Tag Archives: feminism

Burda 04/2016 Dress #122: Sheath Dress? and something stuck to the bottom of my shoe

The website says this is meant for jerseys and knits; the magazines says “dress fabrics with or without elastane,” which I take to mean wovens. As I went shopping for fabrics with my phone and not the magazine, I bought a poly jersey, and only figured out that might not have been what they had in mind when it came time to install the zipper–which, as it’s jersey, I skipped with no issues.

At any rate:

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It’s cute, eh?

It was a bit bigger than it should have been, but that might have been the fabric choice. I’d have to make it up again in a proper woven to see how that affects the fit. The neckline is a bit wobbly–I’m not a fan but I see it on the sample photo so my guess is that was intentional. I’d take it out next time though, and probably change it to a deeper scoop.

What the fuck did I step in? Also, The Side
What the fuck did I step in? Also, The Side

Alterations are challenging given the way it’s put together, but I made what I think are my standard alterations.

JFC I just can't get it off! And, The Back.
JFC I just can’t get it off! And, The Back.

The pattern goes together well and it is an interesting and well-thought-out design. The gore is a nice, very swishy touch; but it does alter the line somewhat from a sheath dress in my opinion.

 

Maybe I'll just burn the black shoes ... That's better. Side note: Wearing this exact outfit to work one day about a month ago, walking to my car afterwards, a man was kind enough to tell me that I looked like a god-damned whore. I love humanity.
Maybe I’ll just burn the black shoes … That’s better.
Side note: Wearing this exact outfit to work one day about a month ago, walking to my car afterwards, a man was kind enough to tell me that I looked like a god-damned whore. I love humanity.

A Conversation:

Me: When I told him I wasn’t going to see him again he said “you will always continue to know me.” I thought that was pretty ominous so I told him not to contact me again. He was traveling a lot this summer and I thought that by the time he came back things would have blown over, but instead it was escalating. Just before I went on vacation, for example, a group of us went dancing. He grabbed me and started dancing without asking and, when he saw I was looking pretty miserable (seeing as I was feeling pretty miserable), he said, “It wouldn’t cost you a lot of money to smile, you know.” Then the next day at a dancing class he was there and he got … gropey when it was my turn to dance with him, then afterwards he was telling all kinds of insulting jokes and saying awful things about women to try to provoke me into reacting. I don’t even think he wants to date me, not really. I think he’s just punishing me for saying no.

H: It could be both, really.

Me: I guess … Then a few days later there was another class and he was there again and he was gropey again, and afterwards he was just following me around trying to bully me into a conversation. I’d ignore him and walk away and he’d just follow me around. He wouldn’t stop. So I got fed up and left and he followed me into the parking lot and stood knocking on my driver’s side door while I started up the car and drove away.

H: Are you going to call the police?

Me: I will if I have to. I’m not planning on it yet. I’ve gone through things like this before and in my experience the police are pretty useless. They won’t do anything, they won’t even take a report, until after he’s basically punched you in the face. So, probably not. And besides, they’d only tell me to stop dancing.

H: That’s upsetting.

Me: It is. It’s really very unhelpful. It’s kind of a crap world to be a woman in, isn’t it?

H: Have you thought about getting a gun?

Me: [laughing]

H: Well–I’m South African, so I have different experiences with guns than you do, but I’m not kidding.

Me: Oh. Um, no, I don’t think I’m going to get a gun. I don’t–I’ve told a bunch of people about what’s going on and they’re helping me to enforce some boundaries and distance. I’m going to see how that works out before I–but I’m not going to get a gun.

H: It’s something to think about.

Me: Uh… I mean. I have gone through this before. Eventually they do leave you alone. Like in about six months. They get bored and stop. You just have to not interact, not react, not engage, at all. It’s just getting to that point is a huge pain in the ass.

H: Are you afraid?

Me: … Somewhat. It’s the escalation. But we’ll see in a few weeks, what’s going on then. I wish I had a better radar for this kind of thing. It’s just ridiculous that this keeps happening. I have to be doing something or …. One of the women in my dancing class was telling me that she’s seen him doing this thing when we go out for dinner, where he’ll just pester whatever woman is sitting closest to him to eat a french fry. And she can say no a dozen times and he’ll just keep pushing. He tried it on her once and she just kept saying no, and she said it took him five minutes or so to stop asking. Stupidly of course he tried it on me and I ate the damned french fry. But it seemed like such a small thing so I didn’t even think of it, except that’s probably how he figured out I’d be his next target. And I can’t even say that if someone else tried something like that, that I wouldn’t fall for it again.

