I keep having these…

I keep having these weird moments of dissonance about being Guest of Honor at WisCon this upcoming weekend. It's a feminist convention -- it's the premiere feminist SF/F convention. And I'm sometimes not sure I'm such a great feminist. As Guest of Honor, shouldn't I be setting a better example?

Like -- despite our trying awfully hard not to buy stuff right because we need to save all our money for, y'know, doors and windows and such, I was stressed enough about WisCon clothes that I bought a new sari to wear for my big speech on Sunday night. Is that feminist? And today, I spent two hours at a salon having my hair professionally colored, spending both money and childcare time, time which is being bought from our childcare provider, an immigrant woman who I'm pretty sure can't afford to get her hair colored at a salon. So there's some class and gender issues right there. (Although to be fair, Jarmila has almost finished her master's degree, so she's going to be entering the professional class soon. Bad for us, but good for her.) I could have colored my hair at home myself for $9 (what I do most months) -- or I could have just said to hell with it and let it go grey. But no. I am too addicted to people being startled when I tell them I'm almost 40. Grey hair would give the game away.

And I wish I'd managed to lose at least ten pounds before this weekend (I lost two pounds, woohoo), and to be honest, twenty would be better and forty would actually get me back to my college weight, which would be super-exciting. But of course, maybe expecting an almost-40-year-old woman who bore two kids to still have the body of an 18-year-old is just a tad unrealistic. Can't I just be happy with a more 'motherly' figure? Kavi loves snuggling into my well-cushioned lap. For most of human history, women my age would be heading past motherhood and entering the crone phase, for pete's sake.

Ah well. I do a fair bit of feminist work both in the world and in my own head; I don't think we're going to conquer it all in this generation. I have to leave some work for Kavi and Anand to do, right?

I'll post my WisCon schedule as soon as I pull it together. I'm guessing anyone who's coming already has their plans in place, but just in case anyone local is waffling, it really is the best con. Well worth a 2.5 hr drive (or bus ride) up from Chicago. And it's not too late to find someone to share a hotel room with. I suppose it's possible registration is sold out, but I'm guessing not -- there are always some cancellations close to the date, due to illness, financial exigency, etc.

8 thoughts on “I keep having these…”

  1. Is a sari Sri Lankan? I had a raging debate about saris when I visited India; a very modern, aggressive woman there insisted that they are very professional attire. I said that in America, the nexus of professional female attire is downplaying their sexual attributes. Sari feels like high heels, designed to slow someone down and accentuate their breasts and navels. But is it any more “feminist” to cover up these body parts than it is to accentuate them?

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I think I disagree with you on American attire too, but sadly don’t have time to go into it at length now. Certainly, saris are standard professional dress in India. And saris don’t slow you down at all — you can stride and run and dance and ride a bicycle in a sari, if you know what you’re doing.

    Re: the sexualization of women’s professional attire in America, one quick anecdote: I was told by multiple female advisors to wear a skirt to academic job interviews, because the men interviewing me would find pants ‘unprofessional’ in a woman.

  3. Lenore Jones/jonesnori

    I believe there are still a few WisCon memberships available, but anyone planning to come some distance might want to call.

    Looking forward to being there soon!

  4. Saris feel like high heels to me too, notanattack, particularly when women have to wear them when they don’t want to:


    The article also says that the sari only got to Sri Lanka from India in the early 1900s.

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    But you can see in that article, that the women want to wear Western dress in part because it’s seen as young and sexy.

    Saris can be draped very conservatively, to cover as much skin as you want. Or, if you’re young, and trying to be sexy, you can get the blouse cut pretty damn skimpy. It’s all in how you do it. True of dresses as well, no?

    It’s hard for me to think of saris as default ‘sexy’ clothing, given that mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers all wear them around the house, the tea pickers wear them while working in the fields, etc. They’re just clothes. As the article notes, they’re mostly seen as the more traditional, conservative option in clothing back home — Western dresses and suits are seen as sexier, more modern options.

  6. I wasn’t thinking “high heels” in terms of being particularly revealing, per se (particularly as the tradition of going barebreasted in them died out/was stopped by Western colonizing influence a long time ago), rather more in terms of how they are perceived by conservative elements as being the more feminine clothing option. I was also thinking “high heels” in terms of their function and practicality. As the woman in the hospital said, they worked hard to just get to wear something simpler for ease of movement, etc.

    Why is there no fuss about men wearing “traditional” vs. Western clothes? Men can wear what they like. There’s little pressure to wear sarongs or amudes. I’m not in favor of anyone of any gender being forced to wear what they don’t want to, but it seems there is a particular gender-based imbalance in this case.

  7. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Oh, I’d agree that there’s gendered pressure for women to dress in certain feminized way the world over — but the original discussion here was about whether saris were sexy or professional garb in S. Asia. And I think they’re clearly marked as normal professional garb.

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