Saturday, 2 June 2012

Power Dressing

Something really weird and embarrassing happened to me last week: a fashion editor contacted me via LinkedIn, telling me he had read some of my articles and was impressed by my writing, and could we meet and discuss that further. I obviously assumed that we was going to offer me a job, so I agreed to meet him at a café. During the meeting, however, as he started driving the conversation towards the fact that he really liked younger girls (he was about 20 years older than me), I started to realize he had set me up on a sort of date. Whatever, I thought. I got rid of him and went home.That evening he sent me a text message, to which I didn't respond (I have no idea where he got my number from). Visibly that didn't discourage the dude: a couple of days later, upon opening my mail at my office, I found out he had sent me a letter... a love letter.
# Total creep alert, seriously. 
Now I'm not gonna talk about how incredibly out of place I thought that was, or about the infinite cheap cheesiness that dripped out of the infamous letter. In a nutshell, for two pages he rambled on about my "incredibly feminine nails", my "beautiful tied up hair" (which I had tied up because it was filthy and I was too much of  lazy slob to wash it, not with the objective of seducing men with my dainty neck), and my overall delicateness and frailty. And that's what got me most enraged: what on sodding earth do women have to do to stop being viewed and treated by men as fragile objects who need to be protected (by them, obviously)?

Of all the words that could define me, "delicate" is the last one I would think about (along with "good mathematician"). I've never thought of myself as "girly", as a member of "the fair sex" or as a "princess". I love The Godfather and Rambo and I can't stand Sex &The City and romantic comedies. I never diet or talk about dieting and I can do push ups. I know how to use a screwdriver and how to change halogen lamps. I listen to punk rock and read crime stories all the time. I spend my summers barefoot and wearing a cowboy hat. And I don't think any of those things are unfeminine. I never notice it because luckily I'm surrounded by amazing people who see things differently, but the problem is that, still today, femininity is seen as a synonym with weakness, dependence and helplessness.

The most depressing thing about all this is the men who think women are little pretty naïve things who need to be fostered and adviced and shielded all the time will never, ever acknowledge their deeply rooted chauvinism. Far from it, they will deny being chauvinistic whilst asserting, in a know-all tone (and at their loudest voice so you can't be heard) that women, while not being exactly dim-witted, often have their thoughts fogged up (mainly by their maternal instincts) and that, on top of that, they are at constant danger in a world full of men who act in ways only comparable to those of the creature of the Black Lagoon. Thus we obviously need men's protection.

When me and my girl cousins were about 10, we used to fight our next door all-boys neighbours. They would always start it when we girls were playing cowboys and indians in the garden, by basically laughing at the fact that we were girls (aka feeble, shameful creatures). They had tomato plants and they tried to throw the tomatoes at us, but we always caught and threw them back at the boys, kicking their asses and making them cry (and driving their mother crazy with anger at the sight of her smashed tomatoes). With time, we took a liking to this activity and started brawls with all the kids in the neighbourhood. We were not petites filles modèle, we were blood-thirsty amazons.Years went by. We stopped smashing tomatoes on the faces of people and took ourselves through college, travelled and managed to get jobs during the recession, all by ourselves. No array of ever-so-protective men driving us through life was necessary (obviously our fathers are fantastic and extra supportive, but always let us run free and make our own choices).
And yet, here I stand today, still having to make it clear that I am a strong individual, and having to read a stupid unrequested love letter containing, between flattery and flattery, career advice from a complete stranger (yes, the dude did allow himself to give me career advice).

So how can we make ourselves understood once and for all? My first thought was through fashion. But then I remembered what I was wearing on my work meeting/set up date: masculine carrott trousers and a large t-shirt. Hardly a corset-cum-crinoline combo covered in virginal lace. The next day, traumatized and trying to feel more empowered, I dressed all in black leather and denim. It didn't scare anyone off and some men still eyed me on the street as if I was some cute bauble put out there solely for their viewing pleasure. I've tried extremely dark lipstick. Same reaction. Leather harnesses. Nothing. A Ramones T-shirt. Even less. Leopard print seems to make Parisian pervs stay away, but I am 100% sure that if some moron out there wanted to, he could fool himself into thinking the leopard print is some feminine gimmick destined to make men notice the woman wearing it, therefore she is actively begging for him to seduce her, protect her and take care of her forever after. You see, nothing we do will work with these losers (except maybe sitting there blatantly chewing gum and grooming your nails with a Swiss army knife), simply because they have their minds set on feeling bigger and more masculine (take that as you wish), and, for that, they need to make women appear and feel as poor darling powerless things. To some men, equality is still threatening.

Thinking about it, that fact is, in itself, surprisingly empowering. After all, it's not us who are delicate and frail, it's them who have serious self-esteem and self-assurance issues! Thank God not all men are like that. But for those who are, I have a little advice that will help them connect with women instead of making them puke: you are not more of a man for making women feel bad about themselves; on the contrary, you are more of a man if your masculinity is in no way threatened by women's power. Also, for Heaven's sake, never ever try to seduce a woman by writing an unrequested love letter like this was the XVIII century and mailing it to her workplace. Thank you ever so.

1 comment:

  1. As always, you are so wise.

    See I guess most heterosexual males that are still caught in the type of conduct tend to be in need of self-asurance most of the time. So it's never about the woman, it's always about him needing to feel needed.

    Some of them they never know how to change what they were taught.

    Amazing reading you! As always!


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