Oh, I’m glad Kathy brought this up, because I meant to say the other day that I thought Tami of What Tami Said was so spot-on about this being the direct descendant of the Cult of True Womanhood that, when I read it, it blew my mind. I mean, oh, duh, of course it is.
And, yeah, the amount of women who defend it, well, duh, for women who were allowed to be in it and who could make it work and didn’t find it stifling, the Cult of True Womanhood fucking rocked, too. Conforming is easier than not. Being able to conform the best has rewards.
But this is something I’ve noticed over the years and I just don’t feel smart enough to really get at. There are a lot of moments in U.S. culture–because of our cultural myth of the individual–where a kind of “fuck it, I’ll do what I want” ethos becomes the prevailing ethos. I mean, I spent the 80s in a Billy and the Boingers t-shirt and much of the early 90s in flannel and it was awesome. And I totally felt, in my flannel and my Doc Martens and my short hair and my ears full up with metal, like I was saying something about your fascist beauty standards.
Yeah, me and all the other girls, right? Who wasn’t wearing flannel and clunky shoes? Or Chuck Ts before that?
The ways I could signal “fuck it, I’ll do what I want” were also culturally prescribed. The things I could buy to wear that looked different than the girls I didn’t want to be like? They were available to all the other girls who wanted to look different than the girls they didn’t want to be like. Even when my mom made my prom dress, which was so awesome, we still had a pattern and we picked it out so that it looked good, with “good” having a lot of baggage.
Even now, if you want to be “different” there are only so many ways you can be. You can feel like you are freely choosing and still be choosing from a limited number of options. We are all unique flowers in the limited number of ways we can be.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to sit around and police the choices women make about how we present ourselves. But I sure as hell do think it’s appropriate to sit around and consider why these are our choices at this particular time.
And hell yes, we keep getting sold the same old problematic racist, sexist, classist bullshit stories we always get sold, even in our rebellions.
And the sad trick is that you can’t not succumb to it in some ways.
Eh, I had a lot more to say about that than I thought, I guess. I do miss a constant state of flannel, though. I kind of hope the rumors of a coming mini-ice age are true. I’ll be happy to wear clunky footwear and oversized flannel shirts. I might even get my nose pierced, if it comes to it.