Trigger Warning: discussions of fatphobia and sexual assault.
This week I made a What Not To Wear intervention on my own wardrobe. Based on my own preferences, but preferences I tend to sideline when I don’t really take the time to find separates that fit and interest me. Which leaves me with a closet full of stretched-out t-shirts in solid colors. Browsing the few stores I visited, I had to keep telling myself: no solid t-shirts. Only things that are nice and snug in the waist. And if something has to be solid, let it be an interesting fabric or shape. (Hence the red skirt.)
There are many reasons I shy away from dressing in a style I think of as “hard femme.”
Wanting to be taken seriously.
Wanting to avoid extra harassment.
Wanting to be able to hop a fence at a moment’s notice.
Wanting to bike around and sweat and cartwheel (difficult in heels and a pencil skirt).
Not wanting to confront my body image issues.
Not wanting to encourage fatphobia in myself or others: feeling a twinge of pleasure and the ghost of shame when people compliment me on losing weight.
At a certain point, after my 3 months living and working at the meditation center in Spain, I was even concerned that presenting my body in a more stereotypically “hot” or hard-femme way might cause more suffering for others: playing into a sex-saturated culture that doesn’t give us the tools to examine our own lust, or our own desire for approval.
Even as my internal debates swirl, I also realize (again, with some sadness) how fortunate I am that the styles I prefer are pretty much socially approved for the body that I have. On Fathers’ Day, my dad and I had a conversation about the violence that often happens when someone discovers that a person’s physical makeup, or sex, doesn’t fit with what they had expected, based on reading their gender. The discoverer becomes enraged. I am safe on the transphobic score, though I also know that the average US person would much more likely blame me if somebody ever raped me while I was wearing an outfit like this, versus a stretched-out t-shirt and wide-legged corduroys. In summer, when my skin is darker, the blame (or lack of compassion) might be worse.
For right now, though, I am trying this on. Results so far (internally, and from others) have been mostly positive, supportive, fun. I actually felt extra confident doorknocking to fight foreclosures last night (not in the outfit above, but something along similar lines.)
We’ll see how it goes.
As Billy Crystal would once have said, dahling, you look mahvelous!
Its an odd human habit to apply one’s mental perceptions of appearance to another … knowing that person or not.