Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who am I getting dressed up for?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I was very fortunate, this weekend, to see Boy Gets Girl, the play which Jordan Bubin eloquently described in his post last week. The play raised a slew of important questions about stalking, pornography, commitment issues, and various and sundry other feminist thoughts, but I was most interested by a point which was brought up only in passing. The main character, Theresa, a woman who is stalked after two dates, remembers getting dressed for the first date, which ended up being one of the most painful and hilarious conversations I have ever seen. But before she knew how disastrously the date would eventually end, Theresa says that she tried on three outfits before she left the house. She confesses that she wanted, badly, to look beautiful to him - a man who ended up ruining her career in New York and forcing her to start a new life across the country.

This is an issue which has been brought up on this blog before, but I think it's a relevant question even when we're not talking about slutty Halloween costumes. The line between dressing for oneself and dressing for the male gaze is one which is very hard for young feminists, myself included, to define. When I put on makeup before class, I don't really think about it - it's simply part of my morning ritual, and I would feel as if I were not adequately "put together" (a bizarre phrase in itself - what am I if I'm not put together, falling apart?) without it. But who am I really putting on the makeup for? Why do I need to accentuate my eyes with mascara, or emphasize my legs by wearing high heels? Why do I belt my dresses, when it would often be more comfortable to wear looser clothes? I like my fashion sense, certainly, but there is an extent to which I'm uncomfortable with my obsession with looking "put together". Who defines "put together"? And who am I putting myself together for?


At December 7, 2008 at 11:53 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

i mean, let's be honest, to a certain extent, you are always dressing up for the male gaze. is it really that bad to dress up so that a guy will look at you. I mean, I can't see your mind, no matter how much you want me to appreciate you for it....

At December 8, 2008 at 12:23 PM , Blogger COA said...

"to a certain extent, you are always dressing up for the male gaze."

Really? And here I was thinking that the reason I dressed up in short shorts and a polo shirt this morning was because I'm in a West African country where there's a high of 84 :P

Seriously though, I don't think there's anything wrong with dressing up for a guy, but I do wonder why women, in general, seem to put so much more stock into dressing up for the opposite sex than men do. I mean, yeah, you can't see a woman's mind, but you can't see a guy's either, so what gives?

- Chi '11

At December 8, 2008 at 5:54 PM , Anonymous Anodine said...

Because, COA, men and women are not biologically identical, and their social value, for better or worse, are determined by overlapping but nonidentical criteria.

At December 8, 2008 at 9:53 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

well, i'd like for you to find guys that dress however they want and expect girls to find them attractive/worthy of their company.

honestly, it's absurd questions like these that make many people think of feminists as "just a bunch of man-hating lesbians". The fact is that we, biologically, like to attract a mate, whether they be of the same sex or not. We do what works. I'm not going to say that women should dress any way, but I'm also not going to tell any guys what they should find attractive. Dress however you like, but in doing so realize that people will view you differently, uniquely, or whatever it may be that is outside of the "norm". There are always going to be extremists on both sides; that is the nature of humanity.

If you don't want to dress up for a guy, then don't, but don't EXPECT to be treated the same way. Perhaps you will be treated more intellectually, who knows, but maybe you will be treated less like a potential mate, and more of as a friend. I honestly can't say. Hell, some people may find your intellectualism so attractive they don't care how you dress. Just don't expect everyone to, or even think they should. That's just trying to impose your view of beauty on everyone else.

I say, dress up for the male gaze, enjoy the intrigue of romance and the social friction that reminds you that you are alive, the uncertainty of whether a guy will like what you are wearing, whether they actually want you or not; God knows everyone loves a little chase right?

one thing is to condemn a woman who wants to be smart (which is awful). Another thing is to want an attractive looking woman, including how she dresses, and that, to me, is not that awful. That's just called personal taste (or societal driven whatever you want to call it).

At December 8, 2008 at 9:54 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

i might add that I recommend the same thing to guys: dress up for the female gaze, it's fun as shit

At December 8, 2008 at 11:03 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

for fear of criticism and for the desire to fully express myself, let me make it clear that how you dress doesn't actually change how beautiful you are. you're always beautiful. It's just fun to get dressed up sometimes. and all that chasing stuff, well, it's inevitable to feel down if it doesn't work out, but you should never feel down because you weren't "pretty" enough. that's absurd, sure. Dress for the male gaze, but realize you are beautiful not matter what.


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