Friday, August 20, 2010

Workin' Femme

I just took a practical inventory of my wardrobe, making many decisions about what I want to wear to my new job this fall, what can be repurposed, and what can be donated. This recession seems like a good time to donate clothing given that many donation centers are urging the public to send more goods their way.

In my work breaks I’ve taken to browsing online selections of women’s clothing – mostly just to see what’s out there in terms of trends this fall. I’m also trying to be careful about the pieces I buy; from my inventory I’ve learned that I have many skirts I still love to wear but no “working” tops to match. I’m using the term “working” in calculated avoidance of “work-appropriate” because the very notion of “appropriateness” is a) subjective and b) used to uphold sexist, racist, classist expectations about so-called professional settings.

Through my searches and shops I’ve learned that grey is the new black, ruff is the new puff, and tatts are the new tits on the streets of Brooklyn:

1. Three of the dresses I just bought (and love) are all grey. Grey is not my favourite colour, but the style (and affordable price!) of all three dresses just couldn’t be resisted. I deliberated for a long time over the second and third grey dresses, but justified them by convincing myself that I’ve never hesitated to own multiple items in black so why not grey? That said, what is with all the grey dresses out there? The great thing is that I can pair these dresses with different styles and colours of tights/cardigans to give each a unique look. We’ll see what happens.

2. Someone, please bring back the slightly puffed-sleeves on dress shirts! I’m not over this yet. It adds such a wonderful feminine detail to boring button-downs, but apparently ruffle is the new puff. There are ruffles pouring out of collars, rippling over bust-lines, trimming sleeves… I’m not a fan, perhaps because the ruffles I’m seeing are over the top (so to speak). I tried to broaden my horizons and try on a few. I looked clown-y, pirate-like (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter). Worse yet, the over-zealous ruffles made my head look very disproportionately small. Please, how do you wear these tops? I’m baffled but I’m going to stay open to this look. In the meantime, I want lady tuxedo shirts back!

3. I’ve been searching for “summer sweaters”: short-sleeved cardies and boleros. A lot of it has to do with the unwanted, unwarranted attention I keep getting on the streets, and in many instances this has come in the form of comments about my tattoos. My desire to cover them is deeply complicated; I don’t mean to suggested that we should have to adapt and resign ourselves to those who gross-ify the streets. And even with my tattoos covered I’ve noticed a lot of this bullshit continues to happen. I think I’m just overwhelmed right now trying to get my bearings in a new city, and the “hey baby let me see your tatts” bullcrap disrupts my efforts.

Of course there are a million other things I could do, and covering up is not really an answer. In fact, “covering” to deflect attention in many ways undermines the feminist beliefs I’ve come to hold PARTICULARLY as someone who has felt conflicted about my Muslim upbringing and the countless veiling debates I’ve encountered. Ultimately, to argue that covering my skin will help ward off sexist remarks and general assholery is also to argue that it is my skin that solicits the sexist asshole’s gaze. I know this argument is untrue; it misplaces responsibility and excuses the ones who should own up. But if boleros do indeed offer me any reprieve, perhaps the best I can do is remain mindful of what’s “under” it?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Want to be a Part of It!

Part I: Draggin' Me Down

My friends and I tried to go to a drag show during my first couple of weeks living in Brooklyn. The show was scheduled to take place at a little coffee shop in Bed Stuy - it seemed low key and unassuming. We didn't stay. The cafe staff person (when explaining the cover charge for the show) made it known that had we come in drag we'd have received a discount. Our initial response was "if only we'd known," but my reaction that followed led me to ask what counts as drag. I was after all "dolled up" for the night out... "Doesn't femme count as a form of drag?" The answer was a self-assured "no."

To be clear, I was not opposed to paying the full cover charge, but I didn't stay. It's disappointing and painful to find myself in seemingly queer spaces that have rigid and anti-queer perceptions of gender. Let me say I completely understand that MY material realities of being a feminine-presenting, female-bodied individual are vastly different from many other (or Othered) bodies performing other/Other genders, and I in no way want to lay claim to experiences/oppressions that I have not known. But I'd really like to know how the definition of drag was policed as audience members arrived at that event... was there a genital check, and if so, what could THAT even determine? We are a community of queers aren't we?

I'm not sure the staff person we spoke to was in any way affiliated with the show or the individuals lined up to perform that night; I have no idea what connections and communications were established between the venue and performers. I do know that I expected more from this space, and it's bringing up a lot of ongoing questions for me about community and queerness and even Brooklyn. Not trying to write anything off, not to make generalizations... just to let the questions I have surface until I can make better sense of it all.

Part II: Pro Queer Femme, A Double Entendre

Well, I guess I'm a pro now: a "professional" if you will. I landed a big-girl job, and that makes me wanna wear grownup clothes without stamping out my queer femininity, the rough seams, and renegade updos. Now I need suggestions for where to shop in NYC. I have yet to learn this city, and more importantly, the "my-kind-of-places" in the city.

I still have my heart set on buying second-hand clothes, though I have recently perused Macy's in downtown Brooklyn (without much to show for it) and (a higher tally here). Help me out folks.

To add to my "laundry" list of preferences, I love bargains, which makes my NY shopping experience thus far seem like I'm seriously missing something. Should I give Century 21 another try? Where are some good second hand/thrift stores that might have the pro-queer-femme goods I'm seeking? "Pro-queer-femme goods"...a triple entendre, indeed.

Part III: Coney Loves Chachi

Dudes, what, what, what do you not understand? It's 8:16 AM, I'm on my way to the train station, you're at a red light, hanging out your fucking truck window, telling me how much you love me, whistling, clicking your stupid mouth, clapping, snapping... and I AM NOT LOOKING AT YOU. I do not want your attention much less to get in your fucking car. You are violating my space, my quiet, my right to get where I need to go unharassed. These streets are mine too, so fucking share them, don't take up all this space. You are gross. And disrespectful. And my biggest question for you is "DOES THIS EVER EVEN WORK?"

There are millions of women walking alone on the streets of NY. How do you pick who to harass? Or do you just indiscriminately harass every lady you think you see. Have you ever accidentally harassed your mother? Your sister? Your nana? Was it really an accident or do you just treat them like this too? Where do you get the energy? Doesn't your stupid face get tired of making all that noise? I'm tired just from being tired of you. You pollute the streets. Be gone.

In a city where exterminators are aplenty, I wish there was a service that exterminated these pesky little fuckers.