|Shoes and Dress c/o Wild Doll|
One Saturday evening, while sitting across the table from my boyfriend at Bistro 29 (and wearing this dress), I found myself staring at a co-ed bathroom sign. Without thinking I blurted “I think the (second wave) feminist movement was rather backwards.” He blinked. “Think about it,” I continued. “fashion-wise, women sought to become equal with men by foregoing skirts, they broadened out their shoulders with shoulder pads, wore pants suits, some cut their hair short, all in attempts to level the playing field. They sought out more unisex fashions, which for most translated into dressing more like a man.” “But if they sought a more unisex style, how was that dressing like a man?” He asked.
“Why didn’t feminists in their unisex-treat-me-like-an-equal fashions instead ask men to wear skirts? Why weren’t their skirts and accentuated waistlines good enough? Why did female fashion automatically become the thing that had to go? Why were men and their fashions automatically deemed the standard that was to be upheld? How is it in the movement’s fight to be treated equally, they instead ended up agreeing with the very thing they were trying to fight?” “How so?” “They had been told that as women, they would never make it in the workplace the same way men had... And they responded by emptying their closets, by foregoing their skirts, and dressing like a man. They believed them. They believed that as women they wouldn’t make it: but as “men” they would. It’s backwards.”
“Well, men would never wear skirts to work.”
“Which is a shame. Because it’s all about the skirt.” I responded.
From the 3 waves of feminism, along with the two movements that would follow: post-feminism and post-structuralism, what stands out to me the most is the skirt.
In the first wave of feminism during WWI, many men were away at war and women in response left their homes and entered into the workforce. By entering the workforce women took on assignments traditionally held as “a man’s job” proving that gender in the workforce didn’t have to be a divide. They fought for property rights, voting rights and gender equality. They also did this in ankle grazing skirts. It wouldn’t be until the Great Depression that hemlines would be drastically raised.
As a movement second wave feminists fought for equal footing - to no longer be the “other” in a male dominated society. They fought to change marriage rape laws, for their reproductive rights, and for equal pay in the workplace. By the 1960’s the golden age of the American Dream was fading for the white blue collar families, and women were more than ready to shed their roles as domesticated patrons of the home. During the second wave, skirt hems had risen by nearly two feet, and by the mid 1970’s, skirts for women were no longer considered “de rigeur”. Pants were an acceptable part of women’s attire. The skirt was obsolete.
The third wave of feminism I understand to embody everything that the Spice Girls came to represent in the 1990’s: girl power, the celebration of multicultural female identity, and the return of the skirt. The skirt made it's return however, in a dizzying array of vagina grazing lengths. Samantha Jones from Sex and the City also makes the perfect poster child for the moment. Her celebration of sexuality, while still taking herself seriously as a career woman and demanding respect from others is a forefront of the movement that still continues today. For third wave feminism, the skirt - whether it is worn or not, whether it is maxi or mini, no longer seemed to matter.
Whereas the first three waves of feminism fought for equal power, Postfeminism acknowledges that yes the power is there should they choose to have it. The CEO position is theirs to have should they choose, but the “burden of power” is heavy, and they’d much rather be able to choose when and where they’d like to have it. Postfeminism wants to wear the skirt. Postfeminism desires to be barefoot and pregnant, and baking in the kitchen; it prefers to walk a day in Anastasia Steele’s submissive heels, and not be judged or deemed 'lesser' for it.
I find myself somewhere between the third wave, and the postfeminism movement. I see nothing wrong with owning two degrees, and also being able to cook a 6 course meal (entire Thanksgiving meal cooked by yours truly, every year). Which movement of feminism do you relate to most? Do you consider yourself a feminist?
"Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition." - Marilyn Monroe