Can A Feminist Be Fashion Forward?
I just bought a bunch of clothes and for the first time in weeks, I’m feeling really good. I’m trying to focus on that rather than the guilt of knowing that this was stress-shopping. I’m not a shopaholic or a spendthrift. An occasional binge like this always causes me some pangs but that’s probably the reason why it stays occasional. So I guess it’s okay that I feel the twinge too, else I might lose my in-built alarm system that keeps me from going overboard spending.
Why do new clothes make women feel good? I know I personally enjoy colour, cut, texture, material and style. I dress with care even while going to sleep. This is a personal act of honouring my body and savouring all that it can do. Yet vanity is seen as a female trait and worse, a foolish one to be looked down upon.
So can one be a feminist and also fashionable? I know most fashion is patriarchal, showcasing women as objects of desire and pleasure to men. Everything from pocketless dresses (so as not to ruin the hourglass cut) to high heels (curvy calves at the cost of foot health) screams that the male gaze matters more than the female wearer’s comfort. The existence of the bra alone tells us how close to our hearts we carry this oppression.
I fight these in all the ways I can. I only wear ‘sensible’ shoes and I can tell you this has to be a conscious act of rebellion since Indian shoe stores do not like women with large feet who also insist on durability, protection, arch support and comfortable soles. I refuse to fidget over visible bra straps or panty lines, because these are my bonds and if I must wear them, I’m not going to do the world the favour of also hiding them. I challenge conventional notions of beauty and I refuse to be shamed by those same conventions. I’ve fought and continue fighting long and hard over the right to dress as I want – with authorities and with strangers.
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Me a week ago. Don't roll your eyes at the future too much. That evening my mother fell down, fractured her thigh bone, had to be hospitalised and have surgery done. I found saviours who answered to friends names (@professor.shonku, @kavanchheda28, @manishalakhe, @sensorcaine, @balrajghai, @AlphabetSambar). I reconnected with my one time favorite relative of all time. I also tangled with distant doctors, angels-in-disguise nurses, unaccountably nice canteen cooks, an autowalla with an even bigger ego than the biggest muscles in Lokhandwala, a 6 year old boy in a stretcher screaming for his mother, a cleaner who decided to bless me with affection and a fellow patient who just said "Mala tu khoob aadvadat aahe" You really never know what life throws your way. And by equal measure, you don't know what goodies it leaves behind for you to stumble onto either.
And even as I say these, I take pleasure in male attention. Attention is currency and as a woman, my looks are my surest way of earning it. I also collect attention for my intelligence, my work, my art and my personality. But my physicality is the easiest, surest way to attract attention. Retaining that attention though, becomes a function for the other things I mentioned and since I have enough of the other things, this is an adequate model. To my mind, this does not reduce me to a glamour doll. If that is all a man wants to believe of me, that is his problem, not mine.
I am a performer and it comes naturally to me to dress boldly, even flashily. This is my personality and then all of socialising is an act, after all. Why not be a star?
I’m looking at the stack of shiny, lint-free new clothes I’ve just bought with my own money. I know I’m going to look really good wearing them. I know I’m going to pull in compliments or at the very least an admiring glance or two. I know I’m going to feel like the me I see inside my head – spectacular, bright and blazing forward. And finally, I know this is what creates admiration, loyalty and even relationship.
So, expense or investment? 😜
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Posted on November 2, 2017, in Being Woman, Vanity Unfair and tagged Fashion, High heels, Male gaze, Patriarchal clothing, Patriarchy, Pocketless dresses, Regressive clothing, Vanity. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.