Friday, 28 May 2010

Women and Choices

I have been thinking about choices recently - from all sorts of viewpoints. I loved Rad's fascinating take on hemlines and the economic times. It has always amazed me how the way women wear skirts could ever be considered "economy-driven" - that when times are good we all wear mini-skirts, and when the economy plummets we supposedly opt for maxi-dresses. It is almost as if we didn't have a choice when we look into our wardrobes in the morning, trying to find something to wear: the Dow is down - grab something, anything that reaches our ankles. This implies that either women are mindless sheep who unconsciously follow bigger economic forces, or that we simply can't decide for ourselves and wear what is expected of us. Puhh-lease.

Sal's wonderful post on the weird supposed separation between feminism and style sort of touches upon the same theme. Fashion- or style-conscious women are often labeled superficial by definition, regardless of what goes on in their heads. If a woman is intelligent, she must not care about the way she looks. (Double it, if the woman in question is a feminist.) Again, it is as if we don't even have a choice in the matter. Love clothes or be intelligent, because you can't have both. The universe has spoken on our behalf.

I got so angry this morning while reading a NYT article about forced pre-abortion ultrasounds in certain states. I know abortion is a very thorny topic in this country, but it really is insulting to force a woman to go through an invasive medical procedure that, according to at least one study, is completely ineffective in preventing abortions in the first place. Again, it is as if women didn't have the intellectual or emotional means to question their own life-altering decisions. (I can only imagine the uproar if it was men instead of women being subjected to this type of treatment.)

Luckily I have some positive things to say about women and choices alongside my angry rantings above. The same NYT featured a very interesting art review regarding The Museum of Modern Art's exhibition "Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography". The material in exhibition reaches back to 1850s, when only a handful of women carried a camera and captured images of the world the way they saw it. I am sure a bunch of people told women like Julia Margaret Cameron and Gertrude Kasebier (whose works are shown at MoMA, alongside over a hundred others) that they didn't have a choice. They were probably told that they were born into a sex that was societally constructed to lack the ability to make choices. Luckily for them, and for us, they chose to have a choice anyway.

Top: second hand / UFF
Skirt: second hand / Salvation Army
Necklace and earrings: second hand / Lynn's leftovers
Lack of shoes: due to blisters - have I mentioned that I hate wearing shoes in the summertime?


Velma Vex said...

I completely agree with you that ultrasounds should not be required, but an ultrasound is not an invasive procedure. Odious under these circumstances, but not invasive.

The Waves said...

Velma Vex: yup, you are right! I just checked the definition of "invasive", and I should have said "intrusive" instead.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes. I've been doing the same, walking barefoot- You know I'm "worse" than you- No shoes, whenever it's possible. I was walking in Kaivopuiston ranta (by the sea), and this little girl noticed me not wearing shoes: "Mum, that girl doesn't wear shoes at all!!! I want to take mine off too, can I mum, please..." Well, the mum in question said no of course. After that, they hurried on their way, and didn't mind red traffic lights, and I (again) thought why people consider it more "dangerous" to be walking barefoot than not minding the traffic.. And they also stare at you and your feet, and not in a good way. Except for the children, they look at you and smile, as if sharing a big secret. They know it feels nice and it's good for you! And if more people did that, I bet we'd have a whole lot more parks and paths and less cars and dirt, noise and red traffic lights!


Ps. I bet this has something to do with childhood, we were always barefoot in Northern Africa when we were children...

Charlotte said...

I'm a bare-footer as well. I can't stand to wear shoes in the house, unless my feet are cold.

Remember that when women were denied the vote in this country, they were deemed "too emotional to make rational choices." Your reflections on choice, in all its manifestations, touch on this. That rights should be denied to a group of people because another group of people thinks they won't make good choices is a mask for saying "they won't make the same choices WE would make." Learning to live with other people's choices, even if you don't agree with them, sadly seems to require more tolerance than some folks can muster.

Camelia Crinoline said...

The article about pre-abortion ultrasounds made me so angry. Anti-abortion activists seem to think women choose to have an abortion on a whim. It is a difficult enough choice without adding an unnecessary ultrasound to it.
I'm grateful to the women from past generations who made the choice to ignore society's expectations of them. They made it possible for the choices I have today.
I always enjoy reading your posts and love how you constantly show that being stylish and intelligent are not mutually exclusive.

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

The ultrasound article made me REALLY mad. Especially given that social conservatives in America like to the point out all the problems with "freedom" and choice of "other" societies (Muslim, European social democracy, left Latin American states), but happily infringe on the choices of women all the time.
Thanks for the shoutout. It really encourages me to think of all those people who reject the idea that women have no agency, but must act out scripts.

tigerteacher said...

I just had to chime in re: invasive vs. intrusive. When the fetus is that small, there is much more likely chance for vaginal instead of external, outside the belly-style ultrasound. I vote for invasive AND intrusive!

Eyeliah said...

And yes I get minis as a celebration but maxis take so much fabric to be good in a down economy! I have heard about the forced ultrasounds as a way to try and get them to change their minds, those poor women. I don’t think any woman ever wants to make that choice.

Lauren said...

Just a quick comment re: Hemlines. Although I see what you are saying, there is a documentable (is that a word?!) trend between hemlines and economic times. Whilst obviously women choose what to wear and there are alwasy exceptions to every rule and to every fashion trend, mini skirts are definitely more common in happy times, and hemlines tend to descend to the knee or below when times are harder. I don't think it is anything to do with choice, per se, but it could be to do with how happy women in general are, and what clothes are available in the shops to buy.