Sunday, April 20, 2008

A woman is a sexual being...

The Canadian minister of foreign affairs, Maxime Bernie, brought a date to his sworn-in ceremony. Now, the problem with the date was... as it always is with women... the outfit. It seems that the gorgeous date was wearing a summer dress with a cleavage - which made the dress 'inappropriate' for the ceremony. I've searched the web in vain for the photo that appeared in the printed version of the Globe and Mail article which brought back the issue of this horrendous act of showing a (quite decent) cleavage in a government ceremony.

Now, this was not the topic of the article in question - rather, the article was raising questions on the competencies of the minister following some gaffe in Afghanistan. But the question of the slutty-date, who dared to wear a dress with a cleavage was a good point in case, showing - no, proving - the man's faults (after all, she was just a woman, so besides her looks, there's not much to comment on her...).

The other day, a female colleague complained about how students comment on her sense of fashion in the course evaluations. I mean, that's minor compared to the above-mentioned date's cleavage! But, after all, it comes down to the same thing: women's outfits are scrutinized and must conform to a particular 'common sense' if the woman is to be deemed as 'serious'.

And while I'm not a proponent of wearing your sexy mini-skirt when you teach or going nude to the sworn-in ceremony, I still find it deeply disturbing that a woman remains judged first and foremost through her looks and her sexuality; that her public persona is regulated by norms based on this omnipresent sexuality. No matter what, she cannot get rid of that sexuality, looming like a Damocles' sword above her head, following her wherever she goes as a reminder that she is, above all, a sexual being...

She walks in beauty, like the night

Photo Credits: bananaz75


georgia said...

Great post, this is something that really bothers me too. Dress in revealing 'sexy' clothes and you will be viewed as a hyper-sexual (and thus, not 'serious') person. Wear very conservative clothing that covers your body completely and you're 'no fun', 'unimaginative' etc... It works in other ways too - wear 'masculine' clothes and you're not feminine enough, wear ultra-'feminine' clothes and, again, you're not serious. Pay a lot of attention to clothing and appearance and you're shallow & frivolous. Pay no attention to clothing and appearance and you don't look after yourself or are unprofessional. Looking at the coverage of Hillary Clinton's campaign, there are multiple references to her dress. She, too, was dinged for showing (a very small amount of) cleavage.
For some women, playing with clothing and make-up is empowering and it is important to recognize the agency in this. However, it seems to me that this agency often operates within a patriarchy framework, and on patriarchal conditions.

thinking about difference said...

Yes indeed, what is one to do? What is one to advocate for? Context, that's the thing we need to focus on. What's the context in which something was said, to what implications, and with what power effects? This could be a relevant finding for our paper, don't you think?

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