Looking smart

June 12, 2007

(I enjoy “smart” as an adjective to describe an outfit. Also “handsome” for women.)

I’ve been thinking lately about the weirdly important role clothing plays in queer settings. Or any settings, for that matter. The more comfortable I get wearing men’s clothes (and let’s be honest here–how much of my wardrobe at this point isn’t from the men’s department, if not straight out of my father’s closet?) the more comfortable–excited, even–I am about dressing up for more professional or otherwise dressy occasions. I’m not yet at the point where I would wear a tie to a job interview, but I’m definitely past the point where I’d wear a skirt to one. (For what it’s worth, that ship sailed around ninth grade.) And I’m discovering that though it may get security called on me in a public restroom, my chosen fancy attire won’t actually cause too much confusion anywhere else. Just by way of an example, I recently wore a three piece suit (well, minus jacket, because it was warm- but tie and vest) out to dinner, and our waitress had no trouble identifying the Sig Fig and I as ladies.

But my newfound comfort with the dressiest of male clothing is causing a bit of consternation for the Sig Fig. See, she doesn’t feel comfortable wearing a tie. Her idea of a nice outfit doesn’t involve khakis and a button-up. So she’s increasingly worried that whatever she wears, she’s gonna look the femme on this butch’s arm.

Now, I’ll admit that it’s pretty hard for anyone (short of a man, I guess) to not look femmier than me when we’re out together. I’m not trying to swoop in as SuperButch here–it’s just the state of affairs. But does that automatically mean that other people read us as Butch and Femme?

While it’s true that in queer settings things like ties are becoming more fluid in terms of what they express for the wearer, by and large they still carry masculine connotations, and it often takes a lot of feminine accessories to cancel those out. Skirts and dresses are similarly well-established as feminine articles. So if you’re person who tends to think of people as butch and/or femme (I’ll admit to being one of those, though my personal preference for the butcher end of the spectrum means that I’m more likely to be gauging butchness), you’re likely to see a woman in a tie and a woman in a skirt as butch and femme, respectively.

But is it the same in non-queer spaces? If I’m out with the Sig Fig, are people thinking, “Whoa, there’s a butch and a femme?” Or are they distracted by my gender-variant dress enough just to think “Whoa, there’s a chick in a suit?” Do they look at us and simply think “Whoa, there’s a couplea dykes?”

I’m sorry, come again?

May 15, 2007

I’ve been thinking lately about how I came to feminism. I wouldn’t really have called myself a feminist until about a year ago, despite clearly holding feminist ideals dear. In fact, I was pretty turned off by what I saw as feminism when a woman told me that the movement could use “women who look like [me].” I didn’t feel like being anybody’s token dyke, and I was more than a little offended.

Are we really some kind of endangered species? I’m sure she meant well, but the whole thing was really off-putting. But lately it’s gotten me thinking about where feminism and sexuality and gender identity collide, because that’s where most of my writing and my thoughts these days fit in.

I’d like to think that the days of “We’ll get to you when the bigger issues are hammered out, ladies” are gone (If These Walls Could Talk 2, anyone?), but unfortunately I think there’s still some friction between “mainstream” feminists and so-called “lesbian feminists.” In my mind, there shouldn’t be a distinction. But I don’t want to bash anyone’s chosen identity, and it would be equally wrong to ignore the ways that feminism and lesbian feminism fail to overlap.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is a problem of representation. When we talk about sexual harassment, we often don’t talk about how frequently lesbians are harassed. When we talk about wage and job equality, we often fail to mention that lesbians in many states aren’t protected from being fired in the private sector due to their sexual orientation. When we talk about balancing career and family, we often ignore the fact that many women who would love to be starting a family face serious obstacles because they can’t legally marry.

As for gender identity, unfortunately it seems there’s still considerable backlash against lesbians and trans folk. A lot of women still seem to see us as the patriarchy. If we’re dressing in men’s clothing, adopting male pronouns, or taking on “masculine” behaviors and identities, we can’t possibly have a stake in women’s equality, right?


Let me put it bluntly: The fact that I wear boxer briefs and neckties is never going to magically bestow male privilege upon me. I’m still at risk for rape and sexual assault. I still may face significant barriers accessing birth control. I can still recognize that women all over the world are being oppressed, abused, and killed because of their gender. And because I’m a lesbian, and a gender deviant at that, I face the additional risk of being fired for my sexuality, having my access to health care blocked, not being able to have children (either naturally or through adoption), not having my (future) marriage recognized throughout the country, and getting security called on my ass in the bathroom.

