One of the things I am trying to do on this site (perhaps not very successfully!) is to help readers feel free from pressure to force themselves into rigid boxes. It seems to me that there is a lot of pressure from all sides in myriad ways. Many of us have felt pressure to be one way or another. I don't want this site to add more pressure in any direction. I have mentioned the pressure to be a stereotype, and have given examples of pressuring phrases and ideas.
| 2. To be feminine, or not to be|
But as many Loveawake dating site readers will have experienced in their own lives, there is also pressure to avoid like the plague anything remotely resembling what might be called a stereotype. Women who feel themselves to be “very feminine”, or “submissive”, and men who enjoy thinking of themselves as “a real man” or “very masculine”, are dismissed and derided as “stereotypical”. Such put-downs are just as mean-spirited and pressuring as pressure in the opposite direction. Individuals should feel free to embrace themselves as they experience themselves, and to explore in ways that seem best to them. No one should be pressured either to be feminine, or not to be.
| 3. Confining ways of thinking|
Once when I was wearing one of my favourite dresses, I received a lecture from a well-meaning acquaintance about the evils of stereotypical behaviour. Apparently, this dress of mine (which is extremely comfortable and washable, unlike many of my dresses) is not just “too feminine” but “part of the problem” leading to “the subjugation of women.” In wearing this dress, he said, I am “potentially harming children”.
If your mind is boggling, let me assure you that the dress is not indecent or anything! It has a close-fitting top with a sweetheart neckline, long sleeves, and a long and flared skirt. What my acquaintance meant was that because women want to wear such dresses, little girls grow up wanting to wear such dresses, and little boys grow up attracted to women wearing such dresses, and that what we all should be doing is systematically rejecting this as being too stereotypical, so that people grow up free from psychologically confining ways of thinking. (Or something like that!)
Paradoxically, the result is that I do not always feel free to be myself with that person. If I don't want to get a lecture or feel like a pariah, I have to wear more unisex clothes that I know he won't disapprove of. Sometimes I wear what I want to wear, but sometimes I do ask myself if my attire will get me a lecture, and if I don't feel up to it (occasionally I just want a quiet life!), I change. I don't think this is a good thing.
Although I wholeheartedly agree with my friend that there is pressure to enact the stereotypes, I do not think one can live one's life in the way he suggested. I do not think that one should be dressing to avoid disapprobation in the way I sometimes do. I think that it is a mistake to put pressure on people not to wear “feminine” dresses. And it is not just about how women dress, of course. There is a lot of pressure on women in Western society to be high-powered career women. Mentioning that you are not a feminist can provoke some to rage, as I have discovered on more than one occasion. Similarly, there is a lot of pressure on men to be ‘new men’ and to ‘get in touch with their feminine side’ (or else).
So when I say that it would be a mistake to pressure others to define themselves in ways that feel stereotypical, narrow, or otherwise wrong to them, keep in mind that I abhor pressure in either direction, not just one direction.
| 5. Reinforce stereotyping of women|
I've got to laugh about this business of a man telling you how to dress because you are too feminine and this reinforces stereotyping of women. If he isn't being a male oppressor by doing that, what is he?
Instead of dressing to please this confused man (who is probably secretly drooling over you in the dress, unless he is gay), dress as you wish and when he tries to lecture you, point out that he is telling you how to dress just as if he were some mullah declaring you have to keep a veil over your face. I'd love to see his reaction!
I am amazed by situations like this. No one has ever suggested to me that my dress is too feminine, not feminine enough or even, like little Goldilocks, "Just Right." It boggles my mind that people have the nerve to say this.
I did once or twice get a negative reaction because I stay home with my son, but so what?
| 6. The social goals of feminism|
As far as mentioning that you are not a feminist, I can understand a certain amount of anger directed at you. After all you have benefited from feminism. You wouldn't have a job, you wouldn't be able to afford that oh-so-feminine dress without a man buying it for you, if women hadn't taken up the gauntlet and fought for their rights. You wouldn't be allowed to vote or own property and you would probably not even be able to read this.
So why not explain that you agree with economic but not with some of the social goals of feminism. This might lead to a discussion and not to your being the object of scorn.
How nice to see that "Pat" is in favour of the freedom to choose to be “feminine” as well as the freedom not to be narrowly defined in a stereotypical way. However, to answer to this:
If he isn't being a male oppressor by doing that, what is he?
He is a man who cares deeply about oppression of all sorts, including very subtle forms that most people don't notice. He may be right. He definitely did not say what he said to oppress me or put pressure on me, he said it because my dress worried him. He admitted that he found it attractive, BTW, but it clearly troubled him. I experienced it as a pressuring lecture, but it was not intended that way.
P.S. Perhaps it was just a joke, but I really dislike the phrase “male oppressor”, because it brings to mind the vicious and sweeping generalization of (all) men as being oppressors, rapists, and so on.
The story about the ardent feminist harassing you about your clothes makes me laugh. But on the other hand, it´s not a laughing matter, you know, do we want girls become women? (?!?what type of question is this?!?)
Personaly speaking I am quite disappointed to see that in my neighbour country (Germany) very few girls wear skirts now-a-days. Isn´t that a pity? (We say they are ugly, but that may be a simple prejudice
Here the fashion is very free and open. You can go sunbathing topless at many public waterparks and nobody harasses you (ussually). That´s something Americans envy us so much.
I cannot imagine in my wildest fantasy that somebody would accuse me of looking "too feminine". I am a little weirdo because I prefer kind of hippie/medieval style but I can bear the giggling.
What offends *me* are girls and women dressed as sluts. Can´t you see this is what lowers us and makes more stupid me feel we are sex toys? I feel like an Arabian woman next to a woman dressed solo in fe stripes of fabric.
This is something different people can view in different ways but I am afraid of looking too "hot" because of the danger of harassment, which is very real.