Home CommentaryOpinions On potentiometers, fashion and the final frontier of able-minded feminism

On potentiometers, fashion and the final frontier of able-minded feminism

by Archives March 4, 2008

At one point during what I now like to call my previous life, I attended school in the far, far away land of the South Shore, and was a very devoted science student.
My particular strength was physics, and I remember sitting quietly in the library every Friday before our weekly quiz on electromagnetic fields and the like, while 25 of my male counterparts fought over my notebook. In it was the only available copy of the homework problem’s solution, for I was the only one able to solve it.
There were two other women in my lab section, but I never spoke to them. I sat with the men, and though they had never said it explicitly, I knew I had earned their respect.
One day, right before the university application deadline, a fellow student looked up from his potentiometer and asked what field I was going into. I had known this moment would come and I knew they expected me to say, “doctor,” “engineer” or “astrophysicist.” I told them the truth: “I’m quitting science, guys. I’m going to be a journalist.”
And as the words came out, the effect was immediate. Suddenly the solemn expressions turned into smirks. “So, you’re going to write about skirts and lipstick in magazines.” Everybody laughed. I did not. I was first taken aback by their naive understanding of journalism, and to say the least, I was insulted.
Now that I think about it, I wonder if I even had the right to be angry. Is fashion a frivolous pursuit that women should be ashamed of, or is it feminism’s ultimate frontier?
Certain narrow-minded people think feminists are bitter women who wear no makeup and sport army boots and boxy blazers.
But the girl with the Isaac Mizrahi coat and the David Bitton bag sitting next to you in class might subscribe to Equality Now and ardently believe there is still much work to be done, even here in Canada, before women get truly equal rights.
I’ve be known to glance over a copy of Vogue and to wear a little mascara now and then, and I don’t think that I’ve sinned against the holy ghost of feminism in doing so.
Feminism is about power – not strictly the power to rebel from society’s ideals of beauty, or the power to seduce men by wearing fashionable clothes, but rather it is about the power of choice. Feminism is about getting to choose if you want an abortion, if you want that promotion, if you want an education, right down to whether you want to buy that shade of ruby red lipstick.
In fact, I would say that women being comfortable with their femininity and appearance – be it natural, artificial, or a mix of both – is the hallmark of modern feminism.
That being said, die-hards would argue that by dressing up, women are playing right into the hands of patriarchal culture.
Yes and no. Some women, those who feel that they must look a certain way to be accepted, are victims of our society’s sexualization of the female body. But those who wear what that they want, when they want to, subscribe to a completely different set of values, mainly individuality and freedom of expression.
So, by all means, wear your high heels and makeup ladies, but only if you feel like it – I won’t judge and neither should anyone else.
And in retrospect, I did end up writing about skirts and lipstick, but not in a magazine — and I enjoyed it.

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