For today's post for the Feminist Fashion Blogger Network, we were given free reign to write about any topic we wanted. There's been some terrific discussion going on through the message boards, and lots of fascinating ideas. In particular, I was interested by the discussion about the phrase "I'm a feminist, but/and..." (That is, "I'm a feminist, but I do these things which are not generally associated with stereotypical feminism") So I wanted to write about being a feminist but/and performing a variety of behaviors that are often labeled "women's" behaviors, such as sewing, cooking, caring about fashion/style, dressing in a "feminine" manner, and even blogging about all of those things. In particular, I wanted to look at this situation through the lens of my personal identity versus my professional identity.
Here's me, in a fairly typical outfit I wore to work sometime last week:
As I've mentioned before here, I have very consciously attempted to separate this blog from my professional/work identity. As a technologist, I'm not yet comfortable with being judged for my hobbies by those who work with me/work in my field or related fields. (And, of course, I'm making the loaded assumption that other technologists might make a negative judgment of me for these activities!) And yet, I'm a strong supporter of increasing the number of women in technological fields, and making it more comfortable for women to work in and study technology. Part of this, I think, is the ability for women to dress in stereotypically feminine clothing if they choose. I've been making a concerted effort to more frequently wear skirts, dresses, heels, boots, jewelry...not to get stuck in the unisex jeans and shirt outfit. If I have a demo involving schoolchildren, I make particularly sure to wear a dress...silently spreading the message that you can be a woman who works with computers and still likes to dress in more "girly" ways. In a way, I use my sartorial choices as a statement: I would like the fact that I am a woman to potentially be noticed, and hopefully counter stereotypes of computer programmers. Besides that, I enjoy taking care with my personal style and wearing clothing combination that make me feel good.
So, while I make an effort to represent myself as feminine AND working in technology, I find myself not entirely comfortable with revealing the extent to which I occupy myself with female-coded pastimes, particularly my interest in fashion and style. Only one of my coworkers knows about this blog (and that's because he is a dear friend, and I occasionally have him take photos for it). Perhaps I draw a distinction between being seen as paying attention to what I wear and being seen as really CARING what I wear? Perhaps I think it's okay for me to dress up and dress in a feminine manner, but not okay for me to show the time or energy that goes into that process? Or even, fine as long as it's making a political statement, but not just for the enjoyment of it? Has anyone else encountered this sort of dilemma?
On a semi-related note, Franca wrote a great post earlier today about "Marthettes," the growing movement of Martha-Stewart-like bloggers with their perfect craft projects and lovely wardrobe and beautiful families in their perfectly clean and charmingly decorated homes. It's interesting to me to see how much these "Marthettes" are portrayed as/seen as an ideal to some of the same women who also value a woman being strong and powerful, CEO of a company/a well-respected academic/etc., etc. With the reclaiming of "women's" activities as acceptable for a feminist, I worry whether feminists now expect themselves to be not only successful in their professional and personal life, but also successful in the realm of "women's work," even if that's not so appropriate to bring up in professional contexts. What do you all think?
(Outfit details: thrifted sweater and skirt, camisole from Express, vintage boots and necklace, both via Ebay)