Feminism and Lingerie
Monday’s post, Pretty Underwear, lead to a great comment discussion with the lovely CAVA Supernova. I was so excited and impressed by what she had to say that I decided to be brave and ask if she would be willing to do me a guest post on the subject of feminism and lingerie. Not only did she agree but the post arrived in my inbox yesterday! The link above is for her blog (which you should consider following if you don’t already), and you can also find her on Twitter. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did.
Why feminism and lingerie are a match made in heaven
So-called feminists, please, a request: Calm the fuck down with that obsession you have with women’s underwear.
Yesterday, I had an online chat with Horny Geek Girl about, well, knickers actually. Specifically, pretty underwear.
We both agreed that pretty underwear is A Good Thing. It looks nice, and it makes you feel attractive and shaggable when you’re wearing it.
We also agreed that men should appreciate and savour you when you’re wearing your wonderful gift-wrapping – and be less hasty in trying to wrangle you out of it.
Aaaah. Men. Our sworn opponents in the equality war. Apparently.
HornyGeekGirl mentioned she’d been criticised by certain self-identified feminists for her predilection for fabulous frillies. This undies habit is holding back the cause, according to the lingerie police.
Pick an angle, any angle you want regarding lingerie undermining the cause of women’s empowerment and it’s pretty laughable really.
I speak from personal experience.
A million years ago, when I was about university age, it seemed to be a given that wearing nice undies – or liking any sort of ‘girly stuff’ – destroyed your credibility as a female who wanted to “do something” with your life.
I don’t know how that notion took hold, but it boiled down to something like this:
- If you like pretty undies, you are a Barbie-esque air head. You have no ambition beyond that of ‘trophy wife’. Hot undies are part of your man-snaring master-plan.
- Chicks with broader horizons and loftier ambitions must take another route.
- Say no to cute lingerie (and other ‘superficial’ girlie stuff), unless you want to out yourself as a patriarchy-worshipping doormat.
At the time, lingerie-Prohibition suited me down to the ground.
I had a million zillion body image issues, and I could think of a hundred thousand ways to criticise every damn inch of my perfectly healthy physique.
By giving lingerie the swerve, I was sticking up two fingers to male dominance (yay! Sisterhood!), plus (more importantly) I was exempting myself from feeling like a self-conscious munter in front of my boyfriend.
I never let self-imposed munter-hood stand in the way of my filthy times, luckily. I concealed my body-shame by throwing myself at him and practically dragging him up the stairs like a cavewoman at every given opportunity.
It had a pretty great success rate. But God help him if he ever suggested a trip to the Designers at Debenhams lingerie section (the closest you get to ‘posh, like that Agent Provocateur’ in small-town Britain). It was like the sky had fallen down; he practically had to run for cover.
Then I got lucky. Two amazing, magical books released me from this ideological/body image abyss.
The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf, and The Beauty Trap, by Nancy C Baker.
Talk about lightbulb moment. These sassy American chicks were totally switched on to the bullshit pressure that society imposes on girls and women.
The obsession with weight, body image. The pressure to look sexually attractive or consider yourself a non-person.
To obsess to the nth degree about tiny aspects of your appearance that other people don’t even notice.
To consider a pound in gained weight to be an unforgivable personal failure.
But their solution wasn’t to turn your back on all this. Just be realistic.
Jewellery, make-up, lingerie… enjoy them – there’s no sin in looking nice.
Eat properly, and exercise. Whatever shape your body stabilises at – learn to love it.
Wear stuff that suits you and makes you feel good.
Forget about the rest of that tedious, happiness-draining, self critical crap and focus on the people you love, the folk you lust after, your friends, your family and living an exciting, amazing life.
Hardly rocket science, but it seemed so simple, so fresh, so new. And so guilt-free it was frightening.
How am I going to cope with not criticising my appearance? What am I gonna do with all that free time?
I assumed that by letting go of all my neuroses and ditching the ridiculous diets, I’d gain 10 stone over night.
Regardless, I devoured the books, walked around in a daze, devoured them a second time, read them again in case I’d missed something… and carried on like this for about a year.
It was like I had to hammer the information into my head, in order for the ideas to take root.
It took time, but they did. I got into exercise, ate like a ‘normal person’, and actually shed a few pounds. I bought lingerie – and it didn’t turn me into an airhead Barbie. I could have feminism and lingerie.
Years later, there’ve been loads of ups and downs but those two books are seared in my mind. They changed my life.
I am educated, self employed, and I was empowered enough to walk out of a marriage with an abusive alcoholic. I answer to no one.
The ‘munter’ stuff is a thing of the past, so long ago it’s like a barely remembered bad dream.
And I still enjoy my nice undies. None of those scraps of chiffon and lace have let down ‘the cause’ in any way, shape or form.
Feminism contributed to loads of the things that are great about my life, every woman’s life. Deny it and you’re a headcase. I’ve no time for thoughtless idiots who slag it off.
And feminism is absolutely right to encourage girls and women to recognise their value beyond their appearance.
Part of a message I wrote to HGG said the following:
We’re so lucky, living in the West, and in the 21st century – women can enjoy pretty things and still gain the education and credibility to kick ass in the boardroom and on the sports fields etc.
Feminism is about girls and women having the freedom and education to make informed, empowered choices. It’s not up to other people to decide those choices for them.
Among her hundreds of educated, empowered life choices, Horny Geek Girl has made the decision to be a geek, a go-er and a lover of fabulous lingerie. More power to her.
I’ve no time for women – anyone for that matter – who thrive on taking offence at the inoffensive. There is plenty of space for both feminism and lingerie.
And I’ve no time for the petty dictators who demean the whole issue of women’s rights by reducing it down to a few pairs of knickers.
Get a grip – or even better, get down La Senza.
Huge thank you to CAVA Supernova for this insightful and positive post on feminism and lingerie. Please leave comments below or on twitter, if you’d like to join in this discussion.