Tag Archives: Feminist Fashion Bloggers

Youth, Body Image and Aging

Youth is the one thing worth having.” ~ Oscar Wilde

It’s not news that we live in a youth- and beauty-obsessed culture. Look around. Society values young, pretty people. If we aren’t young, we better at least look it (and we better be thin and hot). The market for Botox, fillers and other time-freezers show that. And no matter what age you are, you’d better be pretty in a culturally sanctioned way.

mini dress

I'm laughing because I'm wearing a mini well past my prime

So what’s that got to do with me? Well, as my 40th birthday approaches, I’ve started thinking about youth, body image, and aging. I am actually happy to be reaching this milestone. I am actually more confident than I was in my 20s.

It’s hard for me to admit my age on this blog. I don’t want to be discounted by the younger blogging community, silly as that sounds. So it’s cathartic to share how old I am (39) and when I’ll hit the big four-oh (December).

I don’t mind getting older, but I struggle with the idea of looking my age. I’m happy with my body, but I think of ways to prevent wrinkles. The sunscreen isn’t because I fear skin cancer; the sunglasses aren’t because they match my shirt.

That’s the world we live in. A youth-obsessed place.

wheel
Shorts, tights, heels? They’re going to lock me up!

I used to have age limits on what’s acceptable. As a ten-year-old, I was sure that by 30 I’d be wearing frumpy suits. As a 25-year-old, I was prepared to give away my mini skirts within the decade.

But now, as I’ve gotten older, I’m embracing things that I “shouldn’t” be enjoying. I dressed more conservatively 15 years ago than I do now. Now I don’t worry as much and I have more fun. Today, I care less about what others think of my fashion choices, the things I do and the way I act—and that’s liberating.

I’m also making a point of bucking trends. This past spring I read an article about a silly study that shared the ages at which women should stop wearing certain things. Here’s an excerpt of the list:

  • Bikini, 47
  • Miniskirt, 35
  • Boob Tube, 33
  • Stilettos, 51
  • Belly button piercing, 35
  • Knee high boots, 47
  • Trainers, 44
  • Leather trousers, 34
  • Leggings, 45
  • Ugg boots, 45
  • Swimsuit, 61
  • Tight vest, 44
  • See-through chiffon blouse, 40
  • Long hair, 53
  • Ponytail, 51

I’m on a new mission to wear all of those items, well past the “expiration date” given to them. With two exceptions: Uggs (which I think are repulsive, style-wise, on anyone regardless of age) and a belly button piercing (I don’t have one and I don’t want one; I will keep my nose ring indefinitely and keep getting tattoos and I think that counts).

So far, I’ve got to write a few outfit post of me in a miniskirt, boob tube (I think that’s the British word for a tight, strapless top), leather trousers (I will if I can find a vegan alternative), and a see-through chiffon blouse. I’m already not supposed to wear those things (But I will. Just wait!).

So it’s obvious I don’t follow others (or perhaps I like to question authority). As far as fighting aging in other ways, well, I do want to look and feel my best. I eat well and I exercise. I don’t dye my hair (at the moment), although I have. I personally don’t want to be gray and will dye it when that happens. I don’t want Botox or collagen injections. I want to age gracefully. I want to show people that beauty and aging can coexist. I want to be comfortable in my own skin. Confidence and joy are fantastic accessories.

How do you feel about aging? How do you “fight” or “embrace” it? Is there something you’ve learned by getting older? As Oscar Wilde said, “I’m not young enough to know everything.”

~

This a twofer: This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival, hosted by the National Organization of Women and it’s part of the Feminist Fashion Bloggers monthly group post (which happens to be about Youth and Aging this time). I’m attempting to feed two birds with one hand (and trying to substitute a non-violent expression for the “kill two birds…” saying; it has yet to take off). While I wait for that to happen, check out their sites and see what others have to say.

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Feminism in the Media

This month’s Feminist Fashion Blogger group post is about feminists in the media. It’s timely; I was reading the June edition of Glamour, the F-word was printed twice, in two interviews by two very different women.point of view

The first instance was in an interview with Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. Rachel is asked (by Katie Couric) if being gay influences what topics Maddow chooses to cover on her show. Maddow smartly replies that she’s never done the show as a straight person. The interview turns to how being a woman (in general) might influence the stories they cover.

Rachel responds with, “But if you were a feminist dude, maybe you’d make the same decisions. And if I were a pro-gay-rights straight person, maybe I’d make the same decisions, too. I don’t feel there’s anything about my experience of being gay that gives me more insight into “don’t ask, don’t tell,” for example. What does, is my understanding of the military. (p. 171)”

Later, in an interview with cover model Oliva Wilde, I read the second instance. Wilde, an actress, is talking about how she never wanted to become a journalist like her parents, Leslie and Andrew Cockburn. She goes on to say, “I can’t tell you how profound it’s been to realize that [my mother] is so within me…She’s gorgeous, and she taught me that a real feminist doesn’t apologize for her beauty. You can be a sexy, gorgeous woman, and be the smartest person in the room. (p. 186)”

Several things about these quotes made me smile. First, Glamour is interviewing smart women who unabashedly use the F-word. Second, by saying “if you were a feminist dude” Maddow raises the idea that feminism is open to everyone. It’s said casually, and in a positive tone that I hope will help readers of the magazine accept the idea of feminism in all forms (if they don’t already).

Finally, Wilde is a different type of role model for young feminists. She is reconciling the different parts of one’s self and saying you don’t have to look or act a certain way (or it’s okay if you do) to be a feminist. For readers who might think being feminists means giving up dresses and nail polish, I think Olivia subtly changes that perception.

