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Feminist History of the Pussy Bow



The pussy bow - a large floppy bow attached to the neck of a blouse or tied around the collar - is my all-time favorite fashion accessory. And nobody rocked the pussy bow better than one of my personal fashion icons, Blair Waldorf (exhibit A and B).

Yesterday, I uncovered an amazing PBS documentary on the history of modern feminism -- Makers: Women Who Make America. This 3-part series is amazing and inspiring, and I was surprised to learn an interesting little history of my favorite accessory.


In the 1980s, as women entered the executive world of business, and with no female examples to turn to, they interpreted the male dress codes and standards that surrounded them. The pussy bow was the female equivalent of the bow tie or neck tie. It was their attempt to be feminine while still fitting into a male world. 


For so many reasons I particularly related to this little history of the pussy bow. Just the other day my appearance and the way I dress came up in conversation with my advisor and some other faculty members. Because they only want the best for me, they mentioned that sometimes I can dress too feminine and that this femininity might diminish my academic achievements and how seriously I am taken as a scholar. Of course my department embraces my fashion sense and they have never underestimated me because it, but that doesn't mean it won't be a problem elsewhere. I know they only bring it up so I can be prepared. As an attractive, feminine, and petite woman I have to be aware of how my appearance will affect my career (how willing I am to change because of this is another story).


While I appreciate having an open dialogue about it, I still get so ragey when I think about the politics of dressing for women. In one sentence I am praised for how well I did on my comprehensive exams and awarded the honor of distinction, and in the other sentence I am cautioned against being too feminine and fashionable. The idea that one of these negates the other is still very prevalent in our society. Of course a man would rarely have to worry about this. Is it even possible for a man to dress too masculine? 


This, ladies, is why feminism still matters and why I will continue to rock my pussy bow with pride! Not only because I like it and want to be fashionable, but also as a thank you to all the amazing women who came before me and made my career and way of life possible. We still have to fight the good fight, but as this wonderful documentary shows, we have come a long way!


You can watch all three parts of the documentary free on PBS's website: part one || part two || part three




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Ashley B
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11 comments:

  1. It really is crazy how unequal women are from men still, especially in areas like this! Luckily, there are people out there that endorse feminism and realize it isn't negative at all! You go Ashley :)

    Hunter
    Prep on a Budget

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is isn't it? And yet because we have come so far, many think equality has been reach, which sadly is not the case. Also I don't know why we have let feminism become a bad thing!

      Delete
  2. I am so in love with this post both because I love learning the history of the pussy bow but also because I relate so much. I have always been the "most feminine" and "most fashionable" in all of my courses and I feel like I am not taken seriously because of it! Women like you are necessary to help demonstrate that dressing in cute clothes and being pretty does not make you any less capable academically or professionally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! And I am sorry to hear you feel that way, but you are right, we have to keep reminding everybody that just because we wear cute or fashionable clothing we are not less capable!

      Delete
  3. It is good to be reminded. Rock the bows! Rebecca

    ReplyDelete
  4. Like you said, on the one hand it is nice to be able to have open dialogue about this issue, but on the other hand, the fact that this is even an issue at all is incredibly archaic! I'm glad you're not of the mind to change to fit expectations, because the world needs women just like you to show that style, fashion, and good looks do not need to be exclusive of intelligence, professionalism, and ability. Good work and keep on rocking that pussy bow!

    Sarah
    Sweet Spontaneity

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes my advisor and department are wonderful and they only want to prepare me for the realities I will face. But it is hard to find that balance. I want to take a stand and dress how I want, but at the same time I don't want to sabotage my career! It's so frustrating that we have to think about these things and make these types of decisions, but I guess that is life.

      Delete
  5. Okay Ashley its me again. I'm officially in love with you. I feel so passionate on this subject and have actually experienced a similar situation as you in my own profession but amongst other women (shame on them!) Good for you to show your fashionable pride. Even though it is frustrating, you are correct and hopefully in time they will change their mindset.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey again! Thank you that is very sweet, I also appreciate the support for my fashion sense. And yes, shame on women for not supporting other women!

      Delete
  6. and now the pussy bow has taken on a whole new history!

    ReplyDelete

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