I posed this question a while back, as some may remember. I have tried to get around to the key answers several times, but they refuse to resolve themselves properly. I seem to be engaged in combat with a ghost.
The ghost being there, I propose to let it reveal itself at a time of its own choosing rather than at a time of mine. It is an answer so capable of misinterpretation that the ground needs to be thoroughly prepared, the seeds carefully planted if they are going to turn into a comprehensible truth that is more than just a little more internet chatter.
The stoniness of the ground is illustrated – and I mean no unkindness to the poster concerned – by a response to my suggestion that when we say we ‘dress for ourselves’ we, to some extent, delude ourselves. ” I dress for myself,” said the respondent (I’m paraphrasing, not quoting) “and give no thought whatever to what anyone else thinks.”
This is commonly believed among women to be the truth. Questioning it is hard, but it is one of those hard questions that needs to be considered carefully before answering.
A hetero male like myself attends a function and finds at least one other male present identically dressed. No issue. At a formal function, and even at a formal function, the closer the hetero male is to uniformity the easier he is in his mind. At a less formal function, perhaps in that period of youth when most seek to emphasize their ‘uniqueness’, he may be mildly chagrined to find some other youth wearing exactly the same patterned shirt and blue jeans combo.
A woman arrives at a similar function and finds another woman identically dressed. For many, it seems, that is an issue.
You leave your home to go to work or to go out for the day. As you proceed down the street someone passing by seems, to you, to do a slight double-take. You’re not sure. A little while later much the same happens again. In a very short while you will be standing in front of a reflective surface checking that all is with your appearance as it should be. A seed of doubt has been planted. Why?
Why check yourself out? You did it in front of the mirror before you left and were satisfied. You dressed ‘for yourself’. How is it that someone else’s glance can make you uneasy?
Invited to a wedding you will not usually attend wearing the yoga pants and loose sweatshirt in which you may prefer to spend your off-duty hours, and that is not purely out of some sense that it would be disrespectful or irreverent to do so. And going to the office – even if there is no formal dress code – it’s unlikely that you will appear there in cut-off jeans and a ragged tee shirt just because you like the way they feel or look.
You stand before a mirror and look at an image that is not exactly your own, since it is inverted, and you apply the lipstick and face powder you didn’t bother to apply whilst you were doing chores earlier but do apply now that you propose to leave the house. Why? If you liked the way you looked before why will you not like it when you step outside the door?
Let’s go the ‘whole hog’. You’re going out to dinner, with friends of the same gender. You apply make-up. You carefully make the most of the hairdo that you have spent no inconsiderable amount of money on and yet which you can only see, like the make-up, in a mirror. You may go for the slinky number, for the low cut back or low cut front, for the uplift or the no-lift-at all nipple-poking-through-fabric look, and why?
You want to look ‘attractive’.
Flowers attract pollinating insects by their various forms of display; that is ‘they draw toward themselves’. The quality of magnets ‘attract’ – draw toward themselves – certain metals. Localities ‘attract’ – draw towards themselves – visitors by the display of their facilities.
So who do you seek to attract, to draw toward yourself? Yourself? Is putting on make-up, revealing or figure hugging clothes, skimpy underwear rendered visible by pantie-line or the simulation of semi-nudity that is avoiding the pantie-line altogether?
If you are doing all this ‘for you’ and with no thought for anyone else’s perception does it mean that what you really want is to hold, caress and even fuck yourself?
Don’t misunderstand me. You are entitled to wear – just as I am entitled to wear – anything you damned well please, and you are entitled to wear it in absolute safety. Come to that, we should all be entitled to wear absolutely nothing at all in absolute safety. Nothing, from nudity to the skimpiest outfit and a tight tee shirt emblazoned with the legend “Come Fuck Me!” entitles anyone to behave in a predatory way towards you.
NOTHING excuses the violation of another person.
But in order to properly understand the male-female dynamic, I believe it is necessary to come to terms with the truth. The ‘I’ for whom you and I dress is not some isolated and uniquely self-created individual. The ‘I’ for whom you and I dress has absorbed, often without question, values and constructs of the world around us. In no small part the ‘I’ for whom we dress is an ‘Other’, an internalised external other, the world that sees us.
This has consequences.
My daytime job has suddenly become a lot easier, the kid I’ve been working with having just moved to a specialist school where, I have to hope, he won’t be let down as he has been by mainstream education. I have more time to think, more time to write, more time to visit blogs, webpages and the rest.
I am deeply passionate, passionately angry really, about the world in which we raise our children and the values which – despite that so many intelligent people despair of them – seem almost unshakable.
I must start at the beginning, I guess.
