Thursday, 10 April 2014

Dresses, Tresses and Gender Messes

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)

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 :-)

Dress is from Bonne Chance Collections
Pin is from Ginger Pickle 
Tights are from an opshop somewhere
Boots are Doctor Martens


  1. Such a great post, I am interested in gender studies and feminism, so I think I'm going enjoy your blog! I completely agree that gender is a social construct, but I still love to embrace my femininity, regardless.

    Anyway, love your unicorn pin!! :D

    Technicolour Dreamer

  2. This makes me think of New Girl, when the character Jess goes on a rant that just because she likes cupcakes and wants to put bows on everything doesn't equate to her being weak. I think this association is also why I think there is a lot of fear of boys in dresses.

    1. Hahahaha I absolutely agree!! I really have to watch more of New Girl- I get compared to Jess all the bloody time so I think I've been avoiding it out of principle. I like to think of things as not just being one way or another- not just masculine or feminine. I often wear dresses without shaving my legs, largely because I can't be bothered half the time. I also have gross feet from too many shoeless adventures, which isn't super feminine but means I can pretty much walk over crushed glass. TMI? I don't know. Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Katie with the gross feet! Haha!

  3. 1 - Totally jealous of your beautiful long hair
    2 - I found this blog post really interesting. I am currently looking at how women are presented in the media for my course and as I am 'majoring' in Fashion I have present my finale piece in as a fashion collection. This had lead me to look at power dressing as a way to empower women but recently this had started to bother me and this blog post has finally verbalized why.
    Why should trousers be seen as powerful? I spend most of my time in dresses and skirts and this makes me no weaker than when I am wearing trousers! It's a shame society has these misconceived conceptions that we just accept.

    1. 1. Thank you!! I almost cut it all off the other day-- it's very thick and hard to manage, these photos feature it in a half up/ half down style so you should see it when it's all out! Basically I wake up every morning with dreadlocks. Not as wonderful in reality, really :-p

      2. I'm so glad you totally get what I'm saying here, I was worried I wouldn't get my point across. I absolutely agree with what you say about women in the media and about the whole notion of 'power dressing' and I'm so glad I've played a part in you realising the fiction in it! Keep wearing your skirts as much as you want, and good luck with your major!

  4. What an interesting post! I agree that expressing her femininity should not make a woman LESS of a feminist, or not able to be a woman of power!

  5. Just found your blog through Annika's! I followed you on Bloglovin'- maybe you could check mine out & tell me what you think!

    ~Courtney of

  6. Bravo! Thoroughly enjoyed what you had to say and the way you said it. I'll look forward to your next post, your writing is brilliant!

    1. Thank you so much!! It makes me so happy to hear that, I'm rally glad you enjoyed the post. Have a really lovely day!

  7. I feel you girl. Honestly, no one should have to justify wearing a pretty dress. The term "girly" has gotten such a bad rap in today's society and it's really messed up!
    PS that unicorn pin <3


  8. hello, just poppin by again to tell you that I nominated you for the Liebster Award! hope this makes you happy :) x
    more info here:

    1. Thank you so much! I have been away at a festival and this has made my day. I'll get right onto it! :-) x


  10. Absolutely love your style and commentary. Feminist fashion blogs are the best! <3

  11. I am in love with your hair! and your unicorn pin is so cute <3

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  13. well said, i'm impressed with the way you expressed it like it's so simple because it should be. congratulations! glad i found your blog x

  14. Oh, wow, that pin, I'm in love with it! :D
    Your blog - and style and photos - are charming! ^^

  15. I'm a web developer, which is a hugely male-dominated field - my office of 15+ people has two other women, neither of whom are actually web developers, they work on the marketing side. I wear a lot of pretty dresses and little skirts and things to work, and nice makeup and hair, while all the guys wear jeans and t-shirts. I always get a little kick out of it when new guys starting see me in my dresses with flowers in my hair and sort of laugh at me, and then I get to correct their code and prove to be a better developer than they are. Teaching one at a time that dressing "girly" doesn't equal stupid or weak, maybe? :P