Dressed to impress

Dressed to impress

Each person’s face and body is the canvas on which they paint their identities, aspirations, memberships and non- memberships of different groups which are based on age, sex, gender, religion, economic status, class, ethnicity, culture etcetera.

The London street scene is perhaps one of the richest collections of canvases in the world? We have Chavs, WAGs(Wives & Girlfriends of Footballers), Goths, Hoodies, City Gents, City Bonus Boys (a dying breed), Boy Scouts, Barbour Wearers, Guardian Readers, Yummy Mummies, Sloanes, Saudis, Scots, Russians, Toffs and many other species all clearly wearing their badges on their sleeves.

Even those who try to resist dressing to type have to assume some kind of non-conformist uniform…. anonymous anoraks, non-designer jeans, and un-named trainers perhaps for both sexes?

Sometimes we get our badges wrong either accidentally or deliberately; ’Mutton dressed as lamb’…’She’s no spring chicken’….. are some of the derisive remarks reserved for a woman dressing younger than her actual age.

And the travel blogosphere is full of stories of innocent Western males being taken in by Thai or Indonesian ‘lady- boys’…. (’I thought she were a woman, mate, honest I did’).

In England we have a strong tradition of theatrical cross- dressing particularly at the Christmas pantomime season. Why is it that a man dressed as a woman (think Widow Twankey in the pantomime Aladdin; think Edna Everidge anytime) is inherently risible whereas a woman in men’s clothes (Marlene Dietrich, Vita Sackville-West, Annie Hall, the pantomime Principal Boy who is always a girl) has a louche kind of glamour? Gender literacy for everyone

Feminist scholars and commentators have written extensively about the ways in which ‘patriarchal’ Big Business with the Media as its hand-maiden have created what Betty Friedan has called the Feminine Mystique in her book of the same name. The Feminine Mystique instills in women the belief that their roles as wives and mothers, and the acquisition of consumer goods which support those roles represent the highest possible good. Those same male-dominated commercial forces are blamed for the pressures placed on women to look a certain way in order to be recognized as an acceptable female.

Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Mythand elsewhere has made the case that although improved education for women has made accessible some career run

Leave a Reply