Saturday, May 23, 2009

What IS in a name?

OK, now you got me thinking about dress as identity in addition to the whole naming thing, and how patriarchy gets mixed up in that, too.

I suppose I would be closest to what is described in the Comments as "preppie butch," although I do the slob thing pretty well, too.

I laughed out loud when I read the Robin Williams quote on butches as simply "women in comfortable shoes"--in other words, sensible women. Another commenter wrote that a butch is a woman who stands up to a man, unless she is femme, in which case she is bitch, rather than butch. Loved that one.

But here's my take on it. Butch to me is not about playing a role. It is about not playing a role, not 'doing' gender. I don't consciously dress butch, i.e., shop in the men's-wear section, or cut my hair high-and-tight. I simply do not wear dresses/skirts, high heels, makeup, or fussy jewelry. Or fussy hair, either. My ideal haircut is one I can hit with a towel and be out the door.

I don't shave. Anywhere. Ever.

On the other hand, while I don't like frilly blouses as a general rule, I have floral prints in my closet. And I like nice undies. Bras are torture instruments and I would never wear one if I didn't have such big jugs, but as long as I have to wear them, I want them as lacy and frilly as I can get them. I think that is because I can indulge that side of me away from the male gaze. And because lacy underwear doesn't inhibit movement the way other feminine clothing (e.g., spike heels) does.

Doing gender is not my first priority: Practical, comfortable, yet attractive (nice oxford shirts, for example, in high-quality cotton and pretty colors) is. If people think I dress like a man, then so be it.

But as for identity, my clothing does send a message about me: I'm not conforming to gender requirements. I'm more interested in what works for me than what society wants.

Naomi Wolf, in The Beauty Myth, cites some statistics on how many battered women's shelters we could fund with the money we piss away on face creams alone. I think it came out to one per state per year. And she or someone else commented on how much we could accomplish with the time we spend doing our faces and hair and shopping for femme crap if we put that same energy into social change. So my clothing also sends those two messages about my identity: I'd rather spend the money on hobby equipment and the time on my profession.

Whereas, to me, the whole femme thing plays out the stereotype of females in our society as frivolous, superficial, silly, empty-headed, vain, spendthrift, allowing themselves to dress for (or in the case of expensive baubles, be dressed by) men, blah, blah. So in terms of messages I send with my personal style, if I were consciously sending one, that would not be it. Why would I deliberately drape something over my body that telegraphs, "idiotic"?

So here's my identity as summed up by my appearance:
(1) Judges self and others by their character.
(3) Likes nice things.
(4) Practical. Sensible. Comfortable.
(5) Nonconformist.
(6) Will stand up to a man--a bitch in pants.
(7) Sloppy.
(8) Preppie.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Feminist Cookies

These are awesome. Buy one for your Nigel today!


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lessons for Girls, Number Three: Be Independent

Reassigned Time: Lessons for Girls, Number Two: Opting Out

This is a meme that started with Historiann's Lesson Number One, which was basically that anger can be a good thing. Lesson Number Two just went up today over at Reassigned Time, and is basically that it is equally ok not to engage. I am going to try for Number Three, Be Independent.

Boys never are raised to think someone is going to take care of them. Girls need to always think in terms of supporting themselves, owning their own property, having their own bank accounts and lines of credit, paying their own way.

Instead, we are raised to believe that men will buy us dinner, movie tickets, gifts, a home, car, clothing, vacations. They will make the big bucks: Whether we work or not, they will be capable of and responsible for supporting the family. This is nuts. This leaves girls dependent, and in an unhealthy marriage it means women will be trapped.

It ought never to be a question of whether we will work. It should be assumed that we will be completely self-supporting, whether we are married or not. We should never, ever be dependent upon a man again once we're old enough not to need parental support any more.

Even a few lesbians occasionally fall into this trap, where one expects the other to support her, and where one uses her ability to support the other as leverage. As far as I know, it's a woman thing: At least I can't think of any gay male couples I've encountered where that is the dynamic.

Although I am a feminist, and my mom raised me to have an education and a career, I have never managed my money as though I were an independent financial entity. It's amazing how subtle this kind of internalized sexism can be: I just never took myself seriously in the financial realm. It's only recently that I have begun to think differently about what I deserve to make--and keep.

Of course part of that was the whole anti-materialism thing of the '60s, but not all.

It's such a new idea to me that I was astounded to learn the other day that a small business owner (female) up the street grosses $2 million a year. I know, of course, that there are a lot of women out there making bunches of money. But she's an ordinary woman like me, see, that's what was so amazing about it. I have, without realizing it, had it in my head all these years that real (ordinary) women never have any money of their own.

So anyway, I'm starting to ask for--and expect--more money for my work. And last week I opened my own checking account. For no reason other than that I felt I should have one.

So endeth the Lesson.


And then there's the menz. I haven't had to work with men in decades.


Change is scary

So the new job starts in a couple of weeks.
  • Will they respect my work? Will I respect theirs?
  • Will we get along?
  • Will the customers I'm taking with me like the new place?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Quote of the day

Perhaps gamboling about the countryside observing the wonders of nature that exist blissfully innocent of patriarchal oppression is, in itself, a feminist statement.
Sounded good to me, so I went for a walk.