Walk the Feminist Line
It’s a delicate line, this feminism that includes reclaiming femininity, owning sexuality, subverting object/agent relationships in that confusing and complicated way that third wave feminism has taught us to value. We’ve got the tools, the questions have been asked, but there’re no easy answers. Questions lead to more questions and we have to fumble around with the rest of this fucked up world, finding the right questions to answer the questions we’ve posed.
This sounds like a lot of mumbo-jumbo masturbatory academia side-spill, but I am coming from a concrete place.
I know it’s hard, that I am a young woman, a feminist, and sometimes I like to wear short skirts and hoist my boobs a little. Sometimes I put on hobblingly high heels. Sometimes I like to look sexy, and sometimes my sexy conforms to something that is also distasteful. Sometimes there’s a Slutwalk and no matter how privileged and white it is, it’s still important to remind the world that no matter what we’re wearing, we’re never asking to get raped, assaulted, or verbally harassed.
I know this, but the world at large does not always. And of course, I have to remind myself that that is the most fertile space. The space of conflict, question, and discomfort. (The importance of discomfort is a constant obsession: thank you Young Jean Lee for your Artistic Statement.)
I want to “reclaim” the femme look without feeling like I have to always put on an uberfeminine outfit. I want an uberfeminine outfit and an ownership of body and sexuality to not equal objectification. I want to acknowledge my sexuality and be more than it. I want the meaning of “slutty” to change. I want to play with gender. I want to go to extremes. And I want to learn about the subtleties too. I want to have my cake and fucking eat it too. And I’ll be an idealist; I want to think that can happen.
It’s a tricky tightrope, but then so is looking butch, or wearing anything, or going naked, for that matter. Dressing ‘dowdily’ or covering it all up or pretending there is an unsignified look doesn’t fix the problem either. As every female presidential candidate, first lady, and female politician has proven, it’s always about what she wears.
I’ve been reading some speeches by the suffragists lately. It feels antiquated, this push for the vote, but ultimately it always comes down to something more basic than that: recognizing women as whole people. It’s been a hundred years, and we’re still asking to be seen as people. Three waves later, and we’re still asking to be seen as people.
With everything, it’s fucked if you do, fucked if you don’t. So let’s get fucked in the good way. Let’s fuck some shit up. This is what fascinates me about Lady Gaga (not that I can give her credit, but she functions in such a way that we can put this read on her): If you exploit your femininity and sluttiness to an extreme degree you can shift where the discomfort lies, you can take power in a specific way while also selling the stuff that suppresses you. (I use the phrase “commodity feminism” all the time now because of this article on Gaga Stigmata). It’s not the only answer, and it’s not a perfect answer, but a fucked up world calls for fucked up answers.
It’s related to what Mad King Thomas always talks about in rehearsal- pushing something so far into itself (or parody) that you explode it from the inside. We have to ask ourselves a lot, are we commenting on these issues, or are we just reproducing them? And, as usual, the question is not always answered. When am I buying into the thing that sells me out?
I’m not going to ignore the question of dress, even if that’s what I’m asking the world at large to do ultimately. And, no matter what I said about believing it to be possible, the world isn’t going to let me have my cake and eat it too. So I’m going to try to believe in utopia, hope for the best, and live in the present, which is a messy complicated reality. But that’s where all the fun and frustration is. Heels, ties, gender signifiers and all.