Published in “AfterEllen”
Dresses did not make me feel feminine; they made me feel vulnerable. I realize that vulnerability is a key element to the social construct of the feminine; and make no mistake, my critique of dresses is purely about their function for the socially-constructed feminine perpetuated in media and culture. Of course I find them aesthetically pleasing–I just don’t enjoy how I feel wearing them.
My mother wanted a ballerina, but I’ve always been more of a cowboy. Mayfair Academy of Fine Arts has been serving Chicago’s predominantly black South Side since 1957. Lured into classes by tap dance, I was entrapped into years of ballet sans tap. Tears always accompanied those Saturday morning classes of taunts by cliques of pre-pubescent prima donnas. I sought refuge in my room, skinny legs wrapped protectively in durable jeans, hidden from the jeers of my peers.
I always equate dresses with two things: unsolicited commentary on my size and impracticality. I was a cowboi, not the woman forced to sit side-saddle–restricted to following or falling; never fighting or leading the cavalry. Dresses signified damsels in dis-dress (see what I did there?).