When considering issues of embodiment in feminist discourse, it proves vital to discuss matters of corporeal adornment and modification. However, I found some of the topics in this week’s readings problematic, as I feel it is dangerous to rely too heavily on material objects—namely, clothes and fashion—when attempting to describe or characterize one’s feminism. Specifically, in her piece “Women Recovering Our Clothes,” Young asserts that by analyzing women’s pleasure and preoccupation with clothes not in terms of attempting to conform to beauty ideals or satisfy the (internalized) male gaze, but instead more subjective pleasures yielded by clothing—in terms of touch, female bonding, and fantasy or play—women can effectively reclaim this “female-specific intrinsic value” and incorporate it into their individual conception of feminism. Although I agree that a reclamation and redefinition of practices traditionally associated with the feminine is appealing and perhaps even ostensibly beneficial for some, for me, feminism is inherently and necessarily political, and I tend to feel that emphasizing material things like dress may trivialize this political nature. Of course, I realize that nothing is beyond the scope of political theorizing, but I feel that Young’s position to reclaim clothing may undermine more pressing issues of feminism.
Another contention I have with Young’s piece was that she neglected to effectively account for or discuss notions of consumerism or the position of women as a targeted demographic for marketing. For me, when superficially considering why women are so preoccupied with clothing or gain so much enjoyment from clothes, my immediate attitude is that much of this perceived pleasure is the effect of a consumerist culture and proficient marketing, a relevant point that I feel Young neglects to fully address. Similarly, I agree with Groeneveld that by appropriating dressing-up and taking pleasure in clothing as feminist, some may be erroneously according empowerment with consumption.
Although I did find some of this week’s readings somewhat unconvincing, reading and thinking about modifying the body through material means helped me develop and reinforce one position of mine regarding the issue. I find that concerning bodily adornment and modification, I am more aligned with the “free choice” faction that Groeneveld explains in her piece. That is, I feel that it is counter-productive to criticize women who engage in stereotypically feminine behaviors or those that conform to notions of hegemonic beauty, such as dressing up “girly” or getting cosmetic surgery. Although I realize that these practices are probably at least in part socially constructed, as these women are complicit to and often reproduce and reinforce oppressive beauty ideals, I still feel that it is fundamental in feminism to allow women to claim autonomy over their bodies and use it as a means of expression in ways they wish; or, as my mother sagaciously related to me the other day: “true liberation means choice.”