Young Women Leaders

Looking good and being a woman

I am constantly aware of how I look to other people. It is a double bond as a woman – you have to care about the way you look in the “right way”, because:
1) If you don´t care about how you look you are ugly and not a “real feminine woman”
2) If you care too much, that is fake, you are shallow and not strong.

When I took my first class in gender studies (which is also about MEN, hence GENDER studies), we talked about how women always look themselves in the mirror, a window or any other thing that reflects her when passing one. Check yourself! It is not something I always think about, but I do check to see whether or not I look acceptable at all times. Why is this?
Well, women are expected to look good, and don´t we all want to feel attractive? We want to be loved and found loveable to others.

In college, I would often get the comment “you look so dressed-up today!” Unfortunately I was not able to take this as a pure compliment because this double-bond thing was hanging over me. Part of me was happy about the compliment because I do put effort into putting together outfits that I like and that I feel beautiful and strong in. But another part of me took the comments as something negative, as if I was trying too hard to be liked by others.

For me, putting thought and effort into making a good appearance is about respect for others around me, as well as attempting to show the best looks of myself to others. Swedish/European fashion is a bit different than the American.
At my college, it is more accepted to dress in sweatpants and a sweater, just rolled out of bed with your hair in a bun, than it would be at a university where I come from. None of them is wrong, and I guess I was more annoyed with the fact that I could not see myself relax and not care about the way I looked when going someplace where I knew people would see me.

During my senior year of college, me and my main partner in crime Al would talk about this a lot. We are both interested in fashion and looking good, but we wanted to make sure we did it for ourselves and not for somebody else. Part of being a senior in college is (as I have mentioned before) feeling that you are on your way someplace else, to greater and more important things. Hence, we could live out more, in a way that I don´t think we thought was possible before.
Part of growing up is realizing that what is inside you is what matters, but having a strong friend by your side makes it a lot easier.

So what did we do? Well, we left those typical skimpy college outfits behind and went to the local bar in t-shirt and jeans, discussing feminism and scaring the shit out of the frat boys who were there to play pool (more about that some other time). We talked a lot about Hillary Rodham Clintons awesome pantsuits. And yes, we dressed up as Michelle Bachmann and Hillary Rodham Clinton for Halloween.

Halloween 2011: Bahmann, Rodham Clinton. We brought Romney and Luigi along for the ride. Photo cred: Al

Halloween 2011: Bahmann, Rodham Clinton. We brought Romney and Luigi along for the ride. Photo cred: Al

We talked about make-up and decided that if it made US feel good about ourselves when we wanted to, well then it doesn´t matter if others think that it is a suppressor of women. I like the way I look, and there are things that make-up (such as lipstick) can do to make me feel even better about myself.
We used our jackets, dresses, high heels and pants as a way to empower ourselves and not make apologies for who we are and who we are meant to be. Some people may think that it is a weird way of empowerment, but as long as you feel like you YOURSELF decide what is good for you, then who the heck has the right to give two shits? NOBODY.

Dress the way you want but be sure to know the signals you are sending out with the way you dress, because it is a tool of power to be in charge of the way you look.

Graduation 2012: Me and Al plus Dr. Hudson, fashion in the house! Photo cred: Al

Graduation 2012: Me and Al plus Dr. Hudson, fashion in the house! Photo cred: Al

And remember, you look good.


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