Feminism Friday: What Do I Wear?

“Yes I wore a slinky red thing
Does that mean I should spread?
For you, your friends, your father, Mr. Ed.”

“Me and a Gun” Tori Amos

It’s easy for guys to laugh at movie scenes where a woman character is getting ready to go out and throwing clothes all over the room in order to find something Who needs brains when you have thesesuitable to wear.

It’s a little harder for women to dismiss scenes like that, because for many grrrls and women, those scenes are reality.

Like it or not–women are judged on what they wear. Guys are too, of course, but very differently. Guys don’t have cleavage, for one thing. You’re not going to find men sporting shirts that say “who needs brains when you have these?” When the word “modesty” is mentioned, that isn’t normally a word associated with male styles. It’s associated with what women wear and how they present themselves.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t wear many halter tops, short skirts, or short shorts. I can normally be found in jeans and a T-shirt. But I’m surrounded by other college-aged women who do dress in short dresses, skirts and revealing tops.

In Full Frontal Feminism, Jessica Valenti (the founder of Feministing.com!) talks about what it means to be attractive. Current beauty standards found in magazines, on television and billboards, are mostly unattainable.

“But it’s not just looks that make you ‘hot’–beauty standards are a whole other conversation. It’s about being accessible–to men, in particular. To be truly hot in this never-never land of tits and ass, we have to be constantly available–to be looked at, touched, and fucked. Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s true. We’re only as hot as our willingness to put on a show for guys.”

Valenti goes on to discuss the portrayal of women in magazines such as Maxim, and some of the other more obvious ways that women are pictured being available.

In looking up images for this blog I visited CosmoGirl-a magazine I once read. Here are a few examples of their summer wear fashion suggestions:


This is What a Cosmo Girl Looks Like

Here’s some images from the Cosmo, the parent site (and magazine):

An ad for CosmoCosmo Woman

Outside of the pretty obvious age differences, there aren’t a whole lot of differences in what is being sold in these images.

And this is interesting.

Isn’t CosmoGirl supposed to be for young women–teenagers and younger, really–while Cosmo is for adult women? Wouldn’t the experiences of the two different age groups be…well…different?

Why, yes.

It’s pretty obvious with the pictures from Cosmo and CosmoGirl that there’s a fair amount of eroticization within the pictures. Especially with the CosmoGirl photos. When I saw the picture of the girl leaning backwards with a dress that barely covers her, I was shocked. The image clearly plays off of childlike innocence. The color white tends to be associated with innocence and purity, and her disheveled hair is reminiscent of a young child coming in from a long day of playing outside. Yet the posture is anything but innocent. She is clearly available.

Girls and Women are being sold several different messages.
1. The ideal woman should look like media-perpetuated images
2. To be considered attractive, a woman should look sexy and available.
3. To be considered a good woman, she should be a virgin. Because if she isn’t a virgin, she’s a whore.
4. Because she dresses in an available manner, she can’t be taken seriously as anything but a piece of ass.

These are only some of the messages we’re being sold. And I do believe there is a difference in reception based on the age of the person getting it.

An adult woman has had a good deal of experience to help identify what she sees in ads and media with what she knows. A teenage girl is at a completely different place altogether. Sexuality may be something she’s interested in, and if she is, she’s being fed so many conflicting messages that it seriously is unhealthy.

In schools teens are being taught abstinence only education.

In their homes, through the television, movies, magazines, teen girls are being taught that anything-but-abstinence is the norm.

There isn’t really an in-between. And this is a problem.

It’s also important to recognize agency. Just because a girl dresses in a fashion similar to the models in CosmoGirl or Jane doesn’t mean she’s dressing like them because that’s what the models wore. Some women like dressing that way. But does that mean they have to be dehumanized because they like short skirts and halter tops? (and what right does the person judging them have to dehumanize someone based on their dress?)

Does that mean a woman singer/front-woman who wears dresses and likes random acts such as crowd surfing should be expected to know that crowd diving will lead to harassment? (And what gives the people in the crowd the right to harass that woman?)

Men who ask for modesty are usually placing the blame on the woman. The way “modesty” works in regards to women is that women should dress properly so as to not fluster the men who might look upon her. This is often reflected in the way a rape victim is received.

“The outfit argument is one that never seems to get old. It’s been around forever, but it may be the most bizarre victim-blaming tactic of them all. Here’s the idea: if you’re wearing something that could be considered ‘slutty,’ like (gasp!) a skirt, you were asking to be raped. Or you were teasing those poor guys who just can’t help themselves (they learned that in abstinence ed, remember?). This never made sense to me on so many levels, but I imagine that guys must find it pretty insulting. It basically means that they’re just big, dumb animals unable to control themselves within one hundred yards of a miniskirt. I don’t know about you, but I think we should give men some credit.” -Valenti, Full Frontal Feminism

I completely agree with Valenti here. For men to think that women should dress modestly to keep them from turning into deranged animals is completely ridiculous.

The way we dress is a lot more complicated than that scene in movies would have you believe.

There’s a lot more at stake than just looking nice.





Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah!

I’m going to do something I haven’t done before. Today’s music music feature will be *gasp* on a NEW band!! While I am enjoying the music that came out of the 90s far too much (believe me I have one for next Thursday already…), it doesn’t hurt to showcase some upcoming artists as well.

So who’s the lucky band?Lucas Silveira-lead vox/guitar

The Cliks. This Canadian band is making waves in the indie-rock world. The music is catchy, exciting and honest. And the band will join the True Colors tour for a few shows starting in Salt Lake City, Utah (which I would like to go to. Here’s to hoping!)

The True Colors concert tour is a 15 city nationwide tour that’s supporting the Human Rights Campaign. Other headliners are Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, The Dresden Dolls and the Gossip. Needless to say, this tour will be THE tour of the summer.

To be involved in a tour like this is pretty special, to say the least. In addition to the True Colors Tour, the band is also touring on its own to promote their album Snakehouse. The Cliks is made up of Lucas Silveira (lead vocalist/guitarist), Morgan Doctor (drums), Nina Martinez (guitar), and Jen Benton (bass).

According to Sarah Liss, NOW magazine, “… the Cliks’ music kinda sounds like what might happen if Chrissie Hynde and the Murmurs’ Leisha Hailey fell in love, got Bowie to help out with insemination and gave birth to an indie rock love child. It’s all kinda raw but sweetly melodic, with a ballsy cabaret swagger.”

Though their sudden appearance may seem like an overnight success, the band has been around since 2004–just in a very different form. Early in 2005, Silveira found himself overwhelmed by a variety of different events at once–a 7 year relationship came to a bitter and ugly fall out, his father suffered a stroke and he had just begun to accept himself as a transgendered male and went from being Lila (NOW magazine) to Lucas. Amid all this was a lineup change with the original version of the Cliks.
The Cliks OH YEAH!

While the only thing that has remained stable about the Cliks is Silveira, that’s really not a bad thing. The ordeals Silveira has been through has been a huge influence on the songwriting, and it shows in the music and the lyrics.

Listening to their songs on their Myspace site, it’s clear that this band has talent. The music is powerful but controlled indie rock with clear, raw vocals. And from what I hear, their live show shall take you to an unprecedented level of wonderfulness (so do check them out when they hit your area!)

If any band was meant to take on the role of successor to The Pretenders–the Cliks would be it.

So with no further ado I shall leave you with a final comment from their myspace page and a video! (the comment should be taken in consideration with the video, in fact πŸ˜‰

“A final suggestion: PLAY LOUD, and prepare to have your preconceptions obliterated.”

**all pics from the band’s myspace site πŸ™‚ **