Saturday, August 23, 2008

I am woman, hear me whip!

By Lauren Wood

In 1558, Queen Elizabeth I became Queen of England, and led her nation into a golden age (or so says the film.

In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in the United States of America. If you don't know what this amendment says, then go ahead and vote for lace, to your right.

In 1963, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published, and those liberated women who read it were encouraged to further liberate themselves, and condescend to their lace-y housewife friends.

Finally, in 2004, Halle Berry became Catwoman. The movie may not have done extraordinarily well in the critical realm, or at the box office, but it reflects a continuation of times that are a-changin' when it comes to women's roles in society.

We no longer must disguise ourselves as bedding in order to entice men (or women, if that's your choice, soul sister!) Women of the 21st century can convey strength, and dominance. Our choice of textiles need not trap us in a delicate netting of traditional gender roles, instead our second skin can be as impenetratable as our spirits and sexual appetites (yes, that's right!), and can tear at flesh when flicked in violence (cue whip noise).

Leather can endure the elements just as easily as it can endure a mosh pit, and so it is a uniform of those who dare to be as tough as tanned animal hide. Cowboys wear leather as they lasso and ride the wild, bucking bulls in the harsh environment of the American Southwest. Punk rockers wear studded leather jackets as they ride the wild, bucking bulls of substance abuse (often both heroin and cocaine!) and sing before the great unwashed swells of violent, misguided youth. Tough New York professionals wear leather accessories as their own quiet reminders of the tough skins they acquire as they face the jungle of the corporate world.

Lace, try as it might to be "deceptively" innocent, simply lacks the wherewithal to endure the world's dangers. It is fragile, intricate, teasing, and pretty. In other words, it is everything women were supposed to be before the dawn of feminism. The women of Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare all decked themselves in gentle lace, usually in an attempt to ensnare a suitable husband, so that they can lose their identities for the sake of family.

Or so says Betty Friedan, anyway.

Anyway, Catwoman's leather-clad superheroine is strong, enticing, sassy, agile, smart, and yes, sexy. And it's all because of the leather. Or so I gather from the trailer and wikipedia article. I didn't actually see the movie.

So, in the words of another feminist icon, Helen Reddy:

I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.

Hear me whip.

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