Today, all sorts of fabulous women are writing about how feminism influences and shapes their wardrobes. Specifically, Franca asked,
How do you express your feminism in the way you dress?
I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and I still don’t have a concise, cogent answer. The relationship between feminism and my wardrobe is not a tangible one — there’s no such thing as a feminist shirt. Compounding the issue is the fact that my feminism pervades my worldview, and it’s very difficult to parse out where my feminism stops and where the rest of my personal philosophy begins, or if there even is such a boundary. Drawing lines around aspects of my life is not something that I am good at.
I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m a grad student in the physical science, and I mention it again only because since school is the single largest place I spend outside the house, it’s the most relevant environment in which to discuss my dressing. And I’ve said several times before that the physical scientists, especially those in academia, are not known on the whole for their snappy dressing; there’s a reason that “that prof” that students are advised not to emulate when they’re going for academic job interviews or grad school interviews is seemingly always a physics prof. I already feel obvious simply for being a woman in my field, and dressing deliberately feels like taking a very large step forward out of a lineup. I’ll be honest, lots of days I just throw on whatever happens to be clean, and blend in. But when I can muster the fortitude to step forward and dress deliberately and femininely, my feminism backs me up. It gives me a road map in uncharted territory, and backbone to say “of course I can wear this.” It also raises a lot of uncomfortable questions about gender roles, perception (both mine and of others), reclamation, and reinforcement of patriarchal ideas. It’s not all peaches and sunshine, and it’s not the slightest bit straightforward.
That said, my feminism is very central to my identity, and very important to me as a person. Difficult questions aren’t something to shy away from just because they’re difficult. Feminism is inherently about challenging conventional and patriarchal ideas, dismantling the notion that there is a set way for women and girls to behave/dress/live/exist and recognize that the world is not black and white, and all of us, women and men, are better off what we stop thinking in binaries and start thinking in continuums, and understand that people of all genders will fall in different places on those continuums. Feminism is not a straightforward philosophy — of course difficult questions will come up! It’s a feature, not a bug.
But the question is not “how does feminism influence my dressing,” but rather, “how do [I] express my feminism through the way I dress?” which are related questions but not quite the same. i was going to grab some pictures to show you, but on second thought I’m not going to. The important thing is not what I’m wearing necessarily, but why and sometimes how I’m wearing it. I express my feminism through wearing skirts and combat boots, bland tshirts and heels, short hair and dresses. I express my feminism by mixing feminine and masculine and ungendered clothing and attitude, because I am feminine, masculine, and genderneutral. I refuse to assign moral value to clothing or people who wear it — I’ll wear heels if it suits me, but usually flats because I like them better. I purposefully seek out clothes that were made with fair labour practices, because my right to express myself with my clothes doesn’t trump the rights of another woman to be paid fairly and live with dignity. I remake, remodel, and repurpose clothing that has worn out or doesn’t fit, because excessive consumption and waste is strangling our environment. I try to be conscious of how my life affects the people around me, yet not complacent about my place in society. My clothes are my armour, and my feminism gives them strength.