Perhaps both of these mentions are incidental, but I found it encouraging and refreshing to read about these two women and see in print that they’re not afraid to speak honestly about feminism.

For everyone else’s posts about feminists in the media, check out the FFB blog.

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The Art of Feminism

Last week, I almost walked into Gloria Steinem’s office.feminist t-shirts Well, almost.

See, I was wandering around Seattle taking pictures of people when I came across a couple of stylish guys in front of an art gallery. I asked to take their picture, and they kindly obliged.

What I neglected to do was enter the gallery and check out the exhibit. When I arrived home I went to the gallery’s site and found, to my surprise, their current show is a feminist retrospective titled “Art and Artifacts from the Office of Gloria Steinem.”

Needless to say, I returned to Form/Space Atelier the following week to see what I had missed. The gallery is a small space, tucked into the lobby of the Low Income Housing Institute. The exhibit includes objects gifted to the gallery by the office of Gloria Steinem. It was as much a gallery as it was a museum.

An installation piece at the entry displayed an old typewriter with a seemingly endless roll of paper feeding through it—and I’m sure that’s how it felt to begin letter-writing campaigns—an endless job. The piece included two chairs with two coats hanging over them—to me, that represented the collaborative nature of the office.

letter to Jesse JacksonI saw copies of letters Gloria Steinem wrote to people such as Jesse Jackson, and I saw prints of the iconic power stance of Steinem and Dorothy Pitman. Seeing the two women, whose backgrounds are very different, working together at the intersection of civil rights, women’s rights, and community activism helped me see the feminist movement as more inclusive than people give it credit. It reminded me that women’s rights are important to everyone and the results benefit the community—and country—as a whole.

As a quick primer, Steinem and Pitman cofounded the Women’s Action Alliance in 1971 and are longtime friends and speaking partners. They both work tirelessly to fight sexism, racism and classism.

Dorothy Pitman Hughes is a writer, speaker, activist and a lifelong champion for women, children and families. She organized the first battered women’s shelter in New York City.

Gloria Steinem is a writer and best-selling author, lecturer, editor, feminist activist and organizer, and co-founder of Ms. magazine.

I’m glad I had a chance for a do-over. I went back to see what I missed the first time I walked past the gallery. The experience reminded me to keep my eyes open and see the signs of art and feminism and community collaboration that are all around me.

The show runs through April 17th.

This is a fifth group post organized by the Feminist Fashion Bloggers. To see what others wrote, check out their posts.

Sources:
http://www.formspaceatelier.com/index.php
http://liftdontseparate.org/about.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_Steinem
http://jacksonville.com/ “Q&A with Author and Activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes” by Cristin Wilson, Jan 27, 2011

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The Politics of Pants

I’m wearing pants to work today—mainly because I can. Women’s clothing is often political and I’d like to look at a few examples throughout history. Some of it recent. This post is the fourth installment of the Feminist Fashion Bloggers weekly posts celebrating Women’s History Month.my pants Check out what everyone else wrote about.

To this day, many women around the world aren’t allowed to wear pants. As recently as 2009, Sudanese officials handed out corporal punishment to thirteen Sudanese women; the women were arrested in a restaurant in the capital, Khartoum. They received 10 lashes each for their crime of wearing pants.

Ah, but that’s a different culture, you say. True, but not until January 1995 did the California legislature actually prohibit employers from implementing a dress code that does not allow women to wear pants in the workplace. That means, before then, employers could tell women “dresses only” and there wasn’t a damn thing they could do about it.

It’s not fair to make generalizations. Throughout history and in different cultures, clothing has changed a lot. For most of history, men didn’t wear pants either. They wore robes, tunics, kilts, dolmans, hakama, dhoits, sarongs, the fustinella, you get the idea. When men wear “skirts” (outside of the west—with the exception of kilts), it’s not seen as feminine. But when women wear pants, it’s perceived as somehow upsetting the whole balance of things.

However, the horse-riding peoples—men and women—of the Persian Empire wore pants as early as 600 BCE. Koreans of both genders wore pants as early as the 15th century. Many Native Americans wore leggings too.

Other women throughout history have been mocked and persecuted for their adoption of “men’s clothing.” Joan of Arc was known for wearing pants; she traveled with the army and wore their attire. She wore pants in prison and was said to have been executed in them. A few weeks ago I wrote about Qiu Jin, modern China’s first feminist. She chose to wear men’s clothing, much to the chagrin of onlookers.

BloomersIn the west, pants had a hard time getting a foothold.

Amelia Bloomer gets the credit, but Elizabeth Smith Miller created bloomers. These women were involved in women’s rights, temperance, abolition, and were social activists. They were also ridiculed by their attempts to reform women’s clothing.

During this time, some women advocated other changes too, such as simplified garments for bicycling or swimming. The availability of inexpensive bikes helped women gain independence and created a need for more practical clothing. Corset controversy began (and in China, Qiu Jin was unbinding her feet and fighting against that practice).

Nineteenth century coal-mining girls wore trousers, and throughout the world warWigan Pit Brow Lasss working women donned slacks—but they didn’t come into fashion until later. Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn caught the world’s attention by wearing pants. Audrey Hepburn popularized capris. The 1960s introduced us to bell bottoms. The 1970s brought us pantsuits, and the rest is herstory.

Pants are political. As much as I like dresses, I am thankful for pioneers who fought for the right to choose one’s attire. Women’s clothing has been seen as a threat at so many points throughout history—and still is. Exercise your right today!

Sources:
http://www.csub.edu/library/gov/edocs/womenequality.pdf
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8147329.stm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pants
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Bloomer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomers_(clothing)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_wearing_pants

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