in this opinion piece i will cover my experiences with wearing feminist statement clothes and why i believe that all of us should wear more of it.
i am not a natural born shopper.
buying anything (from clothes to groceries) is a necessity for me. it’s not leisure. it’s not fun. it’s a necessary evil. (ok, books excluded.)
anyway. the way i buy my clothes is when someone drags me along and says : isn’t this something for you?
and this is (i kid you not) the true story of how i bought my first statement feminist sweater.
bold, red letters
it’s white, casual, fair fashion and has the word “feminist” imprinted in bold, red letters across the chest. and i LOVE it!
well done dedicated.
the only problem is sometimes i forget i wear it and when people make weird comments – and i learned that with feminist statement wear, someone invariably always makes a comment – it takes me a while to understand what they’re referring to.
i mean, come on… i buy about 5 pieces of clothing a year. people commenting on my clothes is just not an experience i’m used to.
just before i got annoyed a little too much, i wondered : maybe it hasn’t got anything to do with the word feminism? maybe it’s just that i’m not used to wearing statement clothing and its power as a conversation starter.
so i went back to my closet for an analysis.
turns out, i own indeed three statement pieces:
a white t-shirt with the words ‘wanted and wild’. now this message can be interpreted in many different ways from sexualised to a wild west theme.
elicited comments over more or less 4 years of owning that shirt : zero.
it was the first time though that i even thought about the deeper meaning of these words.
was i really wanted and wild? no.
did i want to be wanted and wild? well, maybe.
did i want to be perceived as someone wanting to be wanted and wild? hell, no.
i have since then discarded this shirt. somehow it didn’t spark joy anymore.
a white t-shirt with the words ‘nice day’.
thinking about it, i remembered that this t-shirt did indeed spark the one or the other conversation with remarks such as : ‘is it?’ and ‘you too’.
all remarks have without exception been positive, well-meaning and light. these interactions were so harmless, i had forgotten most of them.
so, yes, statement clothes might elicit reactions in general. but can these reactions be compared to wearing feminist statement clothes?
well let’s see. so far, i’d put the reactions in three categories:
uneasy but friendly
we have the tentative question stating the obvious : ‘oh, you’re wearing a statement sweater?’
these sort of conversation openers come mostly from women who don’t know me that well, but mean well. i think they were mostly surprised with a dash of uneasy.
confrontation level : friendly.
patronizing but friendly(-ish)
here we have the pseudo-engaging, but also somewhat condescending line of questioning by mostly middle-aged men (or older) : ‘do they make that in my size?’ to the somewhat mildly amused ‘so, you’re a feminist?’.
these sort of men did not only see the statement, but found it interesting enough to engage. and when i say interesting, i’m well aware that they found it amusing.
and found it perfectly ok to engage.
i realise writing this that it’s not so much the words they say, but how they say them that makes me remember them.
confrontation level : harmless.
i usually just smile and reply with a joke and a wink.
i’ve come to realise that they probably just want me to think that they are so clever and so funny.
or at least that’s how i choose to respond to them.
the not so friendly
and then there are the others.
the more or less covertly aggressive line of comments.
questions about my problem with men or hypotheses that i wished i was a man.
some tell me feminism is dead.
or not needed anymore. after all, we live in an age where men and women are equal.
are we though?
doesn’t matter. the problem is with me, not them, not society. i’m insecure. women can make it to the top, just look at angela merkel or lydie polfer, the mayor of luxembourg city. if i just looked at all the successful women out there who all think that we live in an age of equality, i’d just see that they are right.
only problem with that? i am a successful woman. and you are not! so how can you speak to my experience?
these men act as if my sweater (and me for wearing it) personally offend them.
and i wonder what exactly it is they find so offensive (or derisive for that matter)? to quote jesse williams : equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. it’s not a pie.
confrontation level : annoying, hurtful and draining.
i’m surprised time and time again that a simple piece of clothing can have the power to elicit as many comments and conversations.
after about a year of wearing it, i suspect that these reactions say more about the people expressing them than about me.
if something as innocent and ultimately irrelevant as a sweater has this effect, then by all means, it is not simply a sweater.
so what is it, that makes people so uncomfortable about it they have to resolve that discomfort by airing their opinions?
and what is it that gives feminism this incredibly bad reputation?
it’s not like a said i was gonna burn of my right breast and live like a man-hating amazon in the forest with a bow and arrow to shoot people.
on the contrary, i love men.
all i want is for them to respect my experiences about being a woman over their opinions of what they think women might experience. to see me for me and respect me.
yes, there has been tremendous progress in terms of equality between men and women in the last century or so.
and because of this progress, i would never have thought that a piece of clothing would show me just how much feminism is still needed.
in an age where we know how much representation matters we need to make sure that what we show the world what it is we truly believe in. that what we show is in line with our values.
for me this means that i am proud to be a woman. that i will insist on the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. because that is what feminism is about.
and i will wear that damn sweater (and more) and do my part to add visibility to feminism until the statement of being a feminist elicits exactly zero comments.
because it is as normal as breathing air.
and who knows, maybe you’ll join me…
more than a sweater
more importantly, however, these reactions are proof to me how vital it is to stand for something.
this sweater was one of the very first ways i dared using my voice in a public space.
for everyone to see.
i remember being very self-conscious about it.
wearing it – or more likely not wearing it – on specific occasions, censoring myself.
luckily, i have gotten over that and no matter how cheesy it sounds, i think it made me a stronger person.
more deliberate about how to use my voice. and who knows, maybe even in starting this blog and writing these lines.
looking forward to wearing lots of more feminist statement clothing, i remain yours idealistically,