Friday, December 05, 2008

Clothes and culture (by Suzie)

         Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a small disagreement online over the significance of her dressing up to meet an ex-boyfriend. (This is in the comic that continues the TV series.)
         A couple of men assumed women dress up because they want the man they’re meeting. Female readers gave different reasons, including a woman might want to prove to an ex that she's doing well and still attractive, even if she no longer has any interest in a relationship with him.
        This reminded me of a conversation I had with a feminist ally. A young, attractive woman I knew worked for him. He noted that she often wore tight tops and revealing knit pants. He assumed she was trying to signal something to him, but he couldn’t figure out what, since she was a lesbian. I explained that she might dress this way 1) to please her partner, who might see her when she left for work and when she returned 2) to be attractive to other women 3) because that was her style 4) because that was the fashion among young people and/or 5) because cotton knits are comfortable. I was absolutely sure that she was not dressing that way to send some sort of coded message to her male boss.
          In music, movies and TV, women generally exist in relationship to men, as wives, girlfriends, enemies, Secretaries of State, whatever. It would be easy for well-meaning men to fall into the trap of thinking women revolve around them.