H: Yeah, I don’t know either.


Predators do indeed test or “groom” their victims. They intentionally violate boundaries in small ways and wait to see your reaction. Then they up the ante. An example of this could be as simple as insisting on eating pizza on a date if you have expressed not liking it.


The art of “no.”

Let’s pause briefly for some Basic Important Safety Stuff:  “No” is a complete sentence.  If you say “no,” and the other person keeps talking and trying to convince you to go along with whatever it is they want, do what you can to extract yourself from the situation. This person is trying to manipulate you, and you don’t have to let yourself be manipulated.  And if you hear a “no” from someone, the correct response is to back off immediately.  No insults, no whining, no pressure.  Just say “Okay, sorry to hear it” and move away.


 

In real life, being overly persistent is not romantic. It is called harassment. Sure, sometimes a little persistence is necessary to win someone over, but incessant badgering to the point of making a girl uncomfortable is not going to get you anywhere. If a girl smiles politely and says, “That’s very kind, but no thank you,” she is not playing hard to get. She does not want you to “get” her. She is simply not interested.

Perhaps the worst part about persistence is when a guy realizes his defeat, refuses to accept it, and still subjugates a girl to unwanted attention. Let me make this clear: if we reject you, WE. DO. NOT. WANT. TO. HUG. YOU. Don’t try to play the good guy. Don’t act all sweet or ask us to press our bodies against yours. Not only is it humiliating and extremely uncomfortable, but it makes us look like heartless bitches if we say no. We do not want to give you a hug.

V8997 NO BOYS ALLOWED

I made a thing.

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Yet another make of V8997–this one colour-blocked, per the advice of FaceBook. And pegged a bit at the bottom, which would have helped the other one a lot, too.

Dear Readers–

I wish I could say the return to garment sewing was a triumphant and unvarnished success.

I guess I could say that, but it would be a lie.

The truth is, I made so many mistakes cutting out the pieces, I have enough cut pieces to make a second dress. It wouldn’t fit, nor would it cover my bra straps, but it would be a complete garment.

Continue reading V8997 NO BOYS ALLOWED

Not too tired to pontificate, thank god

Today I am walking into walls. Apparently I have lost the ability to manage a straight line. But why should this stop me from soliloquising about internet matters? No reason at all.

To that end:

I coincidentally came across two articles about when and how much to care about what other people think.

Dani Shapiro wrote “What do you do when the internet hates you?” for the May edition of Elle magazine (I read it originally in print where it had a different title, but I’m tired and I forget; forgive me). And then Emma Gray wrote “In praise of women who give all the fucks” for the Huffington Post. (She asterisked her title, but I can swear on my own blog if I want to.)

Says Dani: Care less. Says Emma: Care more. This would of course not be the first time that women receive contradictory advice on how to be properly feminine from the Professional Womanification Guild. Actually, if we got consistent advice, they’d probably go out of business. But anyway:

“I’d hear from my agent that they were going in a different direction. Someone taller. Or they wanted a redhead. Or whatever. All I ever heard, thrumming beneath the ostensible reasons, was that I wasn’t good enough, or talented enough—not even to smile fetchingly and hold up a can of soda. Look,they just didn’t find you appealing, my agent once told me. I lived in a debilitating state of chronic insecurity, which I dealt with by exercising more, starving myself further, and making myself blonder. I was operating under the dangerous delusion that if only I could burnish myself into some sort of perfection, I’d be chosen. Truth be told, I was a lousy actress. I was self-conscious, tongue-tied, prone to blushing and stammering in front of the camera. It would have been merciful for someone to take me by the hand and tell it to me straight, put me out of my misery. I was careening down the wrong path, trying with all my might to squeeze myself into somebody else’s life.

“…It may sound quaint now, but in those days you’d actually have to go to a newsstand to pick up a magazine or newspaper. I was living in New York City, and I would haunt the newsstand on the corner of 82nd Street and Broadway, because that vendor got his shipment first. There were lovely surprises, like opening up the new Vogue to see a glowing review of my book written by a heroine of mine. But the negative attention was swift and vicious. The word bimbo was used as a caption beneath my photo in the New York Observer. A male writer I admired wrote a highly personal character assassination of me in New York magazine—I’d quote it for you, but I didn’t keep a copy (and I can’t find it online, I swear). I cried for three days in my apartment. Once again I felt I was being judged not for what I wrote, but for who I was. My life, reviewed.

