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This here is a low traffic blog on topics close to my heart. As such, comments and engagement on old posts are always welcome and will be responded to. Except! for comments on old posts telling me to lighten up, not take things so seriously, or let things go, 'cause that shit's just plain ironic. Those comments will get a suggestion to visit Derailing for Dummies.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Women's Clothes

One of the major reasons I finally got off my butt to start this blog was wanting to explore some of the ideas in a book I've been reading, Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano.

Towards the end Ms. Serano makes a point about how we view masculinity as "normal" and femininity as "unnatural", saying: "[t]hose feminists who single out women's dress shoes, clothing, and hairstyles to artificialize necessarily leave unchallenged the notion that their masculine counterparts are 'natural' and 'practical'" (339).

Which got me to thinking. About how in the current (U.S. based) society, humans are one of the few species in which the plumage of the male is so much less impressive than the female. Take this

He is one of the "best dressed" according to the Yahoo or something. Impressively stylish, yes? What a powerful figure he makes (or some such gobbledy gook). Gosh, he's so... so.... well dressed.

Ok. Now to look at a "best dressed" woman (same source). Wow, she sure pops off the page, yes? If the two of them were in the same picture, I sure know who MY eye would tend towards.

"But" you say, "she's in bright colors! How could he possibly hope to compete with such a stunning example of neon color!!!"

Ok, you probably don't say that. You probably realize that I am setting you up. Perhaps your eye has even strayed to my next image (oh, to be able to keep this second image hidden until the appropriate time! what fun it would be!) .

Look here! A woman, dressed all in black and white! And she too is so much more vivid a figure.

Ok, seriously, snark aside: women clearly get more exciting clothes. Frankly, even though I'm very very VERY happy in my dull grey pin-stripes and my dark/somber button up shirts, sometimes I look at my female roommate, in her vivid turquoise and her exciting shapes and sigh in envy. I mean LOOK at them. Women's clothes say something. They say: "I have a dead swan draped over my neck" (it they are Bjork) or "I am VERY shiny and pink" (if they are our first female example). Not just famous people either. My roommate seriously has fashion options far surpassing mine (and not just because I don't shop).

My glib summary of fashion is this: men get pockets, women get pizzazz!! (with two Z's and two exclamation marks). Isn't it strange that the male of the species doesn't look as POWERFUL as they supposedly are?

I want to do a little thought experiment. Think of every type of clothing, shoe, accessory and make up that we have (you started only thinking of women's clothing, didn't you?). Now try to think of them, as what they can be: ways to draw attention to yourself. Can you think of a way to make lipstick be not a "feminine" thing but just a decoration? How about eyeshadow? Metal bits with sparkly stones?

When I squint my mental eyes, I can see these things as what they truly are, not just what meanings we've given to all of them.

To go back to Ms. Serano's point: If clothing is meant to be a way to distinguish one's self (which I believe it is) how "practical" can it be to have men's clothing so incredibly BORING? And it seems pretty "artificial" that we look at the bright colors in women's clothing and don't immediately connect that to the natural world (butterflies, dart poison frogs, flowers, birds, take your pick). Basically I'd like to see a day where (more) men could feel comfortable wearing bright colors. And also a world where women's clothes had pockets. (I never got why they seemingly couldn't put pockets in a skirt).

I'm going to end with Julia Serano's "Barrette Manifesto" which is wickedly funny. But more importantly, it's also wickedly true. Which is why even though this post is long enough, it needs to be here*.

Barrette Manifesto
Hey girls, did you hear the news? It's just been scientifically proven that barrettes are dangerous! So are bracelets and bric-a-brac. It's a fact. And don't be fooled by thick-necked macho men who pretend that "girl stuff" is boring or frivolous, because that's just an act. Because as soon as you ask that guy to hold your purse for a minute, he will start to squirm, as if your handbag were full of worms, as he holds it as far away from his rugged body as possible. Because "girl stuff" is made with the gender equivalent of Kryptonite!
That's right, just watch fathers in Sanrio stores standing like petrified trees, like deer caught in Hello Kitty headlights. Or teenage boys buying their girlfriends flowers, acting as disinterested as possible as they ask the florist for a dozen "whatever"s. That's why they always buy roses, that's why engagement rings are always diamonds. These things are not romantic, they are just cliches-the only types of flowers and jewelry that most men will admit to knowing the names of. And god forbid you were to ask your husband to pick you up a box of tampons. (And men, it's true, the cashier really does think you're buying them for yourselves.)
"Girl stuff" is dangerous, and I should know because I'm a secret double agent. See, I lived as a boy for most of my life and I have insider information straight out of men's locker rooms and college dorms. Hell, I even went to a bachelor party once, so I know this stuff firsthand. And I have a battle plan for absolute sexual equality, but you have to trust me on this. See, feminists have made it okay for girls to explore what used to be an exclusively boy world. But true equality won't come until boys learn to embrace girl stuff as well.
So here's the deal: If you want your boyfriend to treat you with respect, then tell him that you won't sleep with him until he starts putting barrettes in his hair. And I'm not talking about secret bedroom kinky shit. Make him wear them to work! The next time he buys a pair of shoes, make sure they're Mary Janes (and don't forget the white lacy anklets to go with them). Because as soon as he realizes the pure bliss of wearing a frilly, pink, poofy, party dress, maybe he'll finally relax a bit and loosen up that uptight male swagger. And maybe one he lets his guard down, he'll look around and realize that the world doesn't revolve around him.
You may think this is funny, but it's no joke. "Girl stuff" is dangerous, so let's use it to our advantage. We truly can change the world! Because if construction workers were man enough to wear skirts and heels, they wouldn't whistle at women who walk by. And if misogynistic rockers and rappers were man enough toe cry while watching tearjerkers, they wouldn't need to masturbate all over the mic. And if presidents and generals were man enough to wear lip gloss and mascara, they wouldn't have to prove their penis size by going to war all the time. Because male pride is not really about pride. It's about fear--the fear of being seen as feminine. And that's why "girl stuff" is so dangerous. And as long as most men remain deathly afraid of it, they'll continue to take it out on the rest of us.

*all typos are entirely mine

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