFC (the only team in the world where women are paid the same as male footballers) and I, UNITED.

Katie Rood, Striker Lewes Women FC

To say we opposed to Schulman labouring under the assumption that the sexist brain virus known as dominant culture 'male gaze,' had infiltrated the grey matter of the rest of us, would be factually correct. Choosing to evaluate a woman via her age or fertility status is an objectifying stance and oh so old school. NOT a view we would be expecting of  such a high-calibre writer. Even my students know this is out of order. So after accusing Shulman of scoring an own goal and insisting the ref show her the red card, we blew the whistle on time. The two women pictured here are both authentic and active individuals, yet it is in a male dominated sport like football that we see this honoured and fashion in this instance is err.... off side.

Selfhood is a word I use in many of my lectures to help the next generation of image-makers understand the power of creating identities for women that are active, empowered and authentic. Why? Because when women are reduced to body parts or passive and perfected nymphs it effects how they see themselves and how the world sees them.  And yes it affects the way men see and evaluate women also.

We are joining the dots through psychology and numerous studies show that the brain confers less intellectual and moral capital on objectified bodies. Selfhood where we engage in, or celebrate, 'the authentic active doing and being of someone,' and we wipe out objectifying and undermining imagery and assessment of a person but especially women through appearance or age, is every bit as important as issues of equal pay. Football organisations are doing their bit. Why can't fashion?


Share Share