Sunday, May 2, 2010

Getting in Touch with my Roots: Naomi Wolf

Well, some time ago I received the Kreativ Bloggers Award, and posted - as part of the 7 things you may not have known about me - my professional background as a feminist criminologist specialising in sexual assault.

These days I work as a researcher for a state police service. While not quite as hard-core patriarchal as they once were, police services are not known for their feminist sentiments.

I still retain closeness to feminist work: applying the principles in my own work, working on projects regarding sexual assault survivors and the legal system, and remaining active in the sexual assault sector. But I was particularly pleased when a ex-colleague from the sexual assault research centre I worked at before the police service messaged me to let me know Naomi Wolf will be speaking in town this week!

I think this is quite serendipitous. Since moving to Melbourne, I've gained some weight, and have not been feeling my most attractive. I think I need a healthy dose of feminist realism regarding body image. I do ascribe too much to beauty ideals marketed via the mass media. Oddly enough, I care more about how other women perceive me, rather than men. I've also just finished reading The Women's Room for the first time.

Naomi Wolf's talk is also of great interest to me, as some of my fave bloggers discuss the relationship between vintage clothing and feminist ideals. I've never really thought about this link comprehensively before -- which is quite odd, as my view of the world (for both professional and personal purposes) is via an examination of constructions of gender and how that prescribes women's lives.

I've thought about how modern clothing prescribes women's experiences. For example, an age-old rape myth is that women wearing short skirts and skimpy tops are blameworthy for their own victimisation. Or, how music video girls are always scantily clad and dancing in overtly sexual ways. And I've thought about the 70s styles of loose clothing that was somewhat asexual in nature, and the abandonment of the bra. But I've never really thought about the 30s, 40s and 50s (my favourite vintage eras) and how these styles may be linked to stereotypes regarding women.

Maybe Naomi Wolfe will help me in these thoughts.

What are your views on feminism and vintage clothing styles? Has it ever entered your consciousness? Does it influence which era's styles you will sew or wear? What about sewing and feminism? What are your thoughts?

PS - I'm cutting out the pants muslin tonight. Was in sunny Queensland over the weekend, so got no sewing done at all!


  1. I think a lot of women participate in that kind of victim blaming because it makes them feel safer - if there are these 'rules' that women have to follow to stay safe, like don't flirt or dance or wear short skirts, then a woman who got raped can be thought of as having violated those rules. This allows women to go on with their lives thinking that they won't be a target of rape because they don't 'ask for it'. It's kind of a psychological defense mechanism (and studies have shown that women are more likely to blame the victim than men). I definitely don't agree with that line of thinking, but I don't think it will go away until we stop phrasing rape in terms of a 'woman's problem' and 'what women can do to avoid rape' and talk more about changing male attitudes towards women.

    In regards to vintage clothing and feminism, I do not believe the two are mutually exclusive as I do not believe we should have to masculinise ourselves to be respected. It's a different matter, of course, to look at how clothing in those eras reflected women's changing roles in society (particularly how the ultra-feminized silhouette of the 1950s was in a way symbolic of the push to return to traditional female roles after the war), but given that nowadays we're much more liberated in our choice of attire, I don't think past societal mores about clothing and what it symbolized are relevant today.

  2. Miss Emmi, I think you are completely right.

    Ascribing to those types of attitudes does appear to make some women believe they are 'protected' from rape. They seem to miss the power and control explanation for why rape occurs in the first place. Rape is still very much seen as a woman's problem, and the responsibility for avoiding rape women's own. The Four Corners program "Code of Silence" last year illustrated that particularly vividly. And then the fall out in the online commenting was sympathising with the perpetrators, not with the women. Just as it was with the Andrew Johns rape.

    I like your ideas regarding vintage clothing and feminism, and am interested in hearing what others have to say. Thanks for giving such a considered comment!

  3. I find it weird but it's so true that rape is pretty much the only crime where the victim stands accused... If someone steals a car, should the owner be blaimed for having a car that was just too tempting for the criminal? It's twisted. (Sorry for the lack of better words, I'm not a native English speaker...)

    Feminism and women's rights are some of my favourite topics. Since I was five or six I've regarded myself as a feminist. That was around the time when I realised I got treated differently than boys just because of my gender.

    I had a brief moment as a teenager when I dressed "neutral" and decided not to use any make-up because I wanted to rebel against the stereotypes of femininity. LOL! After I recovered from that I realised that there was no power in denying who and what I am, and a lot of power in being a lady. And that's when I started wearing vintage.

    For me vintage clothing with its feminine lines is the ultimate power-dressing. It allows me to be classy, pretty and wear clothes that actually fit. Wearing vintage makes me feel stronger in a way. I know that world was a different place for women in the 20’s, 30’s , 40’s and 50’s (and even later on in the 60’s and 70’s) than it is today and even if I like the styles I don’t long for everything in the way of life people had back then (or the attitudes). I think I don’t have to like about everything in an era to love the visual images or the fashion of it. Wearing vintage has as much to do with feminism as a favourite colour, I think. There’s no link between unless the person makes it. ;)

    I love vintage, I'm very passionate about women's rights, and I can’t see a contradiction between vintage clothing and feminism.

    Hmm... I seemed to get a little carried away there. ;) I guess I'll have to post about this topic too. ;)