Ladies and the urban landscape
Why the summertime misogyny, NY Times?
Last week, our friends in white people's big media ran a real gem inappropriately titled, "Pants May be Touted as the Coming Thing, but Women Seem to Prefer Dresses." What women? We wear skirts to stay cool in the summery breeze, but the unwanted attention we get often makes us chafe. But not according to this man's "fashion diary" (and of all the things to keep a diary about, can't we think of at least a few more deserving than fashion?).
That is because... I am not eager for women to become “a little more hard-core, a little more androgynous, a little more butch.” Yes, gender play is fun, and trousers are a useful wardrobe default for the woman in business. But unless you are Thomas McGuane and find nothing sexier than a woman with crow’s feet, tight Wranglers and suede chaps, you will have to concede that, for flattering a woman’s body, nothing is quite like a dress.Gee, really? We were thinking confidence was the most flattering feature women could possess. Silly us. But wait, it gets worse.
Irwin Shaw covered all this is in his classic story “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” the tale that secured him a permanent place in anthologies if not exactly a perch on literary Olympus. And for all the creakiness of this warhorse about the fragile dynamics of love and desire, there remains in Shaw’s descriptions of the women on the streets of Manhattan, in their ripe young multitudes, something unexpectedly fresh and also recognizable.
Shaw wrote the story decades ago, in the era that directly preceded the feminist one that first killed off the dress, a time when women wore them all the time and not with irony. When, as Shaw wrote, “the warm weather comes” and the streets of the city were filled with women in shifts and shirtwaists and tunics and baby-dolls and sheaths, arms and legs bared, the effect they had on the urban landscape was a glorious thing.
We can't decide which is worse: that this passes for actual news, or that it doesn't seem to occur to the male writer how blatantly offensive his assumptions are to a wide variety of people, far beyond women alone. Who the fuck cares about anthologized Irwin Shaw? That old white people high-brow lit shit doesn't apply to us. Feminism had an era?? That killed fashion?? And really, women in shifts had a glorious effect on the urban landscape? We were pretty sure graffiti and architecture were first in line for those honors. Holy hell.
Interviewed for the story, some shopping lady in NYC was quoted as saying that a dress is her "anti-mommy-blob outfit.” Now a mama is a blob by default? Dear lord, ours sure ain't.
This whole depressing piece ends with some man reminiscing about a woman he saw weeks ago in a white dress (the archetypal virginal uniform). Funny - we can't get the creeps who leer at us out of our minds either!
I guess next time you consider wearing pants, maybe you should first consider, "Shit, the urban landscape needs my legs!" Or you'll remember Guy Trebay reminding us what clothing we apparently belong in.
For a more enlightened take on summertime in public space, go read Adventures in Street Harassment from this week's Shameless Magazine blog.