Dressing up: A feminist issue

“Dressing up means wearing a dress,” she said. “It means you put on a dress or skirt, high heels, and some makeup and you look good. AND, ladies, you’re not going clubbing; you’re skirt needs to reach past your fingertips when your arms are down.”

The National Honor Society members were supposed to dress up for induction of the new members, and I was astonished and confounded by non-inclusion of dress pants. I had turned to ask my friend why in the world none of the girls were wearing pants. That was her response to me in an imitation of our National Honor Society advisor.

Needless to say, I didn’t appreciate the insinuations. At all.

I’ve actually been told something fairly similar multiple times through the course of the past few weeks. It’s graduation season, and that means Honors Nights, Induction Ceremonies, Graduations, and all kinds of other flamboyant events we’ll all forget about in a few years. But I won’t forget the dress code. Nope. I’m much too riled up for that.

Let’s pick it apart one by one by one.

1. Since when does “dressing up” mean a dress???? The guys don’t have to wear dresses! And if they did show up in dresses, I bet most parents and teachers would throw a fit about how they were mocking school protocol or corrupting the youth or something equally preposterous and then refuse to let them participate in the ceremony! So then that rule only applies to females… which is simply antediluvian and antiquated.

2. Oh thank you so much for permitting us skirts. I suppose it would be too much to ask if we could wear pants? I forgot those were reserved for XY- individuals. My mistake. (Yeah, I’ll be wearing pants, thank you very much).

3. I really love high heels, I do, but I abhor this implication that they are the only shoes fit for women to wear. I will wear sandals or flats or wedges or plain old sneakers if I so choose and I will still participate.

4. I think we ought to be confident enough in ourselves not to need to don five pounds of makeup every time we leave the house. I mean teenage girls are inundated with calls for us to “love ourselves” and be “proud of our bodies” whatever they may look like (in order to counter the mass-media perception of women as big-breasted, small-waisted know-nothings). I can understand that yes, the theater lights will probably make us look fairly washed out and pasty and therefore a little makeup may perhaps do us some good, but the implications of what we were told was not necessarily that, but rather that we cannot look good without makeup- that women are incapable of being attractive without primer, foundation, concealer, rouge, eyeshadow, kohl, blush, eyeliner, bronzer, highlighter, brow pencils, tweezing, waxing, bleaching, plucking, tanning, dieting… Need I go on?

I want to address one more thing: a misconception about feminism. Yes, feminism is about breaking gender stereotypes (as I have already espoused)- in fact it’s about a complete obliteration of even the concept of gender stereotypes. That means girls can wear camo pants and guys can wear pink skirts if they want. That does not in any relate to homosexuality or heterosexuality or anything of that sort. Believe it or not, I have heard that argument against feminism as well. Feminism simply advocates for gender equality. That may often lead feminists to accept all people- homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, black, white, asian, and everything in between- but there are plenty of people with “stringent” beliefs in other areas.

Resuming my rant:

5.   Perhaps I’m just a prude, but I am perpetually astonished by the fact that people have to be reminded to cover themselves up in public- that guys have to be told not to sag their pants and show off their boxers and girls have to be explicitly told the minimum length of their hemline. Well, first off, do you know where the custom of sagging originated? Prisons. Men in prisons trying covertly to inform other prisoners of their homosexuality (that’s also where “swag” comes from; it stands for “Secretly We Are Gay”). Secondly, ladies, like the gentlemen, we too need to be aware of the messages we are sending with our clothing. There’s a lot that will be said about a woman’s morals, religiousness, intelligence, personality, “easiness,” etc. just by the way she presents herself (men, too, but predominantly women). I’m not saying it’s a good thing or an honorable thing or anything we should necessarily encourage; I’m simply saying it’s a fact of life.