Thankfully, we’ve escaped the medieval norm of being defined by our profession: if your last name is Baker it’s okay to do more than make bread! However, in the age of celebrity there has been a gravitation towards the presumption that those in the public eye have the knowledge and right to make valid statements about issues far beyond their professional ambit. Dolce and Gabbana’s recent expression of contempt for IVF is the perfect example of this.
The designers comments to Italian magazine Panorama included: “We oppose gay adoptions.”, “The only family is the traditional one.” and, finally, they described IVF babies as “synthetic”. Elton John then declared he would boycott the brand and encouraged others to do the same. This was followed by support from a myriad of celebrity friends including Victoria Beckham and Madonna. Dolce & Gabbana responded by saying they never meant to judge anyone and that it was simply a matter of private opinion that should be respected in a democratic society based around freedom of speech. It would appear they resolved their differences with Elton John, who was seen carrying a D&G carrier bag just two days later, but the remnants of their comments are still looming.
The crucial point is, why do we care about what they have to say? The only difference between them and homosexual Italian Catholics is that they have a wide reaching platform. This clearly makes their statements dangerous because of their potential influence, but ultimately what we need to be challenging is how much notice we take of these statements. Dolce and Gabbana are undeniably experts in their field but similarly, would you take great heed from what your French tutor had to say about physics? Probably not. it is simply their opinion.
The emotive nature of the subject meant that many other celebrities with great influence added in their contributions. Victoria Beckham tweeted;
Sending love to Elton David Zachary Elijah & all the beautiful IVF babies x vb
— Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham) March 16, 2015
Sweet and supportive? Yes. A helpful contribution? No. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so when a person wields such influence it’s probably best to refrain from posting vague responses to such contentious issues. VB is proof that changing careers is no easy task in her lengthy transition from cheesy pop star to respected fashion designer. This makes it clear that you can’t have influence in any industry by virtue of being famous for something else. So, why should it be so different for more general moral and political issues?
The media. The core philosophy of a lot of mainstream media is to unpick the personal lives of anyone in the public eye, regardless of what their talent is, simply because it makes for an interesting story. It seems ludicrous that a valuable ten minute interview with two of the most talented fashion designers in the world should be spent discussing their opinions on moral issues rather than things related to their specialism, such as their influences and ideas for future collections.
The whole debacle can be seen in a positive light for creating a political dialogue around the issue. It’s uncommon for such influential figures to make such controversial statements, so when they do it catapults the issue into the spotlight. The real lesson to be taken from this is to take everything with a pinch of salt and realise the reality of the situation. If a politician had made a statement that was as morally objectionable it would be something to be worried about due to the power that they possess. By contrast, when it concerns the personal opinion of a fashion designer we need to ask ourselves why we’re getting in such a fluster, because a platform is still very different to power.