Some will say that this is a battle that is over and that we won: feminists can wear as high a pair of heels and as red a lipstick as they want and still not be excluded from the club, the membership to which is awarded to them at birth. (Yes, men feminists have more to prove before they are allowed in. Tough luck!) But I don’t know if this perceived freedom is a real one or one projected to us in our slumber pods.
Sure, we can do whatever the hell we want and that is called freedom. Women didn’t have that for a very long time. Women have been prescribed what to wear since forever: cover your legs, don’t show your cleavage, hair, arms, etc. Of course we’ll celebrate the freedom of wearing whatever on earth we feel like. But are revealing clothes and heavy makeup really where we must to go? Just because we can? This choice can be empowering but the kind of power it offers is not of real value. It’s a tiny, despised power. It is not durable, it is not respected, it’s not something we can hold up in pride. It’s subversive and very demeaning.
However, it does often seem like the “body celebrating” clothes are the only choice women have, if we go by the media.
I watch Project Runway religiously. I enjoy the creative process behind the making of clothes and none of the offensive aspects of the fashion industry have managed to put me off. However, every time I hear that clothes need to be “sexy” (which happens every two minutes in every single episode) I am driven up the wall. No, clothes do not need to be sexy. They do not need to make us “attractive.” I dislike that implication. That idea that’s being taught to our girls that they must “show off” their bodies is heart-breaking.
My daughter enjoys watching music videos. This happens lately every day before going to bed. Which is a problem, because it’s very hard to find strong female singers with a clean, not overly sexualized image. Why does it have to be like this?
Clothes can make us feel good (with their warmth, the feel of their fabrics, their message, their history, etc.) and they can make us look interesting, they can give us a different persona, they can play along with our moods. They can do a lot. But no, they should not have to be sexy and make us “attractive”. Give us a break.
When we can wear whatever we want, is tight, uncomfortable clothing that makes us self-conscious really what we want the most?
I don’t advocate for “modest” clothing (that sounds very anti-feminist and I don’t want to be accused) but I vote for personal comfort and pleasure. Nothing should make me feel like I need to pay attention to my clothes after I put them on the in the morning. They should not remind me of their existence throughout the day, because I don’t have time for that.
Freedom always comes with responsibility, and the choices we have to make weigh heavy on our shoulders and on those of the generations coming after us. I think in order to make a difference and really break the patriarchal puppeteer strings, we need to choose the durable, valuable power that comes not from using our sexuality but from using our brains, our empathy, our emotional intelligence, our instincts, our affectionate and caring natures.
Sure, sometimes we find ourselves in situations where using our sexuality is an advantage that we cannot ignore, and it’s our bodies, and we can do whatever we want, so we might choose to use this advantage. But let’s not make that our primary or only choice. Because it’s reductive and damaging.
Sure, there is a good time for sexy clothes: like when we explicitly go out looking for a mate. But that is not every day and in every situation, is it? Often we just go looking for a job. Or for groceries.
Because it’s not just about clothes. It never is. It ends up being about who we are to the core. And I think most of us like to believe we’re much more than just our bodies and our sexuality. We are much more complex, amazing creatures with diverse interests and qualities, with a myriad individual oddities and brilliance and follies. Our clothes maybe can represent some of that instead of just showing “sexy”. Just saying.