Monday, October 8, 2012

I sound like Camille Paglia

I read this piece last week with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, yes of course women are free to wear whatever they please, and should be free from public censure including but not limited to sexual harassment. (When I say 'not limited to' I'm thinking of entreaties to smile, or like, hollering that you look bad or whatever. No good, any of it.)

The conflicted part comes when I think about the many reasons why I would never wear the outfit that Emily is talking about. The reasons I"m thinking of are:
-I don't want to get stared at more than usual on the street;
-I don't want to have men staring at my body;
-I don't need the attention.
Ok, those boil down to one reason I guess, I don't need or want the attention.

Emily has told us in the past that she is being treated for sex addiction, and that she is a self described attention seeker. I'm not making any assumptions about her past or her motivations, she is very forthright about these things.

And, I don't think you can really analyze the outfit and the reactions to it in a vacuum that doesn't take these things into consideration. And I get that this may be perceived as gross sexism.

The thing I can't get my mind around is--is the point of this piece (and a million others like it) that women will wear what they want when they want, and wish to take no heed of the cultural climate in which they make their sartorial choices? Like, are we saying that we want to behave AS THOUGH all fashion choices are equal, that none of them have any cultural or sexual implications?

It would be great to think that way: I dress the way I do to speed the revolution toward egalitarianism, in spite of the fact that I know I will be objectified all day long. It's a brave choice. Dressing for utopia.

But the sad fact is, we don't live in that utopia. We live in a time and place where our clothes and bodies and sexual presence will be commented on. Sometimes loudly, and on the street. For myself, I prefer to dress and present myself defensively, because I can't deal with the unpleasant repercussions of wearing the type of (really pretty/cute etc) outfit that Emily got so much flak for.

And I feel like to ignore the reality that there are consequences for these kinds of choices, is to say, de facto, that you're willing to deal with them. Emily knows that the fashion/publishing/women's magazine audience for whom she dresses (and for herself, obviously), is not the ONLY audience that will pass judgement on the clothes. I'm sure she's well aware that her therapist, and bicycle couriers and many random assorted sexist pigs, will also provide an eager audience.

And I hate that thinking this, or writing this, sounds like victim blaming. At the same time, while street harassers need to take responsibility for their actions, unfortunately most women are forced to either dress defensively, or assume the responsibility that these men seem to have abjured. And it does worry me a little that I sound like Camille Paglia.

No comments:

Post a Comment