Can we all please watch this rude, offensive bit of nonsense and discuss it? Deborah Schoeneman, one of the writers of Girls, is on the Huffington Post live panel slamming women who dress like 'women-children'. This was started by an article she wrote on the website on the subject. For a publication which seems to be pretty against slut-shaming, this just seems like the same thing- deriding women for making active choices regarding how they present themselves.
To equate Courtney Love's wearing of babydoll dresses with her infantilising herself is beyond offensive, and shows Deborah Schoeneman truly has no understanding of Love's ideologies. Asking a man what he thinks of a woman's choice to wear something girly is offensive, because it implies all my choices are made for the viewing pleasure of men. I will not change the way I dress to become a better product of the male gaze, and is some seriously heteronormative bullshit. To say that femininity must be 'authentic' for it to be justified is offensive. Nobody else gets to qualify or justify the way I dress. To make these sweeping generalisations about me based on how I present myself is ludicrously offensive, because it shows that you have no desire to engage with me about why I choose to dress the way I do, in novelty prints and full skirts and florals and frills. I am offended, and I am allowed to be, because I am not some passive sweet little baby despite what you may read from my love of pink puffy dresses.
And why do I choose to dress like this? Because I god damn like it, and I am allowed to. I am attracted to all things typically feminine, and I do not have to and will not ever apologise for this. I have always thought of fashion as the only mandatory form of engagement with art. If you want to live in mainstream society, you have to wear clothes. So I believe you should have fun with them. You should wear whatever you want even if it IS childish, skimpy, all-black, corporate, ripped or whatever. There is no correct way to dress. The concept of 'dressing your age' is outdated and silly, and entirely constructivist. You don't just get to say 'these are the fashion rules because I say they are and you need to dress how I like'. Why? Why should a woman only be taken seriously if she is wearing a suit? I need answers and justifications, not this classist, snobby crap.
Brad Beardall is featured on this video panel, whoever he is, and he doesn't get to tell women whether or not their choice to wear pink is valid or not. I am not going to explain all the ways in which I am an empowered woman, because I do not need to justify the fact that I am wearing a frilly carrot-print dress with a ric rac trim right now. This assertation also speaks down to implies women who make the choice to do 'non-empowered' (and I say that with quotation marks) things. Schoeneman says because some women write their own movies and make their own websites and other 'strong' things, it is OK for then to be a 'woman-children'. What? There is no condition of dressing in a youthful way. If a woman doesn't have a career in the business sector or doesn't challenge traditional notions of femininity, is she allowed wear girly clothes because it's more 'authentic' that way? Femininity, masculinity, or anything in between does not need to be justified by our actions. I don't need to dress in the costume of the demographic I belong to or the job I work.
And maybe the worst part of this all is that Deborah Schoeneman, backed out at (literally) the last minute from having Jess Mary, author of this great article on why the idea of the 'woman-child' is dumb, appear on this panel as her response was deemed 'too scathing'. Actually, Jess Mary debunks the myth of the 'woman-child', like so so so many other awesome ladies I could name. By being a strong, thoughtful, interesting, independent, mature woman who also chooses to sometimes wear 'childish' clothing or present themselves in a 'childish' way, Jess Mary contradicts this ridiculous idea that a love of a youthful aesthetic means you are a helpless baby. It seems like Schoeneman wants to have her cake and eat it too. She wants women to dress 'adult', but doesn't acknowledge the right of an adult to make their own choices.
My kitten sweater* and Heidi braids, like my hairy legs and lack of makeup, are choices I make because I like the way they look and the way they make me feel. However, they are also a 'fuck you' to people like Schoeneman who think their opinions are the be-all and end-all of gender politics. Deborah, I don't want your approval. What I actually want is to make you angry and disgusted at the way I dress, so you can keep feeling bitter and looking down on people arbitrarily, and so I can keep feeling awesome about my clothes. Because I do feel awesome about every last bow and frill. I am not 'scared of growing up' simply because I adore clothing with kitties on it, nor do I desire to go back to my childhood, or some synthetic romanticised conglomeration of childhoods. Brad Beardall's claim that I am scared of tackling big issues is made redundant by the fact that I just wrote like 1500 words on a Big Issue.
*My amazing kitten jumper was made by Joy White, amazing mum of the amazing Kelly White, and adapted from a pattern by Tiny Owl Knits. I will definitely be posting more on this later because it is the nicest, warmest, most beautiful quality thing I've ever owned and I've barely taken it off since I received it. Kelly is a great example of a funny, smart, cool, interesting entrepreneur who dresses in bright colours and novelty prints. Kelly has made her living making beautiful homewares and jewellery that are laden with cutesy nostalgia and childish goodness. Does that qualify her femininity enough for you, Schoeneman?