Tag Archives: clothing

Grooming, Clothing, Women and Geeks

Debbie says:

Over at Geek Feminism, Mary just reposted a fascinating essay from June of last year. Since the blog is geek feminism, she’s calling out and looking at various aspects of how geek women dress and groom ourselves. I missed it the first time around, and this time it strikes me as a particular kind of analysis that is rarely done and extremely valuable.

Her opening notes are enough to tell me that I’m in good, thoughtful hands:

* I refer to “geek women” a lot in this essay. All of these considerations apply to other people too in varying degrees, and sometimes more acutely. But given the nature of this blog I am focussing on geek women’s interests, and pressures on them.
* This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of factors that figure into geek women’s grooming: it’s meant to be long enough to demonstrate that a lot of us have to care about it. Undoubtedly it is a somewhat privileged list too. You are welcome to raise additions in comments.

She then goes on to list fifteen ways to consider these issues. I’m not going to reprint them all here; click the link. But here are a few especially important or juicy ones:

Clothing as labour. The vast majority of the clothing the vast majority of people reading this wear is made in factories in the developing world, by people working in dangerous and exploitative positions.

Avoiding overtly female-marked grooming. Women in male-dominated workplaces often desperately want to avoid anything that might cause them to be (even more) othered because of their gender, especially since caring about grooming is frequently trivialised.

This may need to be balanced by expectations in some groups these same women move in by choice or necessity in which interest in grooming is required.

Grooming as marker of a ‘healthy, competent’ woman. For women especially, being groomed and striving to meet beauty standards is considered an informal indicator of mental health. Being considered poorly groomed or lazy about grooming can invite assumptions about being depressed or similar. (This is especially othering of women who do have mental illnesses, who continually receive the message that they shouldn’t have them, mustn’t display them, and will be in big trouble if they do, all while they quite probably have less energy to deal with the whole mess.)

And of course, a privileged woman might get annoying concerned questions, whereas a less privileged women might find, for example, that assumptions about her mental health play into questions about her ‘fitness’ have access to society, to care for her children and so on.

There’s lots more, including excellent comments at the original post.

Clothing and grooming are, of course, major issues for fat women and disabled women, to name two groups with particular challenges in this regard. One thing the post makes clear is that every choice we make has unintended as well as intended consequences, and that even when we can’t make choices because of what’s not available to us that might be available to other women, or what we can’t do that other women might be able to do, our lack of choices has major consequences.

By listing a variety of factors of very different kinds, Mary doesn’t just discuss the issue, she also makes a very respectable stab at showing her readers how complicated the issue is without trying to connect all the dots. The piece doesn’t just make me think about clothing and grooming (though it does that), it also makes me think about what other issues would benefit from this kind of consciously partial analysis. One thing I really like is that she has intentionally set up a format in which she doesn’t have to reach a neat conclusion.

Watch this space; I might be trying this format out.

Metal, Fiber, Beads, and High Geekiness

Laurie says:

I was at Potlatch (a gathering of the writers and readers of literary science fiction and fantasy at which participants exchange ideas) on Sunday afternoon.  I was  participating in a panel:  Helixes, Corals, and Brains: Oh My!.  A discussion about crafts based on math, science and nature. Have you knit a möbius strip or virus lately? The panelists were Elise Matthesen, Kate Schaefer, and myself. Vonda McIntyre was unable to be there but we showed and discussed her work.

We all talked about the tech of our work and discussed the hyperfocus (geekiness)  as it relates to  the creative as well as the technical part of the work.  “Geekiness” implies a high level of focus and knowledge.  Jewelry, sculpture, and other “material” arts can have an intense focus on conceptual and intellectual content, sometimes including a deep knowledge of materials, their histories and meanings, as well as of any representational aspects of the finished work (in other words, if the work is a silver raven, I have to know a lot about silver and a lot about ravens to do the piece justice).

I was fascinated by the conversation.  I use lots of natural science references in my work, as I recently discussed in this post. I also often use geology references and astronomical images, and I have a profound knowledge of stones. I take this specific knowledge and reinterpret it to create the art. But I use the natural sciences, not physics or math.

This conversation is teaching me a lot about the work of people I admire, and also making me think about my own work in ways I don’t usually consider.

Among her work, which includes crocheting hyperbolic surfaces, Vonda makes wonderful undersea creatures that I’ve blogged about before.  When I went to this post, I realized for the first time that the panel title had been taken from the title of the post.

Here’s a picture of the shadowbox installation of her work I put together for her when I was in Seattle last fall. (For the folks who were at the panel, this is the image I was talking about.)

Vonda says: One day I was reading an article on hyperbolic geometry by Ivars Peterson in Science News, one of my favorite magazines and one of my favorite science writers. I realized that he was describing geometry that I could adapt to bead creatures, so I made one. I wrote him a note and asked if I could send it to him; not only did he accept it, he wrote it up for Science News in Anatomy of a Bead Creature

Elise does marvelous jewelry pieces using weaving technique in silver wire that tend to form helixes, not in a symmetrical sense but rather in an organically woven way. She compares it to working with ribbon; when you stroke a ribbon with a scissor and then follow the curves, it will frequently wants to form a helix.  Her intricately woven jewelry has literary nuances and exquisite titles, and have inspired some fine novels and short stories, including this year’s Hugo-winning short story “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear. Her Live Journal includes an ongoing discussion of her work.

Kate says she “uses both hand and machine sewing construction methods. I’ve been sewing and making art to wear for many years. My work is strongly influenced by the crazy-quilting tradition, and I ratchet back and forth between the excessively decorated and the deceptively simple.” She was talking about the physics of pattern making and design, and the complexities of transferring from a flat pieces to the roundness of the body.  Much of her work is far more complex then the photos on her web site. When you look at Kate’s work, you see, of course, not the physics but the masterly way she folds pattern and design together to make a whole.

There will be a “Metal, Fiber, Beads, and High Geekiness” panel at Wiscon, the world feminist science fiction convention in Madison, Wisconsin in May where we will get to enlarge and develop these ideas.  I’m looking forward to it.