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October 17, 2006

Comments

The Happy Feminist

As she herself remarked (her words not mine), "My people are known for being particularly hairy!"

Ha! This quarter-Italian feminist can definitely relate (although I prefer the term "hirsute"). Somehow I escaped the intensity of ethnic-feminine anxiety, perhaps because my hairy genes were passed down to me through the male line. (Thanks grandpa!)

A $400 pair of heels often look like a $400 pair of heels; the make-up at an upscale department store is generally better than the Maybelline one buys at the corner drug store.

Minor quibble, but I think it is possible to look expensively dressed without actually being so, if one chooses well. A pair of shoes from Payless can go a long way if they are the right shoes. But it tends to be a lot easier to find great stuff in more expensive stores.

Those who had already "arrived", as it were, practiced a careful, elegant pretense of ignoring the whole idea of class.

I think this is mainly a privilege. If you've arrived, you can afford to pretend that class doesn't exist.

But it is also a requirement. It's a lot touchier for a "classy" person to talk about class and the chances of inspiring ire and resentment far greater.

Bianca

...it's possible to balance an intense pride in Armenian heritage with an equally intense contempt for how women from her backgound naturally look.

This rings true to my half-Mexican self. And I'm sure it would resonate even more with one of my best friends; she is Korean and experiences an enormous amount of pressure from family to "fix" (read: Anglify) her eyes and nose through surgery... while retaining an intense pride in Korean culture.

Your last comment makes me think of a great quote from the Importance of Being Earnest: "Never speak ill of society. Only those who can't get into it do that."

Lynn Gazis-Sax

As she herself remarked (her words not mine), "My people are known for being particularly hairy!"

I've sometimes wondered whether this might be true for Greeks as well, and that's why hairless seems so troublesome to me. Much easier to wear long pants and avoid sleeveless shirts.

Minor quibble, but I think it is possible to look expensively dressed without actually being so, if one chooses well.

Dress for Success advises going window shopping at the expensive stores, and making note of the styles there, then going to the stores you can afford to buy something that looks similar to the clothes you can't afford. Not that I have the shopping stamina to actually do this.

Arwen

Happy; As someone who knows very well the shoes from Payless, that being my major source of footwear, I agree that they can look nice... for awhile, that is.
I'm not so dirt poor anymore, but I'm only a few years away from it. I mainly wore the same pair of shoes (parade boots, $35.00 at army surplus in '93) for 5 years (they stiffened and crumbled in '98), and I worked on my feet. I splurged and went from there to Docs, which lasted another 3 years.

Pretty shoes from Payless have a higher replacement need than that! Anyway, you can (and I do/did) buy prettier shoes at Payless, but they still weren't an everyday thing for reasons of the type of work I was doing; and if they were an everyday thing they'd need to be replaced often. Usually they'll last 6 months or so as an everyday or often shoe.

The best choice for truly poor and looking for quality is to haunt the Sally Anns in richer neighbourhoods. I got a nice pair of dress-up shoes, unworn, for about $3.00. (Still not femme shoes: but blue suede with a chunky heel.) But there is a time cost to regularly showing up, which is harder for women with families; and you do have to have either extraordinarily good feet that don't get messed up by other people's wear patterns, or you have to wait for the unworn discards.

Anyway, the budgets of the working poor don't have a bunch of room in them. For example, while I was a child in the early 80s, my mother had $10 with which to "do" Christmas. She got shoes every 2 or 3 years. I remember when she got Reeboks, after she started a teaching position. She was thrilled; they were an EVENT, those shoes. We talked about them daily for a good two weeks. ("Hey, mom, how are your feet today?")

So I suppose I'm saying I agree a medium-poor person (a minimum wage worker without kids, say, and a few roommates and no major health problems) will probably able to afford to buy an outfit or two that allows her to "pass" to middle class dressup, but she cannot necessarily afford those outfits for everyday, and her replacement rate for wardrobe malfunction will be much lower than the monied. Which is why I suggest a lower class woman in dressup clothes is expressing power in the moment; that femme has an additional meaning of being off the clock. That's a huge deal.

