Sewing and Feminism

Wasn't sure about tackling this topic in this forum, but it keeps coming up in subtle, and not so subtle, ways. Thought it worth a post...

Feminism is a word, and a concept, that I have danced around uneasily for most of my life.  When I was younger I was very quick to point out the sexual inequality I saw as pervasive. I would anger easily when exposed to even a whiff of sexism. Never went so far as to self-identify as a 'feminist' but certainly held many of those beliefs closely.  However I have always enjoyed the sartorial pleasures and obsessions most often ascribed to my sex, and its stereotypes. I like clothes. I take care in my dress. I am not one to just pull on whatever and head out the door. I have never been a jeans and a T shirt kinda girl/woman. I wore cowboy boots for many years, until my feet grew too misshapen for them to be comfortable. I liked that low slung heel.  I have had various animal prints (not the skins, just the prints) in my collection over the years. I like a beautiful dress. I pay attention to this stuff.

So how do you square that predilection with feminist might?  Well, actually I don't think its terribly difficult, although I'm sure there are various camps who would disagree. Fundamentally, I don't see any inequality inherent in dressing in a manner that highlights my gender. I don't believe that a woman should be treated with any less respect or consideration if she is wearing a skirt, and heels. I do think that there are fetishistic tendencies that can manifest in some people's choices of wardrobe. Really high-heeled shoes do make it trickier to maneuver, but if that's how you want to get through life, power to you. Very tight skirts, ditto. How is that any different from the assumptions you make about a man in a suit....?

In light of recent events with the NFL and the discussion about violence against women, I can not see any (ANY) situation where a woman's wardrobe should be deemed an assumed invitation. If men cannot restrain themselves and their libido in the presence of a woman, however she may be dressed, they do not belong in society, and should be shunned. Is that the feminist in me? I suppose. To me its just common sense and common decency. We all need to live together, society evolves to keep us working in concert. Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Weren't we all taught that as kids?

How does this bring me to sewing? I can hear you scratching your head....Forgive me if I sound a bit cranky but this is under my skin. I was talking this morning with a woman in my yoga class about making my own clothes. At this stage about 99% of what I wear I make. So this often comes up as a topic of conversation. As we discussed why I sew my clothes she said, how feminist of me. And I thought, well yes, I guess it is. I mean I am in control of at least the very first impression of me that the world has when they rest their eyes on me.  I can never control how they are using that vision, but the human animal makes all sorts of immediate assumptions on first glance. At least I have that small measure of influence in my daily interactions, by choosing and making my garb.

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

This exchange brought up some thoughts about sewing, a few of which I find irritating. When the subject of my own hand sewn clothing comes up with those who don't know my backstory I am often met with disdain. (and yes, I do know what disdain looks like) The disdained will think, and sometimes say, 'I used to sew when I was younger but I grew out of that'. The implication being that their time is taken up with more serious pursuits to waste time on the more traditionally female associated 'domestic arts'. I used to get the same reaction when I sold cook books. 'Do you actually cook?' we were often asked.... I can understand not wanting to have your destiny decided by your gender, and I am very glad that we, as modern women, do have access to just about any career we choose. But that doesn't mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater.  

Sewing has evolved just as we who sew have. Today I can sew my own wardrobe AND run my own business. I can be just as stressed out by trying to keep my business afloat as the next entrepreneur, and have a small modicum of control and creativity by producing the uniform that helps people identify 'who' I am. Sounds pretty feminist when put that way, no?  I started sewing my clothes as recreation, but now I do it because I like to decide for myself what image I project to the world.  That, and it gives me such pleasure and satisfaction.... What you see here is one of my uniforms. I made the skirt (Colette Patterns- Ginger), the top (Wiksten-Tova) and the vest (Boardwalk- Heidi Kirrmaier). Those who know me, see some variation on this outfit frequently.

So you see I still live that feminist edge. I have mellowed in my old age (although that whole Hobby Lobby Obamacare fiasco got my back up).  And just because I sew doesn't mean you can make any assumptions about me. Well, except maybe that I have some mad skills, and all sorts of opinions. What about you? How do you see sewing?