Sunday, March 29, 2009

Vagina as Leg Shackle

patriarcy, feminism, feminist, vagina, modesty, dress, feminine
This bothered me the first time I read it, and it's bothered me ever since, so I thought I'd bother you, and share the joy. (No need to thank me.)

From Modest Articles and Testimonies:

If you feel you can’t do something in a dress, I would encourage you to question whether it is an activity that you can do and be feminine.

First of all, I can think of one activity that it is easier to do in a dress than in pants*. Secondly, a vagina is not a leg shackle. Hi, this is Personal Failure, and I'd like to introduce you to the last 100 years. Honestly.

What does "feminine" mean anyway?

According to the dictionary:
pertaining to a woman or girl. Okay, so being a woman, that would make anything I do feminine. And that, kids, is the point. I am a woman. I can't stop being a woman (not that I'd want to). Therefore, everything I do is feminine. I don't become a man the instant I put on pants** or pick up power tools.

I think my irritation with this stems from two underlying ideas. The first is that everything a woman does, thinks or wears must stifle her and hem her in. Pants allow one to participate in sports and construction, and we wouldn't want women thinking they can do that sort of thing, would we? The other is that people like this are so obsessed with form over function. It's not enough that I am a woman, I must appear to be stereotypically female as well. I need long hair and skirts and aprons to shout to the world, and myself, that a woman is all I am.

That's what it is, isn't it? A constant visual reminder to the woman herself that she is less. That her life is confining. A constant visual reminder of all the things she can't do, not because she isn't capable of doing them, but because the patriarchy doesn't want her doing them. Because the patriarchy knows that the instant women figure out their own strength, their own power, the patriarchy's free ride is over.

I recommend putting on some pants and grabbing some power tools. Strength, now that's feminine.

*Ever since the summer of 1999, I have not been able to view walls the same way.
** If the writer of the quoted piece looks like a man in pants, she is wearing the wrong pants. I could not possibly be mistaken for a man while wearing pants.


  1. A few weeks ago, my girlfriend used a power drill to help me fix a door in our apartment. She was wearing jeans and a wifebeater. Not only was it useful, it was also hot. Hot with, like, all capital letters, 6 A's, and 4 W's.

  2. PF, how do you FIND these people?

    Do you put "I am a fuckwit" into Google as the search string?

  3. I don't even know how I run into these people. It's a gift.

    You know, when we were installing laminate flooring in the basement, I was in charge of the jigsaw, because it turns out hubby can't saw a straight line. I was wearing old, beat up jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt, and every time I was drilling, hubby would just stare at me. Oh, and safety goggles.

    So there I am, in ill fitting clothes and safety goggles, covered in sawdust, and apparently, I couldn't have been hotter.

    Power, it's feminine. And HAAAAAAWWWWT!

  4. note to self:

  5. It's all part of the pattern, see.

    Christianity is supposed to be something that sets people free. Jesus took the rap for all the bad things you've done, so you never have to feel guilty again. No guilt, no shame, no self-loathing. But the so-called Christians twist it around into its opposite. Feel guilt for every little action and thought that is imperfect. Feel shame for every desire that doesn't conform to "good Christian" desires as defined by your social set. Feel self-loathing for not being able to live up to the high standards of "holiness". The standards that, by their own beliefs, Jesus died so people wouldn't have to live up to!

    Once you make that gross inversion, it's only natural to invert everything else. Every label and stereotype people should be exploding (maybe because the joy of their salvation makes those fripperies meaningless?) becomes a cage that hedges them in. A woman isn't a woman because God gave her a kickass female body, and a man isn't a man because God gave them a kickass male body. Nope, you're only a woman or man to the extent you live out your community's pet definitions of what those words mean.

    It's telling that the section heading right below the letter you quote reads "Testimonies from young ladies who are dresses only." That's one of those little slips of language that reveals more of their underlying mindset than they meant it to. If you wear a skanky low-cut top and tight jeans, you are skankiness. If you wear a modest dress that covers your arms and collarbone and calves, you are modesty. Never mind that whole "man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart" nonsense. Your outward appearance is everything! Clothes, books, music, television and mannerisms make the Christian! Gaaah!

  6. And fiat lex gets 50 points for expressing why that stuck in my head for over a week.

    Also, I could be wearing a box, and guys would be trying to look at my breasts, my ass, and everything else. The only difference between the box and what I do wear is that the guys' potential fantasies are more accurate.

    You can't stop men from being men (oh, and guys, you can't stop me from checking out your asses, get over it), you can't stop women from being women, so why not enjoy it?

  7. Stew,

    Sometimes they find you, and sometimes they're just waiting to be found. For example, while researching Frodology's Sackfull Movement yesterday, I, uh, happened across something called the Quiverfulls. At, there's a list of "information" about birth control. Some of the PDFs were pretty obviously written in the 1940s, and the hilarious thing is that the page that would contain the copyright information is truncated - it's noticeably a few inches shorter than the others. Sadly did not provide an email address at which I could inquire about the missing date.

  8. i once tried to wear only dresses.

    lasted two days. TWO DAYS. then i had to go to PE, where i was REQUIRED to wear shorts. then... looking, biking in a skirt DOESN'T WORK, and i had to bike to school.

    also: Fiat Lux, that was beautiful
    and also: PF, "women's jeans"! by definition, FEMININE, no?
    stupid people are going to get their stupid on *me*, damnit

  9. I do wear skirts almost exclusively in the summer, because i hate shorts, and skirts are much cooler (temperature wise) than pants. But I wouldn't attempt to wear skirts while gardening or riding a bike. I also wouldn't wear them in the middle of a PA winter. Pants are practical, pants can be sexy and I'm not turning my clothing into another form of slavery.

  10. A couple years ago I was with a female friend in an Irish pub owned by an actual Irish immigrant from Ireland. He was playing Bob Marley. The girly-girl said to me, "You know what's great? Everything he does is authentically Irish, even listening to Bob Marley."

    So, yeah, I'm pretty sure that wearing pants is authentically feminine as long as the person doing it is female...

    Also, I was reading an article on ESPN a while back about a Christian high school basketball program. All the boys wore long pants and all the girls wore skirts. The skirts were above the knees, but also incredibly restrictive, at least from the pictures.

    I was dumbfounded. And I used to be in youth groups where girls weren't allowed to wear tank tops. Because, y'know, that t-shirt covers up so much more...

  11. Just out of curiosity, did the dress codes stop you from looking at the girls' breasts?

  12. Heh, that's funny. I wear pants every day and that certainly doesn't stop guys from noticing I'm a woman. The DD's usually tip them off to that. Like you PF I only wear skirts in the summer, when it's cooler to do so and they cover more than shorts. I have pasty white legs, it's disturbing, Heh. But I would never wear skirts all the time, that's insane. I would never get anything done.

  13. My legs are so pasty white, I could give nursing students lectures on the cardiovascular system, using the veins you can see right through my skin.

    I tried self tanner once, it looked WEIRD.


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