Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Feminist Babysitting

messy updo for short hair, green floral dress with cropped trumpet sleeves

I love this dress, which I found at a thrift store last summer. The exact same style (in a different fabric) popped up when I was browsing racks of vintage in Portland. I regret not buying it, because the shape is beautiful. If I remember correctly, I was deterred by a $15 price tag. So sue me, I'm cheap!

The dress is loose, but it hangs well, flaring out at the shoulders--dramatic in a Swan Princess kind of way--then cutting in toward my waist and skimming back out over my hips. The defined waist helps me feel confidently feminine. Like most women, I'm self-conscious about my figure and the ways in which it doesn't conform to society's ideal. It would take a really crazy bra to make me an hourglass, but I emerged from puberty with a Marilyn-esque hip-to-waist ratio... if you'll excuse the self-serving exaggeration. Voluptuous sleeves broaden my shoulders, helping to balance my bottom-heavy body. I just wish that I didn't have to nudge myself toward an arbitrary, unattainable standard in order to feel properly pretty.

Lately I've been babysitting my neighbor's two rambunctious toddlers, the older of whom is a three-and-half-year-old girl. I try to be careful not to box her in with gender-based expectations. She loves fluffy dresses and pink is her favorite color, which I can relate to, but I don't want to limit how I engage with her. Something that's scary about hanging out with little kids is that they calibrate their perception of the world in part based on your reactions. My behavior affects her paradigm. I want to treat her as a young person who happens to like fashion and frills, not as a stereotyped girly-girl. I don't want to her to suffer from damaged self-esteem like every woman I know; I don't want her to feel defined by her appearance.

This little lady zooms around the dining room table on her trike with speed and enthusiasm that would put a Nascar racer to shame. She does it while wearing a tutu. That's an example worth following!

messy updo for short hair, green floral dress with cropped trumpet sleeves

All about that messy floral updo. The disarray was not intentional; I'm still figuring out how to handle short hair. I might need a million more bobby pins. But at least the back is long enough to fit in a clip!

white trumpet flowers, pink floral hair clip in blonde hair white trumpet flowers, pink lipstick, delicate gold necklace, floral green top messy updo for short hair, green floral dress with cropped trumpet sleeves

12 comments :

  1. Great words. So many people seem to believe that feminism = shunning all things traditionally feminine, which is laughably misogynistic. My feminism is about celebrating the feminine and the masculine (and anything in between) in equal measure. Good on you for not telling this girl, implicitly or otherwise, that her love of ostentation implies anything about her intelligence or worth.

    Regarding having to nudge yourself toward a particular standard - I do that too, but I see it more as a testament to all the different costumes I can inhabit. I like that I can wear a certain dress and feel like Marilyn, and then take it off and go back to being Skye. I think part of truly feeling comfortable in oneself is letting go of shame about sometimes wanting to look different.

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    1. Thank you for this thoughtful response, Skye! I love the way you approach feminism AND personal style. In particular, your last point is something that I need to work on.

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  2. It's really admirable that you put so much thought into the way you act with this little girl. I think a lot of people would write off the few hours they spend babysitting someone, but one example can really have a strong impression on a child, even if it is only for a few hours.
    And your short hair looks great! I love the twist :)

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    1. Yeah, I think of myself as part of the shifting matrix that will affect how she sees the world. And thank you! =)

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  3. Love the tutu clad Nascar driver image! Great post and you do indeed look very pretty in this outfit! The lesson, as you have outlined it, is that pretty and feminine do not also mean helpless and incompetent! Very true! xox

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  4. There is something particularly odd to me about fretting over whether you're subjecting a three and a half year old to gender stereotyping. I whole heartedly applaud healthy self-esteem building at any age.

    On an unrelated note, when you twist your hair back, insert the bobby pin inside the twist to hold it. Don't stick the bobby pin across the twist horizontally. You should find your hair will hold better this way. (hopefully) You do have such babyfine hair.

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    1. Haha, well, I just do a lot of fretting in general =P Thank you for the bobby pin tip! I'm a bobby pin novice. I only recently found out that I've been using them upside down =P

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  5. I agree with what Emma said - I think it's awesome that you actually care about these kids! It's great. :) My daughter is actually the same age as the little girl you mention, and without even pushing it on her at all, Lilah's favorite color is pink. She loves other colors, too. But she LOVES pink.

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    1. I don't blame her--pink is a sweet color! It's my favorite!

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  6. If I could do everything in life in a tutu, I would. Sadly, they don't really make lab-appropriate ones.
    (GET ON THAT, SOMEONE!). You're looking at a rogue who literally bought the biggest size in this skirt (http://www.energetiks.com.au/sparkle-tulle-skirt_1003512/), in hot pink ('mulberry') so she could wear it to her adult ballet class. :-D

    More on topic, I think you look lovely in these photos. I wouldn't feel bad about wanting to 'balance out' your hips with floaty sleeves - I think sometimes these things are more out of an innate human love for symmetry than a societal pressure. It's OK to want your apparent shoulder width to match your hip width sometimes, and to use a clothing trick to achieve thiat look. This blog is a testament to the fact that you look great both with and without symmetrical hipshoulders anyway. :-D

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    1. SERIOUSLY, lab appropriate tutus sounds awesome! The one you ordered is also awesomes. And thank you, Syl <3 I appreciate the comforting alternate perspective.

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