There have been so many posts out there in the past few weeks about sparkle that I don’t know where to start. I’m using “sparkle” as a catch-all for burlesque, sex work, fashion, any kind of sexy display or fashion statement. Here are just a few of them.
As I said in my whack at the subject, the discussions have centered around whether it’s (a) an empowering and feminist choice, (b) harmless fun that’s not meant to be either feminist or antifeminist, or (c) patriarchy-compliant antifeminism.
I came out (b) there, for reasons you can check out if you like.
I don’t want to rehash that question, but to mention a question that doesn’t get asked nearly as often and try to figure out why, now that I have the benefit of all these great Feministe commenter minds to think on it.
Donna Darko said in the comments:
“I think if women en masse reinforce feminine gender stereotypes i.e. weakness, follower, physicality, irrationality it’s dangerous to women but empowered women [professionals] who dress the way they want is not a big deal.”
The question that rarely gets asked is: is it a feminist “choice,” neutral, or patriarchy-compliant, when OTHER traditionally female choices get made? Or, is “sparkle” in a category by itself? And if so, why?
By OTHER choices I mean:
Being supported by a man –dad or boyfriend or husband (a bit heterocentric because it is harder to make the argument that a lesbian relationship is patriarchal. I’m sure that could be demonstrated in some cases, but I’m not going to try to do that here).
Choosing a traditionally female career track where other options are available (I am not talking about a non-choice made necessary by economic or other dire straits).
There are probably others but then this would be way too long.
I mean, some of the folks who are urging other women to “examine” the sparkle may themselves have made choices, or not attempted to change existing patterns, in such a way that a patriarchal-appearing situation exists. Maybe just as patriarchal-appearing as sparkle.
And if we were going to argue which helps the patriarchy more –what would we say?
I don’t know, let’s ask the patriarchy.
Patriarchy? A question for you. What do you like better? What helps you stay the way you are? Door number one is sparkle. Door number two is that we are economically dependent on you and that we more often choose careers that perpetuate that. Tough call?
I don’t think so.
OK, and what about the other side of the coin? Lots of us women like our sparkle. But some think it’s kinda antifeminist to approach career with capitalism in mind. And are prone to toss out “Margaret Thatcher” at frequent intervals, or talk about “master’s tools” or even “sellout.”
What’s up with that?
After all, if women can enjoy sparkle, why can’t we enjoy worldly power or stature– which just like physical stuff is a combo of privilege and work?
Personally? I think it’s a balance, as Donna said. The patriarchy isn’t going to topple based on sparkle. It might be compromised, though, if women had equal economic power. And I don’t mean any one kind of women, but all women having equal economic power compared to men who are similarly situated (Of course, that wouldn’t solve many other problems, like world poverty, racism, ablism, etc., which are worthy of discussion as well but not my focus in this particular post).
So we can stress about leg shaving, but I have a sneaking suspicion it doesn’t matter. If “the patriarchy” were reading many of these posts, they’d be chortling right now. Fiddling while Rome burns! The real battles are too laden with guilt and with women second-guessing each other, they’re going unfought. All part of the plan.
I hope the plan fails.