Today I am going to be discussing feminism and clothing choices. I decided to land upon this topic partly because Lady Gaga just performed at the Super Bowl, and I would love to wear her fabulous outfits:
The other reason I chose this topic is because I have heard time and time again the following: Clothing (or lack of clothing) signifies a woman’s personality/sexual life/cleanliness. I have heard this argument even from very open-minded individuals. The topic came up in conversation just last night when I was talking with my Granny (87 years old) about the half-time show. She’s in love with celebrities, and knows all about them, so she’s always a good person to gossip with. She stated that she really liked Lady Gaga’s performance and that she was glad to see her wearing more clothes than usual (I always chuckle at these remarks of hers: she’s 87 years old). Her remark made me think of other comments about Lady Gaga, her clothes, and the clothing choices of other women as well. My own parents said they would not be watching the half-time show “because we just don’t like Lady Gaga.” I know this stems from Lady Gaga’s own political leanings, but also they just don’t think Lady Gaga is a good “role model” for young girls.
These sort of comments create many questions: should adult celebrities even be considered potential role models for young girls? What makes Lady Gaga a bad role model? Do clothing choices and the idea of “role models” have a specific relationship? At what age do girls have the option of deciding what to wear? (I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts!)
Tying this topic into our course, we can discuss what clothing choices have meant historically for women, and also what people think about clothing in our modern age. In our reading assignments, the topic of clothing did not come up for our very early feminists. However, it did come up as a topic for Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of our “Pioneering Feminists.” Stanton, not only a feminist but also a mouthpiece for just about every rights movement, famously pushed for the wearing of “bloomers” instead of the hooped skirt worn by Anglo-American women in her time period (mid-1800s). “Bloomers” as shown below, were a type of pant that could be worn by women underneath a shorter skirt–this would allow them to move more freely, and also allow them to more comfortably ride horses if necessary. Stanton understood the implications of both the corset (she hated it) and the hooped skirt: both articles of clothing were supposed to make it more difficult for women to be sexually “loose.” If women were bound and hooped, it would also make it more difficult for men to accomplish any dirty deeds. Therefore, if a woman did not wear a corset or a hooped skirt, she was…dangerous! This is why many lower class women were just automatically seen as sexually corrupt, or as prostitutes.
This same kind of thinking pervades our society: the more skin that you show, the more “sexual” you are–or the more you are “asking for” sex. I was so angry upon hearing something about Miley Cyrus on the radio: two male radio DJs were “shocked” to find out that Cyrus stated she was still a virgin. Their comments were along the lines of: “No way! Look at what she does/wears/says!” Just because of her clothing style, all of the sudden you know her personal sexual life? Even though this comment made me really upset, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that many people probably share the same sentiment (even those who call themselves feminists). There is something about clothing choices that drive people to all sorts of assumptions/conclusions. What I find is that in particular, parents have specific ideas about what their children can/cannot wear. Think about the debates going on in many high schools: how short is “too short” for a skirt? What is “too revealing?” This again begs the question: when do young girls have the authority to decide what they would like to wear? I know that school districts have specific rules for clothing choices, but what exactly are we saying when we applaud celebs for wearing what they would like but at the same time preventing our own children from these freedoms? (I would love to hear from actual parents on this).
So my questions for all of you is this: do clothing choices signify a woman’s sexual history? If freedom of clothing choice is important for feminists, then why can’t high school girls wear what they would like? What is going “too far” for you? Should certain body parts be covered up?