Having never owned $400 heels, nor done retail in them, I cannot speak to their fall-to-pieces rate.

As someone who has been poor most of my life, I don't want to paint the picture that it's all misery and strife or anything. You make do and find joy. I am exceedingly privileged in that my mom used to make a lot of our clothing and toys and treats, and I wouldn't say I ever felt deprived.

Arwen

I should also note that poor people seem to tell the difference between Payless and "good" shoes. I've always given money to homeless people, but all the poorer people I know who do/did this (and there were lots of us, that being my social group), give based on a couple of factors including age, gender, and *wardrobe check*. My roommates and friends didn't generally give a buck to the kid who's wearing $300 worth of clothes, no matter how dirty - because, unfortunately, we have known monied kids who like to dress punk and stick a hat out. That's not fair. The dirt would confuse the people who had money of their own, though.

zuzu

Folks seemed to take special issue with Jill because it's clear that she comes closer than virtually any other feminist blogger to a particular middle-class, white ideal for feminine attractiveness. Unlike her co-bloggers, she does post pictures of herself (in a Flickr account).

Jill and I were IMing about this during the whole kerfuffle. I feel like I get a pass on a lot of this stuff because not only do people not really know what I look like, but I'm fat and I'm older than Jill. I'm not so enviable in that way. Hell, I had an entire thread on pubic-hair removal, and another on pubic-hair dyeing, and nobody got disillusioned with me or told me I couldn't be a feminist anymore.

And, no, I don't put my photo on the site. Except for one, where I was wearing a dust mask and a hard hat, and by God, I STILL got comments about my appearance.

Arwen

BTW: I should be very clear I'm not femme bashing. I'm merely interested in situating our understanding of the "empowerful" critique more holistically. Since I'm white, my experience only personally intersects with class: but due to my friendships and community, I know the femme icon also has differently situated meaning for some people of colour, some of which you're here addressing.

The Happy Feminist

Arwen, I hear you. I get annoyed at magazine articles that tell you how to look super-expensive at lower rates and the lower rates are STILL expensive.

I mainly wear shoes from Payless, and occasionally some more expensive shoes (although nothing anywhere near $400, probably $100 max, more like $50). I can personally attest that Payless dress shoes and more expensive dress shoes last about the same amount of time. I think what you're paying for with more expensive shoes is attractive design subtleties and materials that look better but aren't necessarily more durable. The difference is really subtle.

But either way, the main point is that dressing up is going to be expensive no matter what if you don't have the money to do it.

Sidenote-- I have read articles about how middle class professionals suffer financially because they have to invest more in wardrobe and drycleaning than say a plumber or a welder, or anyone who is able to make similar amounts of money but with less stringent wardrobe demands. It sounds like a small thing but it can add up.

Arwen

I'd totally agree, Happy. I switched from barista-ing to reception at one point, and looking "professional" ate all my wage advance plus some. Plus, I suffered higher harrassment.

Now that I'm a programmer, I'm expected to dress in clothing that covers my body, and that's about it. It's a good place to enter the middle class. *g*! Gap Casual - which can be thrift store casual or Old Navy casual. To me, it's very interesting how programming/IT situates itself; there's a working class ethic at play, it seems, like we're dressing to be seen as mechanics, only in stainable khakis. I've wondered whether this is intended to be ironic, or whether a belt full of new tech is instead the signifier, with clothing being too "mundane" for expression. Every once and awhile, someone busts out the old school punk; I've seen kilts. Very interesting.

mythago

It's really not a working-class ethic so much as a "we're too hip to dress up" ethic.

Arwen

Yah, I suppose that's right, mythago. A "too hip" to dress like "the man".
I wonder also if, now that programming isn't a mystical thing that no one but a few do, whether dressing up will become more common.

