(Some Like It) Hot Topics

Wearing Cultures: A Four Step Guide to Avoiding (In)appropriation

You shouldn’t wear that.

Whether it’s a magazine article admonishing women over thirty to remove crop tops from their closet, or a school dress code demanding that girls keep their kneecaps under wraps; we women are often confronted with arbitrary rules on what not to wear. And for the most part, they’re bullshit.

I am generally of the opinion that women should dress however they want, except when it involves the inappropriate “borrowing” from marginalized cultures. It is perhaps the only time when I think it may be necessary for women, in the spirit of respect and camaraderie, to follow a set of clothing guidelines. It may also be the only time when the words of the Apostle Paul can be successfully used as a feminist slogan: “I have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful.” (CEB)

Brainy Bombshells

Problematic Math: A Lesson From Jayne Mansfield

Question: What does 40-21-35 + 163 IQ equal?

Answer: Jayne Mansfield, of course!

Hollywood’s “smartest dumb blonde” was famously reduced to and immortalized by her extreme hourglass figure and genius-level intelligence. In fact, so notorious were Mansfield’s dimensions that Billy Graham once remarked, “This country knows more about Jayne Mansfield’s statistics than the Second Commandment.”

Today, the notoriety of Mansfield’s figure has ostensibly been eclipsed by Kim Kardashian’s curves; however, long before backsides were breaking the internet, Mansfield was making headlines for her calculated wardrobe malfunctions—earning her the side-eye of Sophia Loren and the attention of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner.

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Of Sirens and Scholars: The Making of a Pin-up Feminist

“You look like a victim.”

I pursed my cherry-painted lips and folded my arms. “What do you mean I look like a victim?”

“I would just suggest dying your hair brown. Wear glasses. Invest in some baggier clothes.”

I instinctually pulled at the hem of my pencil skirt.

“But I have perfect eyesight. And my natural hair color is blonde…well, maybe not this particular shade…”

I thought back to the beginning of the semester and the orientation I attended for doctoral student professors.

A seasoned instructor proffered this gem: “The best piece of advice I can give you women is to dress like a man. Students won’t take you seriously otherwise.”

I remember turning to a female colleague and exchanging an incredulous smirk. Dress like a man? What does that even mean?

Years before, a graduate professor had instructed me to speak in a lower register for similar reasons. Determined to be “taken seriously,” I unintentionally delivered my class presentation in a cartoonishly seductive voice. Needless to say, the professor promptly retracted his advice.

Dress like a man. Talk like a man.