“Of course, you might say I asked for it. To be a writer—to do anything that involves putting oneself out there—is to invite criticism. And if you write about personal stuff, well, what do you expect?

“…It seems to me that when we inhabit ourselves— when we say, This is who I am in all my flawed humanity—we are taking a step toward being most real. And when we buy into the opinions of perfect strangers whose feelings about us may be based on random data ranging from something they read to what we’re wearing and even to their own projections, we are being assaulted and governed by the unreal. As I’ve written this essay, I haven’t once thought about how it will be received in the world. If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to write it—I’m revealing quite a lot about myself, some of it is quite painful and unflattering. But as I come to the end, now I can imagine some possible reactions: Humblebrag…Who the hell does she think she is?…How dare she dismiss all those online reviews just because she doesn’t like them? The ugly comments from the past may even be flung back at me. You are a spoiled, pretentious crybaby. But that’s okay. I’m no longer dancing for the shadows. I’m just a shot of whiskey—not for everybody.

“And so I close the door. I write these words. I don’t click over to Google to see what people think. In the silence—in the absence of all those voices—here is where I discover who I am.”

I’ve quoted a fair bit of Dani here, and my apologies for that. But she makes an interesting point and she makes it well, in my opinion. The public criticism is of course painful and she’d rather have praise. But ultimately she recognizes that these people are allowed to dislike her and allowed to say so. That said, she’s decided to carry on being herself and doing what she does anyway.

People don’t like you? Dani says, don’t give a fuck! Fuck them fuckers. They don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. Or even if they do, so the fuck what? You don’t have to be something they like.

(And flip side: they don’t have to like you. It’s allowed.)

Whereas Emma argues that we have reached, in a memorable phrase, “peak lack of fucks given,” perhaps to our detriment.

“But it also can be deeply exhausting pretending not to give a fuck about everything — and at times, it may prevent us from fully embracing the fucks we do need to give. The simple fact remains: to affect real change, and feel anything deeply, you probably need to give quite a few fucks.

“…We might be closer to embracing “strong women,” but we also want those “strong women” to have an uncanny ability to “let it go.” Express messy emotion? Probably don’t. Show just how hard you try? Ditto.

“…Since when did caring the least about everything — or at least convincingly pretending to — become the most attractive quality a woman could possess? The only way you’re going to be able to rise above and give fewer fucks about the bullshit is if you actually give a fuck about something else.”

I think the two of them managed to say the same thing after all:

Decide what you do give a fuck about, and then don’t give a fuck about anything else. Dani gives a fuck about finding out who she is, being real, being herself, and writing. As a result she doesn’t modify her writing to appease her critics, because that would interfere with the more important goals of self-discovery and authenticity. Emma valorizes Amy Schumer, who has similarly decided to be bravely and authentically herself in public, and not allow the voices of others to detract from her self-confidence.

I can attest to this method. It works.

It’s also relevant that both Dani and Emma and the women they discuss have editors. Their work is not immune to professional criticism. They have gatekeepers who criticize their work, who have standards, and who can at least somewhat impose those standards on the work. In that sense, they haven’t decided not to care about what anyone else thinks; they’ve just decided to care about what a limited number of people in certain contexts think. If they didn’t, it’s unlikely that they would have achieved the professional success that they have.

These articles highlight something else that’s interesting and, to me, overlooked:

“Not giving a fuck” doesn’t mean “not disliking.” It’s an active, mental decision not to engage with something rather than a passive lack of emotion about whatever has gone on.

Dani is quite honest about disliking those negative reviews. Amy, in Emma’s piece, was very open about the dark place that criticism used to take her. Both of them are actively choosing not to engage rather than just not feeling any discomfort or unhappiness about the criticism. This also rings true for me: it’s not that I enjoy being disliked or criticized (or when a few hundred people at a public event start shouting that I should be fired, for instance). It’s not that I’m emotionally neutral on it, either. It’s that I’ve made an active choice about what I’m going to prioritize, and if something isn’t on that list, then whether or not I like it is irrelevant and I’m going to keep going.

Seen that way, “I don’t give a fuck” isn’t a statement about feelings but about values. And it is–I think this is overlooked too–a statement that contains with in it an implicit valuation of what other people want us to feel and care about. One doesn’t say, out of nowhere, “I don’t give a fuck about air mattresses,” for example, and if one ever did, it would immediately invite speculation about who exactly does give a fuck about air mattresses, and why. Whereas if I were to say “I don’t give a fuck about public transit” (a statement which I hasten to add is not true), it immediately brings to mind an entire debate about whether or not public transit is important, to whom, why, and possible positions.

