Whenever I have been to my universities femsoc meetings (yes you are looking at the new femsoc website co-co-ordinator, that’s right) I am blown away by people’s intelligence, by their refreshing viewpoints and by their sharp political minds, not to mention they are lovely people. One thing I am not blown away by is their dress. Now bear with me, I know that that’s completely NOT what feminism is about, we should be looking at what is in a person’s head and not what is draped about their exterior form, but does that mean that feminism CAN’T involve what we wear? After all my femsoc is made up of both men and women so it needn’t be about what women wear at all, and yet there is a definite air of dowdiness that isn’t going to attract any other fems to our group! It’s not sexist, its advertising.
This may be because Bristol as a city is full of posh hipsters who believe that because an item is from a charity shop it is immediately more durable than a bargain at UO, an entirely ironic form of snobbery whereby people who can afford to go to university actively attempt to look as homeless as possible. However I would argue that, as the stereotype of feminism is that we are braless, no makeup wearing lesbians (which is absolutely ok by the way, I mostly fit into at least one of those categories at any point during a day) it is a theme worth addressing as it seems to carry some weight and expectation. In short I think that a lot of feminists believe that it is sexist to look sexy.
In my humble opinion the word ‘sexy’ can genuinely mean anything that makes a woman feel confident and attractive to herself. That can be an attitude she has towards life; the way she attacks the challenges it hits her with and how she conducts herself to make her feel confident and happy. Yes that confidence can also come from how she dresses and how her clothes make her feel about her figure (who are we to judge?). The point is I don’t think sexy is a term that we should rule out as not being feminist, it is merely an inner attitude, that can come from anywhere, that manifests itself physically when we can see how confident a woman is in herself and around others.
I think we are too quick to throw the word ‘sexy’ out with the proverbial ‘bathwater’ and other hideous slogans that can often get hollered out of a moving white van. It is a word that has been tarnished with the materialistic brush, and therefore feminists, I feel, often run from it as a word, fearing its possession would tarnish their beliefs about the empowerment of women, when in fact, the exact opposite is true. When we dress up we should be doing it for ourselves regardless of what anyone else has to say on the matter. By feeling we have to dress down in order for our political point to carry more gravity we are in fact offering the power back to the patriarchy, by allowing them to dictate what we should and shouldn’t wear. What I think we should do is blow the top off this dismissive categorisation! Now if, for you, that means wearing a potato sack and a sturdy welly then you carry on! But do not think that that’s what you need to do to get into the feminist clubhouse, if you want to fling on that backless dress or cinch your waist into a corset then you still can make a valid feminist point, after all isn’t that what feminism is about?
We need to throw off the idea spoon fed by tabloids that the clothes we wear are only linked to gaining male attention. We need to embrace difference in grooming and appearance for what it is; a celebration of inner confidence. For me, nothing says ‘confident and mega sexual’ more than a swipe of red lipstick, so can’t we take that? Wear the red and let people know that we are red lipstick wearing feminists who can say what we want and dress how we want and its not for any man/woman/society to say that we do or don’t fit into their expectation of what a feminist should be thank you very much.
So the next time you feel like you need to dress down, to not wear make-up, to feel bad about the fact you have some fantastic dresses/jeans/opinions you want to show off then don’t. Know that feminism isn’t about not expressing yourself, in fact, that’s exactly what it is about. You can do that in any way you want, be that loudly or quietly, by dressing up or down. Whatever makes you feel like yourself regardless of anothers opinion, I feel, is feminist. That’s Sexy.