K

Yeah, programmers are "too hip to dress up." In the same way that I'm "too personable, too good-looking, and too rich to have a girlfriend."

Most programmers I know fit into either the working-class ethic or, more commonly, the Asperger's ethic.

(I almost double-majored in Computer Science and work in a closely related field, so I'm pretty much self-shaming here)

N2

A $400 pair of heels often look like a $400 pair of heels; the make-up at an upscale department store is generally better than the Maybelline one buys at the corner drug store.

"Minor quibble, but I think it is possible to look expensively dressed without actually being so, if one chooses well. A pair of shoes from Payless can go a long way if they are the right shoes. But it tends to be a lot easier to find great stuff in more expensive stores."- Happy Feminist

This is true, but only if you belong to that particular class anyway and therefore know how to create the same look with less.

mythago

I can personally attest that Payless dress shoes and more expensive dress shoes last about the same amount of time.

YMMV. This hasn't been my experience at all, unless you're getting a Payless brand that is really the exact same thing as a designer brand, just with the labels changed. (A shoe maven friend informs me that some 'designer' shoe companies do this.)

Lya Kahlo

Sorry for the off topic-ness. However, I need to ask a question - what does MRA standfor? Does it in any way describe the misogynists, liars and cowards you seem a lot of posts from?

Jas

Mens rights activists, a kind of a revolt against the horrible achievements of feminism (that's an unbiased definition, btw) ;)

Lee

When I talk at length about the fact that I work out anywhere from 15-24 hours per week (including private Pilates and boxing lessons) that sends a stark, even grating message about privilege. My increasingly lean and toned flesh is a testament to my physical work ethic, sure -- but it's also a testament to discretionary time and discretionary income, both of which are associated with tremendous amounts of privilege.

It's a testament to hard work, not priviledge.

Almost everyone makes their lives for themselves. Very few start out in life set. Gates didn't start out a billionaire, my family didn't pay for the schooling that taught me how to run a company, and your accomplishments have to do with YOU, not priviledge.

Discretionary time comes from not watching TV and working out for those 15+ hours per week; it comes from hitting the books, making sound judgements, and good decisions. It comes from going to college and committing to it, rather than taking a gap year that turns into a career at Del Taco. It comes from not hanging out with stoners and druggis, as compared to doing drugs, watching tv all day, and not reading books.

One can sit home and watch TV during the weekend, or spend 6 hours climbing a mountain, and the willingness to do so has to do with character, hard work and the willingness to do what it takes.

Hiking is cheap. Gas and sneakers and a second hand bookbag will get you what you need to hike in the Sierras for a day. Running is cheap. $30 shoes at WalMart, and you run. Easy. The 'Y' is $44/month, cheaper than cable.

It's all about choices, and anyone can chose.

Used to be being poor didn't mean holding someone to a different standard. They wore a tattered suit and hat, only had one, but they wore it. They endeavored to be civil, and expected high things of themselves.

Now we give the poor a pass, because they aren't 'priviledged'.

What is it about them that we are willing to hold them to a different, lower standard than ourselves who allegedly have 'priviledge'?

zuzu

When we have fights about waxing for example, are we assuming that all women can afford waxing, that waxing is expected of all women in the same way, and that waxing has the same significance for all women?

We could just be engaged in a stupid argument that focuses on waxing rather than the pressure to beautify.

mythago

It's a testament to hard work, not priviledge

Privilege is a substitute for an awful lot of hard work, and covers for an awful lot of bad luck.

Privilege includes things like having the free time to hike, instead of taking a second job to make ends meet; being able to take a 'gap year' in college instead of cramming as much as you can in while you can afford it...oh, and pretending that if your clothes are tattered, you will be treated with just as much dignity as somebody whose clothes came new from Neiman-Marcus.

anonymous for the sake of my career

Lee, while Bill Gates is admittedly very smart and very, very rich, he owes a lot of his success to his parents' connections and to a massive blunder by IBM.

Antigone

And running means that you are physically capable of doing so, which isn't that easy if you suffer from chronic back pain from hideous jobs.