Not Giving a Fuck is what happens when you’ve decided what you DO Give a Fuck about, when someone disapproves of your choices, makes you aware of that disapproval, and when you–regardless of how you feel about that disapproval–decided to carry on in the face of that disapproval. 

So to sum up, here’s How Not to Give a Fuck about Things That Are Not Worth Giving a Fuck About:

  1. Decide what it is you are going to give a fuck about. You can’t get around this step. What do you love, what do you care about, what are you willing to go to the mat for?
  2. When disapproval surfaces of something you have said, done, or made (or conversely, not said, not done, not made), re-evaluate: is there something going on here that should have been part of your Give A Fuck List? If yes, add it, care, and behave that way. If no:
  3. Keeping saying/not saying, doing/not doing, making/not making, what you were before. Go ahead and feel all the messy and uncomfortable feelings that come along with disapproval. One day they may lessen or go away, and maybe not. This is called “courage.” One does not get to the pinnacle of No Fucks to Give without quite a lot of it.

In the meantime, you have your work to do. You know what it is. Do it.

How To Be 40: The first in an ongoing (and sporadic) series.

Dear Readers, I have an apology to make.

It’s recently come to my attention that I have not turned 40 properly.

Nor, apparently, was I able to conduct my 30s appropriately.

I recently bought a copy of Harper’s Bazaar for potential sewing inspiration. I don’t know why I do this. I will never have time to make all of the things I rip out of magazines every month. But there I was, with a copy of Harper’s Bazaar, and a true Come to Jesus moment.

Can you ever forgive me?

I’ve been wearing the wrong colours all along!

I guess I just didn't quite manage Fabulous.
I guess I just didn’t quite manage Fabulous.

Apparently I was meant to be wearing pink throughout my thirties. I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised. Isn’t pink often criticized as being too girly and therefore infantalizing (leaving aside all of the sexism implicit in those statements) for adult women in the workforce? Still, there it is, in black and white (and pink): In your thirties? Wear Pink!

And I didn’t. I just … didn’t! I didn’t know! Ignorance is no excuse, of course. I should have known. All these months I have been inflicting images of my thirties-self in non-pink clothing. How did you stand it?

Now that I’m 40, apparently I’m supposed to be wearing red.harpers bazaar 40s 50s

The good news is, I already have a lot of red.

The bad news is, I’ve been wearing all that red throughout the time I was meant to be wearing pink. Thank goodness I am well prepared to be 40, and now that I know, I can be sure to emphasize red in my wardrobe for the next ten years (or until the next issue comes out).

But oh god, there’s worse news: I also wear a lot of yellow. And I’m not supposed to be wearing that until I turn 50!

Do you suppose if, by wearing yellow and pink together in this outfit, they can average out to appropriate for 40? Or do I make my top half look 50 and my bottom half look 30?
Do you suppose if, by wearing yellow and pink together in this outfit, they can average out to appropriate for 40? Or do I make my top half look 50 and my bottom half look 30?

I’m so grateful to this magazine for pointing out the ways in which I have failed to choose age-appropriate colours in which to clothe myself. In an effort to make up for this gross oversight, I will continue to share with you the advice I receive from diverse sources about the proper attire for women depending on their age. Fortunately, women’s magazines seem to be full of opinions about how best to disguise our increasing decrepitude and how to prevent ourselves from strangers being forced to witness women older than 22. It’s a public service, really.

For instance, Harper’s Bazaar also informed me that I should now be aiming to look sun-kissed (but I’m pale. Can’t I just be pale? I look like a clown when I’m sun-kissed. But maybe there’s a $100 bronzer that will be light and translucent and also red enough to look like I actually do when I’ve spent a day in the sun), only use mascara on my upper lashes, and that I have 20 years to figure out how to camouflage my jowly bits by covering them with a super-dark sculpting bronzer. Thank goodness!

harpers bazaar makeup age

I, for one, welcome our media overlords. It’s a good thing they’re here to tell us women what to do.

an experiment on the aesthetics of sewing blogs

Me, crocheting.
Me, crocheting. In a handmade shirt.

This is long, so here’s a summary: I’m going to stop trying for pretty blog pictures, and start trying for interesting blog pictures. What do you think?

