Hi! Nice to see you again.
So yesterday I spent a better part of the day running around in the rain with Annika, trying to take pictures without getting her expensive camera wet (we ended up resorting to tying a plastic bag over the top of the tripod, which I consider to be the hallmark of Annikas' scientific innovation).
I wasn't really planning for my next post to be me in a pretty dress. It's been a while since I've really worn dresses, and the deeper I delve into the world of Gender Studies the more I have almost unthinkingly veered away from anything super feminine.
I want to know why this is. So I put a little thought into it.
The issue of femininity is a contested one. Particularly during Second Wave Feminism, important figures like Germaine Greer, and earlier even with Simone De Beauvoir, spoke about the restrictions and limitations of femininity. So began the revolution of subverting the feminine, in an attempt to push past the percieved limitations of our gender. Arguably it was about finding power and was a liberation from the shackles of a long history of societal expectations and oppression.
And it was understandable. When I read theory about really normalised ways that women are repressed and limited, my knee-jerk is anger and a sense of solidarity. Yes! F*$#@ dresses! I dont need to monitor and supress and preen and perfect my body! Down with femininity!
Or something like that. What I mean to say is that there is this readily consumed idea that whatever is feminine is, in turn, limited. Passive, powerless, the all dreaded cute. It has been totally normalised, even if we're not entirely conscious of it. Think about the cliche "workplace" environment, the typical sitcom office space. Think about dress codes. Think pantsuits, think button up blouses, think blazers. These kinds of clothes align with our idea of what's powerful. Someone on my instagram posted a picture of herself today in a black, a-line dress that she had just been told was too 'unprofessional' to wear to work. It is absolutely the norm to consider something that is ultra-feminine as '"unprofessional" and something that has a history of being considered masculine as "powerful".
(Annika and I are budding CEO's)
I think that there are problems here. I think that the first problem exists in the idea that masculinity = professional and powerful and femininity = unprofessional and uh, powerless?
I think that another problem exists in the idea that femininity is intrinsic to the female gender and masculinity to the male.
Personally I think that my wearing a dress is hardly prohibitive to my ability to do an office job. Microsoft Excel is hardly going to flip up tables if I'm wearing a tutu and glittery heels.
( I like this picture because it looks like Annika is teaching me how to perform femininity)
I also do not believe that femininity is an essentialy 'female' reality, and visa versa with masculinity. I am hardly naturally predisposed to like the colour pink, or to want to play with dolls or to have long hair. These things, I believe, are inherently cultural coded and are the product of years of performing in a particular way based on social norms and hierachies. I don't really think that our idea of what is feminine or masculine is something that is essential to our existence as a particular gender. And in turn, gender isn't either.
Last time I posted my favourite clip of Judith Butler, explaining performativity of gender. If you didn't watch it, scroll down a bit, it's great. Basically what she's arguing is that no one is a man or a woman, but that being a man or woman is something that we do. The kind of gender determinism that most people experience goes something like "I am a girl, so I am X, Y, Z". There is an essentialism here that is often not questioned. I think that if we are presenting ourselves in certain ways, it's not because we were built that way- it's because we are part of a continually layered system of cultural constructs and value.
Basically what I'm saying, is that I don't think we are meant to be any particular thing based on how we exited utero.
I think there is potential in 'reclaiming' femininity as a means of subverting what we think is powerful, important and valuable. That being said, it might be a while before expectations of what it means to wear a pretty dress change. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do your thing, in whatever you want to wear, and be whoever you want to be anyway. And eventually, society might catch up to you. Hopefully.
Anyway, that was basically my justification for wearing a pretty dress. Today I am wearing jeans, no shoes and no bra and the story continues.
I hope you are all having a great week!
Love, Katie :-)
Tights are from an opshop somewhere
Boots are Doctor Martens