Lee

It's a testament to hard work, not privilege
Privilege is a substitute for an awful lot of hard work, and covers for an awful lot of bad luck.

Amazingly, the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Privilege includes things like having the free time to hike,

Which I have because of sound choices and hard work, no debt and a commitment to spare time. These qualities weren't handed to me - they were earned. Thus not a privilege.

Privilege:
A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste. b. Such an advantage, immunity, or right held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others.

Nothing I posted is of privilege, or was granted, or is a special advantage or exercised to the exclusion of others as others are free to do it as well.

instead of taking a second job to make ends meet;
Then I suggest they cut expenses and increase their value in the labor market.

oh, and pretending that if your clothes are tattered, you will be treated with just as much dignity as somebody whose clothes came new from Neiman-Marcus.
That's just a Red Herring, as I was posting of those who appear poor and are given
short shrift on expectations by The Left.

This is the irreconcilable clash between those whom see others with things, possessions, qualities they may not have and attributing those to unfair advantage, privilege and the like and those who see earned success. Usually what others have is earned, and viewing it as privilege makes it easier to take what they have (they didn't earn it, it was given to them, it's not fair...).

This is just the old envy based attitude of The Left, Socialists and the like.

Lee

Lee, while Bill Gates is admittedly very smart and very, very rich, he owes a lot of his success to his parents' connections and to a massive blunder by IBM.
Gates gave IBM a fair chance and originally passed on the first PC Disc Operating System. He referred them to another shop, they dropped the ball and came back to Gates.

Gates had the smarts to buy QDOS and get a completely unrestricted license for $50,000 in cash. IOW, he owned it and could do what he wished.

Gates then had the smarts, foresight and gumption to insist in the agreement with IBM that he could license DOS to other manufacturers and charge for it. This was IBM, in 1981, a Titan of American Business. What courage and foresight. Brilliant.

Gates outsmarted IBM!. That isn't anything but good decision making, good legal advice, and he has been rewarded for that, his mother's friendships with IBM boardmembers notwithstanding.

And running means that you are physically capable of doing so, which isn't that easy if you suffer from chronic back pain from hideous jobs.

Then do something else like Pilates, seated cycle upper body rows, or walking.

This is just more of the same attitude of:

"I can't. I am poor. I am tired. I work two jobs. I have a bad back. I cannot be expected to do those things the 'Privileged' do. So let's take their money via taxes!"

These excuses don't fly, and I speak from personal experience.

I have a bad back, I have had a heart attack, 4 years ago I was earning $500/month, and I have been homeless twice, sleeping in my car in the winter in Seattle with a leaky roof.

When I read such arguments as yours, my reaction is:

"So what?"

Stop making excuses, and stop being envious of those who do things and have things you don't.

Antigone

The harder you work, the more bad luck you may have. If you're working multiple jobs, you're not exactly going to have the oppurtunity to look for luck.

And how, pray tell, did you manage not to get into debt in the first place? I'd really like to see a person direct me to how I can pay 100,000 dollars worth of an education without going into debt. Doesn't matter what my summer job is, I'm not getting that kind of money.

Ah, the unquestioned privelege of the smugly self-righteous. I love how this "I just worked hard" attitude means that they don't have to change anything about themselves. They get to ignore people who didn't have their resources.

Jas

Admitting privilege--be it race, class, or gender--seems to be incredibly difficult for some people. Admitting that without vast amounts of privilege you would not have achieved what you have now is hard. By ignoring the way privilege operates in daily life, you are choosing to blind yourself to the reality that were you born in different circumstances, your hard work and perseverance alone would NOT have gotten you where you are today. It's ignorant to say that because a few individuals managed to crawl out of the (race, class, or gender) gutter, and be incredibly successful, that everyone ought to be able to. The bootstraps myth is pervasive, namely because of how conveniently it allows us to deny that our achievements weren't facilitated by our upbringing or position in society.

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