Friday, March 20, 2015

Update on Science and Fashion, aka: Why can't we have nice things?

The latest news about Lego reminded me of this article about “Unclaimed Treasures of Science”: Even during the Cold War, these women brought feminism to STEM, although one must keep in mind that many of these STEM women would not have claimed the term "feminist."
"Women argued over the need to convince skeptical onlookers that a person could be both feminine-looking and interested in STEM. For the Society of Women Engineers” in particular, Puaca writes, “projecting a positive image of women engineers required accepting, on the surface at least, dominant notions of femininity.” Some members made sure to wear dresses, heels, and lipstick for presentations, reassuring people that professionalism and the standard beauty code of Cold War womanhood were not mutually exclusive."" [Unclaimed Treasures of Science]
I keep writing about Kimberle Crenshaw's Intersectionality. I wrote during Wedding Week about GLBT issues, but because I am neither a lesbian nor transgender, it hasn't been a frequent topic on my blog.

One of the concepts that the GLBT community in particular brings to intersectional feminism, is that gender is a spectrum, and the gender binary is a social construct.  If gender is a spectrum, then that means femininity and masculinity each have a range of behaviors that can overlap, in a range from Femme to Butch and anywhere in-between.

In a perfect world, should a person wear whatever they want?

There's a discussion on LinkedIn, pondering whether Sheryl Sandberg would wear a hoodie, like her boss Mark Zuckerberg.

The Seattle Times even published "Guest: The most common question from young women engineers? What to wear."

Quite frankly, if we could FIND more STEM-related fashion like May Britt Moser's lovely Neuron dress that she wore to accept her Nobel prize, these decisions might be easier. But over and over again, we find that the cool STEM / geeky things are coded as masculine.

It's a good question, because in truth, there are geek women who would prefer to wear the t-shirt or hoodie.

It's enough that the Geek Feminism Blog has had a series of posts under "Ask a Geek Feminist" about the subject:

On LinkedIn, the moderator has asked, "So what are the solutions - play the game and change from within or be authentic and wait?"

I think it's relevant to bring in this Sociological Images video and commentary
In a patriarchy, masculinity is considered superior to femininity. Requiring women to perform that denigrated identity is one way that they are subordinated. But the flip side of that is the requirement that men must eschew everything tinged with femininity, lest they, too, be denigrated. This means that men’s daily lives are absolutely filled with things they are not supposed to do. (Whereas women can do masculine things, as long as they balance that behavior with feminine things, because masculinity doesn’t carry the same polluting effect.)"
I have observed that several products intended for women, began with focusing on other things, and "just be yourself.":
  • FlyLady, a site for home organization, began encouraging women to Finally Love Yourself, by getting organized. As it expanded, it began to add in ties with MissusSmartyPants, No Excuse Workouts, information on bare minerals makeup, and meal planning. Not necessarily bad information in and of itself.
  • Daily Worth, years ago, one of their early posts, shared about the average cost of makeup over a lifetime. Facts like I've highlighted below, which you're not likely to find in more recent years' articles.
    • On average, a woman spends somewhere between $13,000 and $164,000 on makeup alone, over the course of a lifetime.
    • A recent French campaign highlights the "Woman Tax," highlighting how products "for women" cost more and offer less than comparable products "for men."
    • The "woman tax" combined with the pay gap serves to hold women back from wealth and power.
And now we see that Lego Friends has followed the same devolution, first offering gender-differentiated products, and now offering beauty tips.

What costs more?  Playing the game in order to continue a conventional career? Or being authentic?

4/21/2014: Updated to add this excellent Video: