Today’s post is brought to you by the Feminist Fashion Bloggers, a super cool club (not a secret handshake type of club or anything gross like that) that I just joined because I thought they sounded so neat.
It’s Wednesday, March 16, known now and hereafter as Fashionable Feminist Day and we’re all writing posts that answer the question:
How do you express your feminism in the way you dress?
The short answer is: With everything I wear. Our world views inform pretty much everything that we do, so since I identify as a feminist, that must mean that I dress like a feminist, drink red wine like a feminist, pet my cat like a feminist, and watch “Pretty Little Liars” like a feminist. Etc.
Of course, what’s supposed to be really intriguing about this whole question is the fact that I don’t dress like the stereotype of a feminist. Which is to say: Unfashionable. With Dansko clogs and overalls and hairy legs and what have you. And now I’m supposed to give a big speech about how I can still be a feminist because I believe in equal rights for men and women, even if I make more stylish sartorial choices.
But I feel like I’ve made that speech a lot. And other bloggers have made that speech. It’s important — I get very frustrated when old school feminists accuse younger feminists of having whack priorities because we want to talk about body image all the time instead of working on the “real” issues. And hello, irony! Because that’s precisely the reason that we have to keep talking about body image stuff — it keeps getting in the way of getting anything else done. Because just like people recoil from the word feminist due to that hairy-legged stereotype, people (especially other feminists) also recoil from women who seem to spend too much time thinking about their appearance, because obviously, caring about shoes is a clear indicator that you’ve lost your critical thinking skills.
So that’s important. You guys are clear on that, right? It’s awesome to be a feminist and still wear lip gloss and sexy shoes if that floats your boat.
What I thought I would do instead of making that speech (like how I basically made it anyway?) is tell you all the ways that I have embraced dressing like an Unfashionable Feminist.
I wear Birkenstocks. (Well not right now, cause it’s cold out. But I will be soon.)
I own overalls. I wear them around the house for gardening and also out in public, because why not?
I had a “Rosie the Riveter” t-shirt when I was a kid.
I used to have a tank top with the face of Evita Peron on it, which I bought on spring break in Buenos Aires. And actually, my sister also gave me a bracelet with Evita faces on it, and one with Frida Kahlo faces, so maybe we should thank Caroline for dressing me like a feminist (she is also a costume designer and goes to a women’s college so she knows what she’s doing). Though to be fair, Evita gets pretty mixed reviews on the feminism front. What with being married to a dictator and all.
I still don’t own any tie-dye or Dansko clogs, but they aren’t out of the realm of purchasing possibility. I do wear bras and try to keep on top of the leg hair situation, though it’s been long enough since I last waxed that I could earn some pretty good Feminist Stereotype Street Cred on that front, too. This week, anyway.
So why I am perpetuating this stereotype by telling you how I fulfill it? Because I don’t think Dressing Like a Feminist has to be an either/or proposition. Just because I mostly like to wear cute dresses and boots and blow out my hair doesn’t mean I have to reject the whole aesthetic of old school feminism. Playing with fashion means experimenting with lots of different looks and thinking about how you can make them your own.
And deciding to rock Birks and tie-dye shouldn’t have to be a rejection of patriarchal beauty standards. I get why it so often is — all too often, those patriarchal beauty standards don’t do us any favors and deserve a little rejecting. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It could just be that you really like Birks. And tie-dye.
So I think it’s time to retire all the stereotypes — of bra-burning feminists, of lipstick feminists, of you name it feminists. When we subscribe too fully to these black and white definitions of what feminism looks like, we waste far too much time on semantic debates when we could be getting real stuff done.
So. I am a feminist who wears Birkenstocks. I am a feminist who wears mini-skirts. Sometimes I am a feminist who wears both of these things together. This is not a contradiction. This is what a (fashionable) feminist looks like.
How does the way you dress reflect your beliefs? Or not?
PS. Check out more from Fashionable Feminist Bloggers at the full list of participating posts over here.