Some feminists are of the opinion that you can't be a "true" feminist unless you're a woman (otherwise, at best, you can be an "ally"). And some people (some of whom may be feminists) hold the belief that "transwomen" don't qualify as "true" women. On the contrary, I believe that persons who have had some transgender experience are in the best position to be feminists (if they so choose). After all, they've experienced, to some extent, what it's like both to be a woman and to be a man, and are thus uniquely capable of noting the differences. But then again, I am not a "traditional" feminist - I am a post-feminist and a trans-feminist and a member of the Male-Female Alliance.
Switching gears a little bit into the realm of fashion, I feel I ought to temper the following discussion with a little disclaimer. Obviously, regardless of what's common or how it's expected for the different sexes to dress, people do generally have the option of wearing what they like. There are, however, certain situations where that freedom of choice is reduced in one way or another, such as the one that has caused me no end of anxiety: the one regarding acceptable public swimming pool attire.
As I lamented last year, and then again earlier this season, the local swimming pool where I live has somewhat sexist rules regarding proper swim attire for men and for women (and I have a strong suspicion that this is endemic to the culture as a whole). Whereas the women are allowed to wear very skimpy bikinis (so long as they are not thongs), men are prohibited from wearing "speedo" or brief-type swimsuits. Well, now, I have finally had a chance to visit the swimming pool, and I'm happy to report that I was not kicked out for wearing "the black suit" (my most modest compromise) - at least not the first time - although I did get several looks and a few offhand comments, which were probably as much due to my femininity (and the fact that I was not wearing a "top", as most men do not) as to the rarity of a man wearing a small, form-fitting swimsuit (the novelty of which must not be downplayed).
The experience did, however, open my eyes to the sheer splendor of sights on display. Far more girls than I expected - and much of them of the younger variety - were preening in very skimpy swimsuits (and many of them skimpier than I would have imagined), as I had but unrealistically (I thought!) hoped for. It raised many questions in my mind, of the sociological and sexological variety, about the sexual attitudes of the people in this community, which are, on the whole, of a lower educational stratum than the one in which I myself was raised.
Now, if it were true (and I'm not certain that it is, however I may suspect it), that these people are generally more conservative and less progressive on social issues - such as feminism, gay rights, and things of that sort - then their more relaxed attitudes toward human sexuality (as would be predicted by Kinsey's research) more than make up for it! I would not trade anything in the world for the kind of stuck-up, prudish, ultra-modest, abstinence-positive, "holy purity" views that seem stereotypically to be more common among the higher educated groups (ironically), if it means more censorship and less of a chance to appreciate the erotic beauty of the human body.
On a semi-related note, I was thinking recently how ridiculous it sounds when feminists of a certain stripe go on about "sexualized" portrayals of women. Like, as if "sexualization" wasn't a natural process that every woman (and man) undergoes during adolescence. It's called puberty. You have to be really out of touch with your own sexuality and the sexuality of the human organism in general to think that the way different people (and the different sexes, in particular) relate to each other sexually is some unnatural and abhorrent side-effect (or main effect) of the patriarchal oppression of women. We can talk about the different ways that men relate to women sexually, and how some of them may be problematic, but if your platform is that men depicting or considering women in a way that emphasizes their sexual desirability is problematic, then you're on your own.
And another thing. I know this approaches the realm of the taboo - though it really should not, and the fact that it does says much about our neurotic and diseased attitudes on sexuality - but it is as clear as day to me that young women in their teenage years are not one iota less attractive than women in their twenties or thirties or older. Which is not to disparage the sexual value of an older (and often more experienced) woman - and I know very well that different people have different tastes when it comes to sexual partners, not to mention the importance of other qualities than the purely superficial (I say) - but if a man (or any person, really) is sexually attracted to the human female, and dares to say (whether for political correctness or to save his own ass or what) that teenage girls (generally speaking) are not exceptionally beautiful and attractive creatures, I fully believe that his tongue should be cut out for lying, and his eyes should be gouged with a hot knife, because they obviously aren't functioning properly. Usually I'm for the freedom of speech, but on this case there is so much insidious speech touting the opposite, that I'm just plain fed up.
In any case, the kind of sexual "license" that the lower classes may express is not itself unproblematic. There are issues such as teenage pregnancy and transmission of disease - which I suspect were strong motivators for the upper classes to push abstinence and sexual purity - and then there is also the matter of moral conservatism. As Kinsey found, the lower classes' freer approach to sexual intercourse is often accompanied by a fear and paranoia of less "traditional" sex acts such as masturbation, or nontraditional couplings (a glaringly obvious example being homosexuality). But this demonstrates, to me, that neither end of the spectrum has grasped a holistic and sex-positive approach. It is possible to be sexually liberated and sexually responsible (I offer my own life experience as evidence of that), but it requires the intelligence of the higher educational classes and the frank acceptance of human sexual behavior exhibited in the lower classes. I don't know what hope there is for raising the intelligence of the poor, but I'd think the better educated groups would be in a better position to reject the dogma of sex negative feminism and religion, but that remains to be seen.
I apologize, but I am prone to run off on tangents. (And this weekend's "stimulating" experience has got my brain running a mile a minute). Let's get back to the real point of this post - the fashion statement I wanted to make. I really wanted to use my photography to make the following point, but models are a bit beyond my reach right now, and I didn't feel confident doing another lame clone shot. So I used eLouai's doll maker instead. The point I wanted to make was the glaringly obvious difference between men and women's fashion at the swimming pool. True, I've gone on about this at length in the past, but it really is startling when it's staring you in the face - and so I wanted to use some images to demonstrate that. Meet Jack and Jill:
Can you see where this is going?
Reiterating what I implied in my disclaimer above, women have a lot more options for swimwear than men - and they don't have to wear a body-baring bikini if they don't want to. Fact is, a lot of women (and girls) do, and many seem to be pretty happy about it. I think that's great. I'm not in with the "sexualization" crowd. I don't think it's evidence of women being oppressed, I think it's evidence of women being the sexual organisms they were meant to be. But there is some very real sexism going on here, and it's the fact that men are not similarly expected to be haunches of meat for the objectifying gaze of women (or gay men).
But the most infuriating detail is not simply that men wearing skimpy swimsuits is not as common as women wearing skimpy swimsuits, but the fact that, while women are expected to wear skimpy swimsuits, men who choose to wear skimpy swimsuits are not simply accepted as outliers, but are mocked and ridiculed - and in many places actually restricted from doing exactly as the women are expected to do. You think the above picture is in any way, shape, or form balanced? I think this next picture represents a much better vision of sexual equality:
And I'm prepared to do what it takes (if I can figure out what that is) to make it the new reality. Because I tell you, living in this fucked up world is slowly driving me insane.
"Insanity is the only sane reaction to an insane world."