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)
This is an interesting post. It's related an a way to another FFB blog post (Sidewalk Chic). She talks about dressing for yourself vs. others (in regards to provocative clothing). How we dress does affect how people perceive us (not that that's always good). I also work in technology. It's a balance: being myself and "dressing the part" at work. I like how you think about your attire when going into school and talking to school chilrdren. You know, sell the idea that feminity and technology are not mutually exclusive. Thanks for getting me thinking!
It's the classic "i want to look a certain way, but not to look like i care". In response to your question, i have also encountered this sort of scenario. For example, I want to wear heeled boots with a dress because they make me look more feminine AND they work better with the dress, but i wont wear them because it looks like i've put "too much of an effort" in. I love your skirt btw :)
If only it were well-regarded to show that one has dressed with care! Effort due to care is what makes the world go round.
Quite a bit of food for thought here...like the point about the embracing of 'feminine roles' being another stick to beat women with - as if to have it all you have to be able to do it all. To some degree my friends, family and colleagues are made uncomfortable by my feminist beliefs, and find it much easier to think of me as the type of girl who loves shoes and has a fashion blog. By choosing to dress the way you do, it sounds like you're successfully treading a fine line...but there is most definitely a line!
I'm reminded of the double-binds that so frequently define female experience: if a woman cares about her clothes, she's superficial, but if she doesn't, she's sloppy and unfeminine. (Another example: If a woman wants to get married, she's needy and out to trap a man, but if she doesn't, she's a freak. Etc.) I get frustrated sometimes at how shy I feel over caring/blogging about clothes, since modern U.S. culture has so strongly influenced this interest. Society did its fair share to make me the way I am, so why am I embarrassed to show who I am to society?! It's fairly ridiculous.
The way you try to present yourself in your professional environment is really interesting to me. I work almost exclusively from home, so I can't relate on that front, but your words on the subject remind me somewhat of the way I dress for church. I get a small thrill out of showing my fellow worshipers that I can be both funky and faithful, if that makes sense, sort of in the same way that you want to show school kids that you can be both feminine and skilled in your chosen profession. I'm constantly re-amazed at how I want to dress to please myself, but also to show others that I'm pleased with myself, which makes for a strange cycle.
Dressing with the markers of the traditional feminine to subvert the perception of tech fields being for men only? Brilliant idea - maybe the master's tools CAN tear down the master's house. The only way in which I'm skeptical about is that you may be steering dangerously close to the notion that 'a woman can to a man's job *iff* she still clearly dresses and behaves in feminine ways too', that the 'you can have it all' gets turned against you into a 'you must do it all'. What's your experience with that?
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