Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yes, yes, I wear a dress...

You know you are surrounded by amazing people when you decide to do something so completely disturbing and out of character in order to raise money for a good cause because you have been inspired by those around you to go that extra mile. Year in, year out I have witnessed some of my wonderful friends do everything from door-knocking to growing or removing body hair, to undertaking awareness-raising road trips, to performing charity gigs. Some of them have been at it for years, and as long as they continue to do that extra bit, I will continue to support them by flinging some dollars their way. But apart from door-knocking for muscular dystrophy when I was 13, it has been a while since I actually have done a bit more than donate some cash.

So for the entire month of October I will be wearing dresses. Yep, when I heard about Frocktober, I couldn't resist, not only because raising money for ovarian cancer research is such a damn worthy cause, but because if there is one thing that is going to be challenging for this blackfeministranter to do, it is wearing dresses as a daily practice.

I hate dresses. Whilst I used to get around in a heap of them the first time I went to uni, they were usually incredibly long, made from calico or rayon, and bought cheaply from some hippy shop. I ditched stock-standard dresses the minute I left high school with enthusiasm for many reasons. I hated the way they restricted my movement. I hated the way they forced me to sit in ways that were generally uncomfortable and unnatural. I hated the way that I was constantly adjusting them and holding them down to protect my “modesty” as a mere gust of wind was enough to produce public shame. I hated the fact that at my school it was expected that I would wear one of them, whereas the blokes had slacks or shorts (we eventually got those too, but I never got a pair, and they didn't come in until about year 10). I hated that it was expected, not only that I would have smooth, hair-free legs whilst wearing one of these contraptions, but that my legs were would be fair game as far as comments about them went AND that I would take such comments as “compliments”. The way I saw it, through restricting my movement, making me self-conscious (I STILL have a complex about my “desert legs”!) and being generally uncomfortable, I was being subordinated as a female via my clothing. I reasoned that this was not a new phenomenon as dresses had a long proud history of modifying women's bodies and movements (corsets and hoops anyone?) and they were just carrying on a tradition of being freakin' evil. Thus they had to go.

I've pretty much stuck to that since. On occasion, I have been known to glam up for a ball or the like, but I live in jeans. I generally feel so self-conscious when I do glam it up anyway that it makes me not want to repeat the exercise for an indefinite time period. And I think I work the jeans/Docs/etc look pretty damn well. Plus I save a small fortune on depilation routines that most adhere to when wearing frocks. So then why, oh why, after all this whinging, would I consider wearing these horrid garments for an entire month?

Well, from a feminist perspective I am fascinated. I am curious how I will modify my behaviour over the month. I am curious to see if others will modify their behaviour when encountering me in a frock and if I will be treated differently by donning more traditional feminine attire. I have asked for dress donations (due to me having two of the things, both of which are “evening wear”) and I am curious to see the range of dresses over various eras and what these potentially say about how the way women's bodies were viewed and modified at any given time. I am wondering what sort of strange looks I will get when I pair one of these garments up with my biggest, most shitkickery pairs of boots. I am wondering what the dominent colours of these garments will be and how this also restricts me as one of “golden hue”. The potential of this experiment, from a feminist perspective, is endless and frankly I am looking forward to reporting back on it, even if the idea of donning a frock is still making me shudder somewhat...

Plus I'm raising money for ovarian cancer research. I have not suffered from ovarian cancer, and it's not been something that has afflicted members of my family. As a woman who has endured many of her own health trials and tribulations I am however incredibly passionate about women's health and know just how much more research needs to be done. To quote the Frocktober stuff, 1 woman in Australia dies every 10 hours from ovarian cancer, and ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death of all gynaecological cancers because it is usually diagnosed so late. This needs to change, and I am proud to be frocking up and doing my bit to support my sisters. Plus me putting up with the discomfort of wearing a flimsy garment is NOTHING compared to what the sufferers of this insidious disease go through. So let the whining and hem-holding commence...

Oh yeah, and give generously. I've sneakily put a link to my donation page at the side of this blog ;)