So, I have this thing that I need to get off of my chest. I normally dislike judging people’s apparel because I feel that a freedom of expression, any expression, is valid and not something that is up for debate. If you want to wear a mini-skirt, go for it! If you want to wear a full-length prairie dress, go for it! I do not care what you wear, but more what sort of person you are, you know?
However. (And there’s always a however, isn’t there?)
However, I have a severe disinclination for certain forms of sartorial expression. Not because I think they aren’t “cute,” but rather because I object to the underlying societal cues that I pick up from them or that create them. For the purposes of this post, I’m only going to focus on one trend that is currently huge, but has always been a thing, both in America and abroad. And that is the trend of infantilizing women.
Now don’t think I’m getting all alarmist about sexuality, because I am not. Let me make this clear: what you do in your free time is not mine to judge. If you want to role play some underage stuff, fine! Go for it. If it’s consensual, I don’t care at all. I also think that we should allow girls to explore their sexuality at a young age the same way that we allow boys to do so. But, that’s another post for another time.
Here, I’m talking about things like peter pan collars and Mary-Jane shoes. White knee socks and “schoolgirl” plaid skirts. Frilly lace socks that look exactly like ones I wore when I was a toddler in 1993. “But, it’s just the style,” you protest. Ah, but therein lies the problem.
It’s so insidious — the infantilization — that oftentimes, we don’t even see it (we being the general public, not just women). I mean, I guess I’m just trained to see it more because of the classes I took at college and the discussions I had with my friends (full disclosure: I actually only took one sociology class and have never read any bell hooks. I did, however, spend many a night drinking wine and arguing nuances of sexuality and feminism with my friends, because that is what we do for fun). But, when I see a woman wearing clothing that was originally meant for children, I get grossed out. And, I know they’re choosing what to wear, and that most women do not dress for anyone but themselves, but the fashion industry is mainly run by men. Yes, Anna Wintour is a woman and Diane Von Furstenburg, et al, but the mainstays of fashion, the “heavy hitters” if you will, are mainly men. Even Chanel, which was founded by a woman, is now run by a man. Plus, Chanel is one of the main offenders of using peter pan collars and “girlish” styles.
Now, I want to clarify: I do call myself a girl often, because it kind of weirds me out to be called a woman. But, I am a woman, not a little girl. And, I kind of think that if you’re older than a certain age (let’s say 8 or 9?), you shouldn’t wear styles that are meant for the younger set. I just really disagree with the infantilization of women. I think it’s a subtle, surreptitious way of keeping women down. It’s a way of saying that women don’t have as much power as men, and should therefore dress the part in Lolita-esque clothing and just accept the fact that they are viewed as helpless children by men.
I also don’t like when people try to defend these things by saying that feminists have bigger things to worry about than clothing. That is not true. There is no issue that is “too small” for a feminist to “worry” about. I’m sorry if it’s annoying or seems trivial to you, but it’s not trivial to me. And I don’t think I’m just seeing patriarchal oppression where there is none. I really do think that by influencing women to dress like children (and also pushing them to invest in “anti-aging” products, as if age is a bad thing [but only in women]), the heteronormative, patriarchal society that we live in is exercising yet another form of oppression over women as a whole. Especially because, unlike other forms of oppression, clothing is a wide-spread thing. Pretty much everyone wears clothes; you have to, or you get arrested. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Asian, Latina, or any other race/ethnicity. You gotta wear clothes. And, by god, some corporation (probably run by a man) is going to sell them to you. Probably “stylish” clothes, which is where the infantilization trend comes in, because those types of clothing are seen as “cute” or “stylish.” But, you know what’s cute? A kitten. A baby. A cupcake. You know what’s sexy? A woman (or a man, or a gender-queer person. But, when talking about this style, I’m mostly focusing on people who identify as women).
Again, a point of clarification. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to dress like a puffy, frilly, pink cupcake. I often do so, especially when it’s a corset day, because I tend to balance the harshness of the corset with frills and lace. But, that doesn’t mean I would want to be seen as anything but a woman who happens to be dressing a little more frilly that day. I would not, however, wear peter pan collared shirts or mary janes in my daily life. I just think that’s a bit too childish.
Okay, so here’s the tl;dr version for anyone who wants to skip all of what I just wrote, get the basic gist, and go down into the comments and yell at me for how wrong I am: I don’t like peter pan collars, frilly socks, and mary janes because I feel like those items of clothing are society’s way of weakening and oppressing and infantilizing women. You may disagree, and that’s great! Let me know why in the comments. But, fair warning, this is my blog. So, if you try to troll me or my commenters, or you just go down and yell about how feminism isn’t important and is dumb, and how men are oppressed, too, then I’m probably going to delete you. Just a fair warning.
If you guys like this post, I’ll probably have more coming about different subjects, like makeup or whatever. Maybe even some more in-depth analyzation of movies and books. I think my blog is going to have a bit of a different structure now, so just letting everyone know. I’m trying things out still! No big deal. Let me know what you think in the comments.