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The Expansionist
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Trans-Atlantic Conversation. A colleague in northern England engaged me in conversation about something I wrote some time ago.
XPUS@aol.com wrote in 2006:
YES, that is the effect of propaganda. Normal women love to look feminine. American- and other Western-style insistence that women should wear men's clothing is definitely Communist in origin — remember the Mao look of unisex drabness? This madness is part of what women in places like India reject about the West. They do not see the loss of their femininity as an advance for human rights but as a terrible attack upon women. They are right.
My assumption that feminine dress is a mark of oppression was based on the logic:

1. The vast majority of women wear trousers (pants) today, while they wore dresses and skirts in the 1950s
2. The '50s are regarded as a patriarchal time, while today's women are seen as more liberated
3. Therefore, it is clear that women prefer to wear trousers, and will do so unless forced by men to wear skirts or dresses

If you're right though (and are not falling prey to the "No True Scotsman" fallacy when writing of "normal women"), that implies that women today are less free than they were in the '50s. Would you agree with this statement, and if so, what do you think is responsible?

Barbara Ehrenreich suggested in her book The Hearts of Men that men, not women, were to blame for the end of traditional gender roles. The introduction of fast food, laundromats and household gadgets in the postwar era meant that for the first time, men could enjoy hot food and clean clothes without needing to support a wife. The bachelor lifestyle was strongly promoted by Playboy magazine, and led to new products targeted at this new category of consumer (such as the Ford Thunderbird, and later the pony cars of the '60s). In addition, there were the Beatniks (which later evolved into hippies), which rejected not only marriage, but also the work ethic.

Ehrenreich implied that with the economic security of the housewife thus shattered, women had no choice but to seek employment of their own. Perhaps the decline in feminine dress is because the workplace is a very hostile environment for the feminine woman?

Is femininity rejected because modest feminine dress suggests antiquated values and excessive religiosity, while immodest feminine dress makes its wearer a target for sexual harrassment?

Do you also think that some women dress in a drab, mannish manner because propaganda emanating from the dieting industry has made them too insecure about their bodies?

Any more thoughts?
I replied:
NO, men did not produce the masculinization / defeminization of women, and no, marriage has not vanished under the attacks of immature people. By far most people do marry at least once, and some marry time after time, not backing away despite bad — and costly — experiences. Gay men and lesbians now want in on marriage!
Women were lured into the workforce by a number of factors, not least being LESBIAN-feminist propaganda that a woman is fully as entitled to a "career" as a man, and that the traditional roles of women are just not satisfying. As I say, this was LESBIAN propaganda at a time when lesbians weren't eager to have kids of their own and become stay-at-home mommies themselves. Another key factor in pushing women into the workforce was the gradual diminution of men's pay, such that a typical family could no longer live on one income. I don't know how that happened, and why people didn't realize it was happening and fite it. Perhaps it was so gradual as to be imperceptible. Perhaps materialism got out of control, and people weren't content to live within their one-income means. Certainly the willful destruction of unions and introduction of low-cost competition thru globalization had something to do with it.
Suburbanization also had something to do with it, as did the related disappearance of the extended family. The nuclear family moved away from The Old Neighborhood and all the family supports they once had. A woman staying at home in the typical suburb would be totally isolated with the children, wholly responsible for their care, devoid of friends and family to provide adult company and help when they needed a break. Anomie set in for these uprooted people, and a job became socially appealing as a way to escape the grind and achieve adult companionship.
There are still lots of dresses being worn, at least in the United States. (Mostly by women.) Some women have "snapped out of it", and seen that a lot of the (lesbian-)feminist propaganda was just plain "sour-grapes" crap. Even lesbians have backed off, with the proliferation of sperm banks and normalization of artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, etc.
Many normal women have realized that the workplace is at least as much of a grind as the home, and their relationships on the job are transitory, superficial, and unsatisfying. The boss doesn't love them, and will fire them for any number of infractions. Few women really have a "career"; almost all just have a "job". And some have done calculations that when all the expenses of having a job are factored in (childcare, commuting, a larger wardrobe, dry-cleaning, lunch, collections and extorted sponsorship of "Walk for..." this and "Run for..." that, taxes, prepared foods because they can't take the time to cook from scratch, and on, and on), they might actually be adding only a pittance to the family's support. For that, they have to leave their children in the care of strangers, with all the risks that entails. I'm not just talking about child physical and even sexual abuse, but also about a child's becoming estranged from the parents and taking up values that the parents would not want them to embrace.
Unfortunately, things have gone so far out of whack that getting back to sanity is a long haul. Suburbs need to be altered or abandoned. Towns and cities need to be backfilled-in. Extended families need to be regrouped. People need to be able to walk to the store, library, school. Competition from China and other dreadfully poor places that undercuts wages needs to be dealt with. If more women withdraw from the labor market, labor supply-and-demand dynamics SHOULD produce a rise in incomes, but CAN'T if China/India/you-name-it replaces the domestic workforce at dirt-cheap wage rates. And, of course, the drone of Radical Feminist propaganda has to be stilled or countered effectively. As I have said, original feminism strove to make "women's work" legitimate and appreciated equally with "men's work". Lesbian-influenced Radical Feminism, to the contrary, concedes that only men's work has value, then tells women they have to take up men's work, men's attitudes, men's clothes, men's haircuts, etc. Not all young women and teenage girls have yet seen thru that nonsense.
The workplace really is not hostile to feminine attire, just to provocative attire. Women in some industries, such as law, tend to wear feminine things, and many companies have dress codes that forbid the more mannish types of attire, as well as décolleté or skin-tite outfits that might produce sexual tension in the office. But sexual "harassment" happens even with the most unisex attire — there are, after all, a lot of pregnancies in the military (despite a self-selection in favor of lesbianism there).
As for the relative frequency of dresses vs. pants, I just reviewed pix in one of my Newark blog's posts that shows the attire of people in a typical art event here (http://newarkusa.blogspot.com/2009/04/1-among-first-artworks-i-saw-on.html), and there are lots of dresses/skirts on these young women. Pants too, but not so many as one might expect after 40 years of Radical Feminism.

[As for the influence of concerns about being fat] Certainly there is some of that, but there is the countervailing propaganda of "big is beautiful", "plus-size models", and "see me, not my weight". Long before there was a substantial diet industry, women wanted to look good = thin. I don't know how long ago the comic's line about women, "Does this make me look fat?", became commonplace, since I'm not heterosexual, but I suspect it has been a long time since the fat babes of Michelangelo's time were in vogue. Remember the waspwaist achieved by corsets? On a recent guided tour of part of the Newark Museum, the guide said that sometimes the corsets were so tite that the dresses had to be sewn shut, and the seams opened to let the woman out!

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