Ok, obviously the answer to that question is simple: anything she/he/zi damn well pleases.
Feminism is about having the freedom of personal choice without having to conform to anyone’s idea of who you should be or defend your expressions of who you are.
So, I guess the question I’m asking is a bit more complicated than that. Here’s the setup: I’ve been asked by a mainstream woman’s magazine to represent the next generation of feminism in a piece they’re doing to highlight up and coming young women. (I’m incredibly honored to do so, even though I think there are lots of new faces of feminism and mine, since it looks so much like the ones that have come before, may not be the best representation for a movement that is increasingly and incredibly diverse. This is a whole other blog post and I promise to write it!) Next week, I’ll be taking the photos that will accompany the piece and have been asked to bring three outfits that represent my profession. This isn’t such an odd request since there are about 20 other women in different careers that have been asked to do the same – but feminism doesn’t have a lab coat or a chef’s hat or a soccer uniform that’s universally recognized.
Actually, fashion and feminist activism have often gone hand in hand, in one way or another. The Bloomer Costume – an early foray into women wearing pants – was laughed at when worn by prominent suffragists but eventually led to less restricting clothes for women. The Women’s Liberation movement proudly rocked the mini-skirt, ‘Cunt Power’ buttons, and shunned heels – all of which once again changed the perception of what ‘should’ be wearing.
Since then, mainstream media has done a pretty good job supporting the backlash notion that ALL feminists wear Birkenstocks or leather or don’t shave their legs or refuse to wear skirts and make-up and nail polish. Of course, all of these things can be found in the movement, none of these personal choices should have value judgments placed on them at all, and none are necessarily confined to feminism.
My personal style is the definition of femme – I love dresses and skirts, make-up and nail polish, high heels, and the bigger the earrings the better. I don’t think of this as a representation of my feminism on a day-to-day level – I don’t dress how I do to negate stereotypes necessarily – but the request has got me thinking about the current mainstream view of feminism and what I might do with this opportunity to alter it, much like my sisters before me.
My first inclination is to wear pajamas, because this is what I wear on most days when I’m at home writing, tweeting, and blogging about feminism. Or to don the very comfortable, wrinkle-proof outfits I wear on planes to get to my speeches. Or to dig out my ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like’ tank top and pair it with my favorite jeans and heels.
In all reality, I’ll probably end up bringing my new favorite pink dress, one of my very New York all-black outfits paired with a big gold snake belt my friend better let me borrow, and a funky skirt from the Young Designer’s market that I love. I can’t be anyone else but me – and that’s what it’s all about, right?!
So, what do you/would you wear to represent your feminism? Do you consciously choose your outfits before you go out to commit public acts of feminism? What are the fashion stereotypes of feminists that you would like to see shattered and are there some visual signifiers you’d like to keep around? Perhaps most important, why are we still having this conversation? In a world where there are so many bigger problems facing women in general and the movement as a whole, is it at all relevant?’
I’d love to start this conversation in the comments and get any advice you might be kind enough to offer. And of course if you have the most awesome outfit ever and would like to loan it to me…bring it on!