I’m a forever-blogger. I’ve been blogging since the ancient days of Moveable Type. (You can form whatever opinion about me you’d like on the basis of that revelation.) But I’m a very new sewing blogger.

In my limited participation in sewing blogs, I’ve noticed that there’s a very definite template for the widely read ones:

  1. Choose a flattering, cute project. Better if it’s a recent indie release and you can tie your post into the blog tour. Cute trumps practicality.
  2. Sew it up in a cute fabric, maybe even a cute new designer fabric that was just released. (Or one from Mood, and be sure to mention that it’s since sold out.)
  3. Take 3,000 pictures. Not because you’re going to use all of them, but because you want a few that show both the project and you to good advantage. Practice standing at an awkward 3/4 view with your head tilted at an appealing angle, smiling authentically, and for the love of god do your makeup.
  4. Add as many of those pictures to your blog post as you can stand. Touch them up if you have to. While three is considered a minimum (back view, front view, side view), you can go up to about thirty before anyone will publicly give you the stink-eye. If you’re young and cute and you know it, load ’em up!

There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it’s kind of … well …

I spend a good deal of my non-sewing time thinking and talking about the ways women are expected to behave and present themselves in this world, and the constant expectation that no matter what else a woman does or is, nothing is as important as whether or not she looks good doing it.

Is she young and pretty and curvy but not fat? Is she smiling and does she look pleasant? You could be curing cancer and simultaneously writing a future Nobel-prize-winning novel, but if you don’t have good hair and the right lipstick, forgettaboutit. You can be a champion athlete, but you’d better look hot in your athletic clothes.  Save the world from apartheid or starvation or malaria, be our guest; but botox those forehead wrinkles, would ya?

I don’t think anyone is consciously buying into this with their sewing decisions, blogging decisions, or blog-reading decisions, but we do grow up female constantly surrounded by messages about what we should look like, and how much more important that is than anything else about us. So it’s no surprise that when we go to present ourselves visually to the world, we fall back on this. Look cute and non-threatening! Be attractive in a conventional way! 1950s housewife dresses are sure not to intimidate the men in your life!

This is the jacket I’m going to use (or try to)…

You know what, now that I think about this, I am going to make a suit this fall. A very intimidating suit. A don’t-mess-with-me suit. But I digress.

Wow that’s going to cost a fortune…anyway.

The aesthetics of sewing blogs and what it says about our own relationships with our bodies seems to be a pretty standard “look at how closely I approach the physical ideal!” kind of relationship. And again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and I love lots of the blogs where the women carry this off with style (and I’m going to keep reading and loving them).

But let’s face it. I’m almost 40. Maybe I could have carried that off when I was in highschool or university. Hell, even at 30, I could have played the gamine with more conviction and put on some good doe-eyed smiles for the camera. But I am 39. I have a daughter, a full-time job, a house, a dog, type 1 diabetes, and many other lovely complications. And it is true that age brings with its wisdom grey hairs and crow’s feet. I’m ok with this, but I’m not comfortable with the standard sewing blog presentation, or about what it says about what I think about my body and its role in this world and in my life.

Whether it’s hot or not is … I won’t say meaningless. It’s not. It’s fun to be considered attractive and dating as a middle-aged mom is enough of a meat-grinder for the ego that whatever compliments come my way, I will take with a smile. (Almost whatever compliments. There are limits.) But it’s not who I am, it’s not what I value, and it’s not what I sew for.

I sew to have fun, functional, and yes attractive, clothing to wear in my regular life and do all of the things I like to do. Very rarely is that standing around in a girlish pose, smiling prettily into the middle distance. I read, I sew, I take care of my daughter, I laugh at our dog, I cook, I make ice cream (worth the effort if you’re wondering) without any concern for whether or not the results will be photogenic, I lift weights and actually kind of like the resulting bulk (I sew; I can deal with lats and glutes, you know?), I hike, I work in a cubicle and dazzle coworkers with my brilliance (ahahaha). Most of the time I do these things without any concern for whether my expression, pose and/or outfit are pleasing enough for observers.

So I’m going to run an experiment (and maybe you will join with me).

I’m going to ditch the sewing blog aesthetic, at least for a little while, and take pictures of myself in my self-made clothes doing the things that I do when I’m wearing my handmade clothes and not thinking about what someone’s going to think about the size of my ass or my hip-waist ratio.

Forget pretty. I’d rather be interesting. I’m 39. Haven’t I earned the privilege yet of being considered for something else? Even on a sewing blog?

Yes I have, because I say so.