It is my privilege to work in a high school. Our kids range in age between about 11 years and 18. If I don’t arrive before the kids in a morning one of the first things that I see is the girls hiking up their uniform skirts until the hems are above the knee, and this starts with the 11 and 12 year olds. Desperate to escape the intended uniformity of our skirts and blazers they try to arrive in non-uniform coats and jackets, to get into school with ‘fascinators’ stuck in their often un-childlike hairstyles, to wear non-regulation jewelry and make-up.
They’re into boys, of course, for the most part, and certainly the most damaged of them, the ones with the lowest self-esteem, are the ones who make themselves appear the most ‘man-hungry’. At 11 and 12 they are already thinking of defining themselves in terms of male approval.
I’m not allowed to pick them up on much of it – they’d label me a ‘perve’ for noticing that their skirts are too short – and those who are allowed to respond and enforce our rules are inconsistent in doing so. Then again, female teachers with low cut blouses and tight jeans are further away from the official staff dress-code than the men are.
Do girls know why make-up is what it is? Do they know that darkening around the eyes, making the eyes look bigger, is primarily a simulation of sexual responsiveness? When we’re really into somebody – just in case you are unaware, as unlikely as that seems – our pupils dilate when we look at them and the pupils make our eyes look bigger and blacker. It is the same effect as low light, for the brain wanting to see more allows in more light in order to see better. It’s also why we think candlelight or light otherwise subdued is ‘romantic’ – the iris retracts so that more light can pass through the effectively enlarged pupil in order to prevent you falling over stuff, but the effect is to signal that you’re ‘interested’ and ‘aroused’.
The highlighting of lips and cheeks with rouge, lipstick and other cosmetics is based on the fact that in an aroused woman blood rushes to those areas and makes them redder or darker.
So these kids wander around broadcasting a signal that they’re turned on, that they’re interested, even when they are not.
Society encourages them to do this, without telling them why. There’s not a female ‘celebrity’ (damn but I hate that word) who isn’t into figure enhancing, near-crotch-exposing ‘fashion’ and into make-up. There’s not a heroine on TV, scarcely a role-model of their gender, who isn’t much the same, and the soaps are full of trashy female characters who pretend to be as ‘ordinary’ and ‘regular’ as they are, who pursue values in their plot lines that most of us ought to despise.
And I see girls, often quite little girls, who do not fit the expected norms of ‘attractiveness’ and I see their loneliness, their terrible vulnerability to the cock-brained saps who will give them a fleeting sense of personal value by telling them they are attracted to them.
By establishing through so many means the idea that superficial sexual attractiveness, actual or potential, is the defining quality of a female, perception has become grossly distorted, pushing aside intelligence, humor, courage, determination, strength of character and all the other human qualities which make a woman (or a man for that matter) truly and genuinely beautiful even into great old age.
We have to change this. We HAVE to change this.
Richard V Raiment copied across from my facebook account.
They’ve got you worrying about whether you are fat or thin, tall or short, how you smell, how your breath smells, what your hair looks like, whether or not there is grey in it, how much underarm or pubic hair you have and what it looks like, what your ass looks like, what your breasts look like, what your teeth look like, what your skin looks like, about having wrinkles, about having periods, about how you dress and the labels on your clothes, bags and shoes, whether take too much or too little pleasure or give too much or too little pleasure in sex. No doubt there’s other stuff I’ve missed. Their business, their profits, are your insecurity Whatever made you think they were ever going to stop? Women are/Woman is beautiful. Only when you turn your back on the fuckwits who make you question that, only when you are absolutely honest about what YOU want, will their profiteering and exploitation come to an end.
Okay, disagree with me. There’s this idea that we – men and women – dress for ourselves, and in that I’m including the way we wear our hair, the deodorants and perfumes we use, make-up, clothes, underwear and all the rest.
It isn’t true. We dress for the internalised ‘I’, the me that has been reacted to from our birth by those around us. We’ve absorbed what some kind of consensus has determined is a ‘good look’ so that, in the end, we feel good when we know we are dressed and appear in a manner attractive to whatever section of society we belong to. Of course there are exceptions, but don’t swallow the easy lie that you are one of those exceptions just because you have come to think you are.
We dress to make some sort of impact, some sort of statement, and it worries us if we think we fail.
Commerce depends a great deal on making us feel that we fail, that even if we are succeeding, failure is only a slight miss-step away and can only be avoided by some strategy you’ve paid for, by using the right make-up, using the right deodorant, removing ‘unsightly’ hair, wearing the right perfume.
It’s a fraud.
The human body is a beautiful thing. It perspires, it bleeds, it salivates, it digests and urinates and defecates, it reacts to warmth and coldness to protect you, it produces the miracle of children.
God or nature made us, not the advertising man, and it’s a tragedy that we have allowed him (or her) to distort our perception of what is beautiful in the world until it becomes scarcely visible.
Sorry, ranting. Not sure I’ve finished.