Friday, July 27, 2012

Response to The Tyranny of Stylishness Part II

Continued from Part 1...
The other point that stuck out for me was the one about conformity:
"In covering our bodies — a very personal thing — women shouldn’t have to conform, cover our eccentricities and ethnicities, and act like ladies — unless we want to. The style advanced by “WNTW” is about rules and homogeneity."
For me, my clothes are not a very personal thing. My identity and my clothing are not so tightly linked the way they are with others. Basically I choose things that I like, look good, and will make the impression I want and if none of those conditions are met I don't buy. OMG it's so clear now...unlike other people who want to appear rebellious, make a statement against the norm, and view their wardrobe as a form of protest I want to do the EXACT OPPOSITE! I want my wardrobe to say to the world to the world "I am not angry, I am happy, I am feminine like other women, I am not a trouble maker, I am upper-middle class, I try to look good, I am easy to get along with, I am educated, I am professional, you can bring me home to mom, I am not from the hood, I fit the norm! Well I guess you could say my wardrobe is a protest against looking bad and the sort of "I don't care" impression I get with androgynous, boring styles lol!

I am doing things that history and society says will earn rewards and avoid punishment from the important people with power over my happiness. If the rewards turn to punishments from the people who matter then I would have no problem changing! However for some groups (e.g., Black people) popular wardrobe choices may only bring rewards from the people they interact with (e.g., friends) and others who don't matter (e.g., criminal rappers who don't know or care about you, men you don't want) and punishment from those in power who are quick to punish (e.g., parents, teachers, police, employers who will refuse to hire you). Remember I am just talking about the way you present yourself not about speaking your mind about injustices...actually if you fit the norm then people will be more likely to listen to you and take you seriously, so you would be more effective in creating social change. 

I know some people will automatically have a problem with this because they view "conformity" as a bad word and always wrong yet they do it every day in many ways. It seems like it is promoted from AAs that Black people should always be angry and protesting and if you are not then you are part of the problem (the fallacy of false dichotomy). Isn't it so true though, people say being White is acting like the norm so acting Black must be going against the norm. In their minds following any norm (even though it brings rewards and avoids punishment and may actually be beneficial) is acting White and therefore off limits to Black people.'s the norm to follow the law so Black people should break it. It's the norm to go to school so Black people should not. It's the norm to get married then have kids so Black people should not. That's being Black and keeping it real right? Sigh...this is so insanely self-destructive it's like some Black people have chosen to screw themselves over while this so-called oppressor can sit back and laugh. Why not try to beat them at their own game instead of purposely accepting the defeated position?

I think that parents and school sent the conflicting message that conforming to peer pressure was bad (e.g., if everyone jumped off a bridge would you, don't smoke/do drugs/have sex/ just because your friends do etc.) but there is pressure to follow the rules, be good, go to school, and get along with others. There is also the encouragement of free thinking, being creative, and not being afraid to be different. But I think what was missing was talking about the benefits of conforming when it is beneficial because people do that all the time! It's common sense most of the time to do what is normal or doing what normally brings rewards and avoids punishment in society. 

That's the whole point of role models! You look at their accomplishments, learn what they did to succeed, and try the same things so that you can be successful. Most of the time they did positive and socially approved things like working hard at school and showing good character traits (e.g., determination, optimism, creativity, resourcefulness), and they chose something that tends to bring rewards in society (e.g., high status job, heroic job, star status etc.). There are also negative "role models" who are held up as cautionary tales or examples of what people shouldn't do. For example, those "stupid criminal" stories, stories about people falling from grace, and tales of people we know who ruined their lives and never lived up to their potential. The downfall of many of these people was doing something against the norm that had the risk of severe punishments (e.g., death or imprisonment not just losing money or failing). I want to be looked at as a positive role model who succeeded and did not cheat, steal, or lie to get to the top. Will you be looked at as someone who succeeded, tried their best, and did so in a respectable way or will you be a cautionary tale about wasted potential and making bad choices?

Robin Givens from the movie Boomerang. One of my
favorite movies. I wanted to be "That Woman", the one
who women want to be and men want to be with. People hate
her but she is successful, has everything she needs/wants.

You know she looks good!


  1. Excellent post. My response to most people about following the crowd has been carefully choose the crowd you DO follow. Are they successful? High achievers? Friendly? Good people to be around? People who lift you up and not tear you down? Moving forwards not backwards? Then that's the crowd you follow. My choices to follow the " not acting black" crowd have gotten me where I am today ( a successful feminine black lady physician subspecialist ) and I wouldn't change my choices for anything.

  2. Sisterlocgirl took the words out my mouth! Totally agree.

  3. Hi Sisterlocgirl :)

    Yes those are excellent points and I firmly believe in them too. Since it is almost impossible to be a free thinker (unless you have never had contact with other human beings) then you have been influenced and you are probably conforming to something. So why not conform to people you can influence you positively and help you to become and stay happy. Those are the people I conform to in terms of behaviour, how I present myself, goals, and fashion. I have my own ideas about things but the way I look doesn't directly affect my thoughts and I can have different opinions from people nearest to me. Definitely choose carefully considering who we follow is great advice!

  4. Nowadays being respectable, elegant and feminine (unless you go to a private school, i don't go to one anymore) make you stand out, and makes you more of an outsider. I go to an international school (boarding school) and I'm in 10th grade, I came in 9th grade when some girl bullied me into a corner and cut my hair, the same girl who always told me I had long hair ... I'm over that, I'm just giving an example. That matter is done with, and I'll just have to move on... :O) and even being naturally gentle/sensitive/meek as a woman can cause troubles with other women. Most girls ask boys out nowadays (so you try to cover your gentleness up, by being more quiet and seem kind of mysterious--even though everyone else--including guys--describes you as gentle woman (how did they know?!)lol) Can't hide who I am, eh? :)

    *P.S I'm Canadian and my parents are nigerian--they took me to Nigeria for 3 years to see the culture. I decided to start going to an international school a year after I came back because that's what I went to there.

    What do you think about this?
    Any advice on femininity for teens?
    Dress and behavior etc?
    How was your teens and things I should watch out for you?


  5. Hi CloudSurfer'97, thanks for your visit :)Yes it's true that being gentle/sensitive/meek can bother some people but so can the opposite behaviours and it's better to be yourself (your best self) than always pretending to be something you are not. Although I am learning new things on this blog it fits with who I am right now.

    Well I'm a lot older than you and when I was growing up it was also the trend that women dressed in jeans most of the time, runners and baggy clothes. When I was in high school grunge was popular so some girls did wear flower dresses, baby doll dresses and I did have some flower shirts.

    Well I think that being a teen is really hard because there is more pressure to act in certain ways. When you graduate you will have more freedom to look the way you want. So to be honest, my advice is to show your femininity but try to use ways that the other girls do, especially the one's who are well liked. The last thing you need is to do something that will get you picked on. So you want to be comfortable, wear things you like that are feminine, but things that the other kids will find acceptable (and is also acceptable to your parents).

    Some might say that you should just wear whatever you want and not care about what others wear or think. But as someone who has been teased before, it's best to avoid doing things that could get you teased or rejected. As long as we are just talking clothing it's fine to wear what others do because that's harmless. But if you show too much skin it can be distracting to guys and get you unwanted attention.

    Wow I'm surprised that most girls ask boys out! Unfortunately I wasn't asked out in high school so I didn't get date until the formal (prom). Maybe I should have asked someone out...But I would just say talk to your parents about dating and don't let guys push you too far because you won't feel good about it after.

    I hope this helps some :)