I should say that a lot of the feminist blogosphere gets this. Feministe, Pandagon and Feministing are all very inclusive. But even on those sites (and elsewhere), every once in a while the tiny cry of “What about the homos?” gets shot down immediately.

Queer issues are feminist issues. Gender issues are feminist issues. We should be forging alliances, not splintering. Why can’t we get more straight women to fight for same-sex marriage? Why don’t more lesbians speak out about the wage gap? Until we find some kind of solidarity, divide and conquer is working against us.

Can’t get enough of that Jockey

February 25, 2006

So I’m boldly forging ahead, deeper into the territory of exclusively wearing men’s clothing. I bought another three pack of boxer briefs (they’re so comfy!) along with cheap white tshirts and A-frames.

I’m also reveling in wearing said undershirts in lieu of a bra. So liberating!

And yet.

During our continuation of Feelings the other night, I mentioned that I’m hard pressed to think up many instances in which I proudly declare my womanhood. I’m quite proud of my membership on the women’s crew team, and will probably be much more likely to give to Radcliffe than to Harvard in the future. But at the same time, it’s in the boathouse that I feel the most uncomfortable sharing these new forays into my gender identity. I’m never going to wear boxer briefs before practice, and I have to wear a bra when I practice. And I’ll never feel comfortable when one of my teammates starts chattering away whilst completely naked, nor will I ever feel compelled to use the group showers.

All this makes me wish just a little that I were on a team more like, say Wellesley’s, which (according to rumor) pretty much sleeps with itself all the time. In all honesty, I started rowing partly because I was convinced I’d find the dykes that way. Instead, I found two other gay girls in my class, one of whom (to my knowledge) remains closeted. I still doubt that any of the underclassmen are lesbians, though I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong.

Of Jockey, clubs, and feelings

February 16, 2006

I think the white pair fits me more snugly than the black pair, which I’m currently wearing.

Why do I torture myself by going to clubs? There are several things that are certain in life, or at least in my life.

1. I do not approach women in clubs. I have in the past, but various rejections have led me to believe that this is not actually a good strategy.

2. Whenever I see a woman I find attractive or intriguing, it is really only a matter of seconds before I see her put her arm around/dance all up on/make out with another woman.

3. When I go dancing with friends, inevitably they end up dancing with each other more than with me.

4. When I get fed up and sit in a corner watching, sadly, no one thinks I am attractive in that brooding loner sort of a way and decides to sit down and talk to me.

I just feel sad. The conversation on gender identity didn’t really go in the direction I planned–things got a little confrontational and theoretical, including mention of Foucault and some argument about language–and even though we’ve planned another one to get more into feelings, it leaves me feeling… I don’t know. Lacking? Even less sure of myself than I was?

Who am I?

[Girl] asked me, before this began tonight, if I felt uncomfortable in my body. I replied that I don’t. I can remember times from growing up when my breasts annoyed me, and yeah, menstruating sucks, but other than that I’m pretty down with my body. I enjoy strengthening it. I like that my jeans are hanging lower than when I bought them. I like the tired feeling in my triceps from knowing they’ve been used.

There are moments when I think–this is what I was born for. I have that when I row. I used to have it when I wrote, but I’ve lost that a little.

And there are moments when I think–this is what it means to live, to truly be alive.

And there are moments when all I can think about are her arms around me, and I am so fucking alone.

Wherein I become a Jockey poster boi.

February 15, 2006

The waiting has ended.

My boxer briefs have finally arrived, properly sized, and one pair is currently on my person.

I enjoy them immensely. The crotchal area is an amusement to me, though, since I can’t fill it out properly and have no desire to do so. It’s interesting to have a piece of clothing that otherwise fits delightfully but has a single area of… shall we say… sag.

Howdy, ma’am.

February 9, 2006

Apparently I’m actually a large man.

This realization comes to me thanks to my recently purchased three pack of Jockey classic boxer briefs, which, alas, are too small for me. I was ordering under the illusion that I was, in fact, a medium sized man, but I was sadly mistaken. There’s a form for returning my goods, but I wonder–can one truly return underwear? I wouldn’t want to receive returned underwear, that’s for sure. But clearly I need to buy a larger pair. For the moment, I’m sitting in my pitiful women’s Jockey underwear, lamenting my sorry state.

Curiously, my order came with a catalogue for–wait for it–bras. This struck me as an odd combination. Did they look at my name rather than my order and assume I needed to know how science could fit my shape? Did they assume I was buying for a male (in)significant other? Or, as one Girlspotter suggested, did they just figure my husband was using my credit card? Curiouser and curiouser.