Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Would a Feminist Wear?




(Main post here, with links to other participants.)

Such a seemingly simple question, such an impossible answer. Not to say that there is no relationship between feminist beliefs and clothes, but rather that relationship is fairly complex, indirect, and impossible to elucidate in a few words. So please don't hate me because my answer will include a bunch of links to old posts.

1. For me, ethical fashion is a necessary attribute of feminist fashion. That is, if we believe in equality, we must also believe in fair labor practices (it's not a coincidence that so much of early women's movement and unionization were tied with the garment industry).

2. Also, I believe that personal style is there to be manipulated in order to project a desired effect. I wrote a little back about the male gaze and ubiquity of it, the fact that women are always judged based on what they wear. Opting out is impossible, and catering to expectations is not always wise (although occasionally one might choose to); however, creating a desired effect with intention is the best option there is. I wear heels a lot because at 5'4" I appreciate the extra height as it helps me to project a little more authority. I wear a lot of tailored clothes because I like the play with proportion they offer.

3. Recognizing that femininity as well as masculinity are social constructs rather than inherent qualities is also a necessity for a feminist, since the very notion of equality is predicated on rejection of biological determinism. As such, a dress or a three piece suit say nothing about me as a person, just about my sartorial choices -- and that I am not committed to performing a specific gender. I think there is value in that.

4. Finally, "flattering dressing" -- that is, dressing to create an idealized female shape -- has its place. But it is only one of many options. So I will happily wear sack dresses as well as dresses tailored to accentuate my waistline, long skinny pants or slouchy cropped pants with pleats, heels or flat oxfords, based on what particular image I want to project. Clothes have meaning, sure; so learning these meanings and using them to bolster oneself rather than mindlessly perform gender in a way one is expected to seems to be important.

5. And here're some of my favorite clothes, from on of my favorite designers. Because well-tailored jackets are important.

6 comments:

Mrs Bossa said...

I'm intrigued by the idea of 'performing a gender', and it's something we all seem to be conscious of. Perhaps it doesn't matter so long as we take advantage of our freedoms and enjoy expressing our individual identities...

Pearl Westwood said...

Exactly we will always be judged by what we wear, so we may as well stop caring about that and please ourselves!

Claire said...

I think it's pretty rad that you've got a link for every point - shows that you're consistently addressing a difficult question.

"Flattering" is a tough term.

poet said...

Great list of very valid points. Indeed, even with all the idealism about choice and self-expression we must recognize that we're not moving in a vacuum and we always projecting something, making some statement, being judged by others according to conventions, and it's something that needs to be taken into account. (Sigh, though.)

Terri said...

Point #4 was the most important in your post for me. I think there ARE bloggers out there who are 'mindlessly performing gender', which only makes what feminist fashion bloggers do that much more important.

cervixosaurus said...

Your first point is really important, I wanted to address that too but didn't end up writing about it. I really struggle with the ethics of clothing, even though i only buy secondhand.