Monday, 2 July 2012

Vintage Feminism

Something which I have been thinking more of lately, in the past year or so, is feminism and that’s down mainly to Caitlin Moran and her wonderful book How to Be a Woman. I’ve read many girly guides to life in the past and many contain a wealth of knowledge of how to apply nail varnish, what your handbag essentials should be and how to choose a hat for Ascot. I have to say none of the information has stuck. I still apply nail varnish like I did when I was 13, the essential items in my handbag appear to be used tissues and old receipts, and I don’t wear that many hats let alone feel the need to wear one to gamble in (I don’t gamble either). When I read How to Be a Woman I chose it because I liked the cover, because yes I really do judge a book in that way. Caitlin Moran looked cool and my 13 year old self informed me to idolise this woman on the basis that she has a silver streak in her hair (I wanted one when I was 13) and no more information than that.

Strident Feminist or 50's Housewife.
Is it possible for a woman to be both?

I read the book while on holiday in Italy and then passed the book on to my mum to read. When I got home I gave it my boyfriend, because I knew he would enjoy things such as “bum-gina”, he then lent it to his mum, she also appreciated the “bum-gina” joke. After that I got on a chair, or my bed, and declared myself to be a strident feminist. I then got off the bed and watched my other idol, Lola Lamour, on Time Warp Wives which if you haven’t seen it is about modern women living vintage lifestyles 24/7 including being housewives.
The juxtaposition is still something that jibes me and I haven’t made peace with the fact that I have these two very opposed influences in my life. Looking around the internet at the blogs and tweets of other vintage ladies I feel they too live with these opposing forces. Many of the women on there are also very feminist and yet also dress in full vintage outfits; it seems the two even go hand in hand.

For me personally vintage is about standing out from the crowd and seriously refusing to go with the mainstream flow. I take pride in walking down our high street and looking not a jot like anyone else; I imagine it’s the same for many other people who wear vintage. It’s that stubborn quality which I feel links so well to feminism and could possibly be why it works so well with vintage. I’m refusing to conform to many things when I wear vintage and that doesn’t just extend to shopping in Topshop, etc.

I could be wrong, who knows! This is just how I feel about it; let me know what you think.


Jessica Devonport said...

In some respects, I think feminism could be seen as a refusal to conform: not conforming to binary gender roles, workplace inequalities etc. But more than this I think feminism is not just a set of rules and behaviours on how to SMASH THE PATRIARCHY, it's an interaction. It's a two-way conversation about acceptance and equality, behviour, attitudes, etc.

This is why the vintage periods you descibe cannot align to feminism. There is no interaction between the present and the values the time period represents. You asked in the caption to your question if you could be a strident feminist and a '50s housewife, I don't think so. You need to remember the distinction between emulating the lifestyle and the fashion. Dressing in a vintage style and a feminist are not mutually exclusive at all, but that your values will be at odds with the values of the '50s.

Great post my dear.

Miss Rosie Beau said...

If the Patriarchy tells me to behave one way, and the Matriarchy another, at what point do I actually get to behave like me?