I was reading The Alternative Foundry blog (if you haven't visited it do go and have a look) on the 'Politics of Women' - it was a really interesting and touching post which I have been thinking a lot about.
My sisters and I were fortunate to grow up in an environment in which we were encouraged to believe that our gender should never be a barrier. I don't ever remember being told 'oh no, you shouldn't/can't do that you're a girl'. Now, as a feminist and a mother I am trying to imbue in my own daughter and son that same sense of equality.
As my daughter moves into her teenage years we are dealing with questions like 'when is it OK to wear makeup?' and 'can you buy me that amazingly short skirt?'. I have to confess that I am extremely ambivalent about fashion. I mean have you seen the heels on some shoes? It seems dangerously akin to the old Chinese practice of foot wrapping and incredibly anti-women. On the other hand I love the sense of personal style my daughter is developing (she's one of those people that possesses the ability to drape and wear scarves). I have been asking myself how do I put this in a feminist context so that I can guide my daughter and answer her questions with confidence. So bear with me as I work through this.
I think the first thing is that it's about choice. Women have fought long and hard to have the freedom to make their own choices (I know we haven't completely won this battle yet and in many cultures women still have no choice). This means being able to choose what we study, do for a living, wear and so on. I think it then becomes really important to consider why we make the choices that we do. Are our choices informed? Do they empower us?
I think fashion, jewelry - self adornment of any sort - can be really empowering. It allows us to express something of ourselves. I know that sometimes, when I put on a particular piece of clothing or jewelry it makes me feel brave, like I could do anything and it's a really good feeling. I also know that, on the odd occasion, when I have bought something just because it is in fashion or all the rage, I don't get that same sense of empowerment - rather than being an extension or reflection of me (or the me I want to be) it's a mask that I am hiding behind and this is not such a good feeling.
I am glad that my daughter seems to have a very strong sense of self and whilst, of course, what she wears is influenced by the what's on TV or in magazines this is not the sole criteria for selection. I hope this sense of self will extend to all her choices including the much more important decisions she will need to make in her life - these can wait a few years though.
'Til next time.