Wednesday, April 25, 2012

All Those Other Feminist Choices

So, I've been thinking a lot lately about the implications of feminism on fashion.

I try to keep the crazy analysis that goes on in my head sometimes to myself, because I don't like getting pegged as 'some kind of crazy feminist!'  This is really annoying, because I am some kind of feminist, 'crazy' being up for debate, and, in the last couple of months...maybe a year, I've slowly but surely become more and more aware of just how crucial feminism still is in our culture.  This is so frustrating for me, because we have so many other social justice issues to deal with: racism, homophobia, ageism (both older and younger) and perhaps my favourite: prejudice against people in my generation who are freaking pissed because we worked our asses off and accrued tons of debt since our parents told us we had to so we wouldn't wind up flipping burgers, only to find that there are no jobs, and our debt is crippling us, so we protest these facts and demand changes in the system to improve things, and then we're told we should go get a job flipping burgers, which, by the way, doesn't pay anywhere near a living wage, and sure as shit wouldn't cover the student loan payment, so thanks for nothing, assholes.  Anyway...

It's like, the more I start to question where I came upon my choices and my beliefs about myself, and what makes a woman a woman, the more I find Man at the end of the line, instead of Me.

So, I was really ripe for the conversation when I stumbled upon the truly earth-shattering, day-eating, awesome sauce blog: Vagenda.  Where I proceeded to devour article after article, straight back through the archives, blowing my productive plans for the day, but hey, I was learning a lot and how I'm writing this blog post, ok??  The first article I read was entitled, "Hair: Not the Musical" and was about one woman's experiment with letting all her body hair grow out au natural, and her experiences with that.  She's kept it up for over a year and a half, and she's learned a lot about herself, about the patriarchy, and about self confidence.  I was immediately reminded of a conversation I had with my father, years ago, and, first let me say, my father is a wonderful, caring, loving gentleman.  He is a great father.  But, he's only human, and therefor not perfect, and this conversation rolls around in my psyche like a big, nasty burr, painful every time I think about it.  Frankly, I don't remember the conversation.  It was about women and body hair, and what I remember is my father saying (paraphrased),

"Ew, hair on women is disgusting!  Blech!!"

Fortunately I was an adolescent and rebellious and quit shaving my armpits for a few years in high school (went to my Sweet Sixteen party like that, too, in a lovely gown!), so I like to think it didn't negatively impact me too much, but it hurt.   That attitude hurts.  Because, if a woman with hair is disgusting, what are we saying, really?  That the way God[dess] made us isn't good enough.  That our natural selves aren't good enough.  We need painful and obnoxious, and totally unnatural and inconvenient grooming behaviors in order to be acceptable for society.

Can I just say, WTF?

Sooooo, here's the rub.  Does that mean I'm hurting women everywhere every time I shave my legs?  Because I do shave my legs...I mean, I'm pretty lax about it, especially in the Winter, and especially above the knee, but, you know, I keep a razor in the shower...

And what about Fashion?  (another post got me thinking about this, but I forget the title...it's about a woman finding herself getting judged for wearing a short skirt and not liking it) What about putting my body on display?  What about needing just the right body to wear just the right clothes before I'm good enough?  We know those attitudes are harmful for all human beings...

Does that mean I can't wear my painted-on purple skinny jeans?  My pretty red halter top?  Tight mini dress?  Bikini?  Or, you know, maybe it would be feminist of me as long as I didn't wear the bikini top?  It's complicated.  I love to wear my six-inch Steve Madden pumps sometimes.  They make me feel sexy and powerful, even though I can just barely totter around in them at an infuriatingly slow pace...I think what it comes down to is, it's crucial that these are true choices, not mock choices, choices that were made for us long before by constant exposure to a mother who was cruel to what she saw in the mirror, a father who made a disgusted face when he saw a woman whose armpits weren't shaved.

Of course you can wear makeup, if you feel like it.  Of course you can buy the latest trends if you like them.  If you feel more hygenic with hair-free pits, or more confident in a bikini with a bald vajayjay, then yes, by all means, get out the wax strips!  For that matter, if you're more comfortable in a bra, more power to you!

But you've got to ask yourself why you're doing these things, and who you're doing them for, and most importantly, do you, can you, still love yourself, still see yourself as awesome, and worthwhile, and good enough for ANYBODY to see you, without them?  And if the answer is no, why not try an experiment of your own?  You can always start small...

"Ew, the patriarchy is disgusting!  Blech!!"

Live Omily,
~em

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