a few thoughts on blogging & femininity

I still haven’t finished any sewing or miniature projects so far in 2016! This year is taking its time getting its shit together. I have been felled by several migraine headaches & have been sleeping more than usual as a result. (Sleep is the only thing that helps my migraines.) I have utterly failed at my resolution to get up at 6:30am every morning. The upside is that Jared brings Ramona in to see me if I sleep in later than she does. So I get to start my mornings with some quality Ramona cuddles.

I’ve decided to be a little more intentional with my fabric purchases in 2016, & track what comes in & what goes out. Previously, I have viewed this sort of record-keeping as some form of witchcraft. How in the world are you supposed to remember the exact quantities of all the fabric you buy?! & even more difficult: how do you track the quantities of all the fabric you USE, given that the fabric quantities suggested on patterns usually generate lots of little scraps that can add up to half a yard or more? & these calculations become even more confusing if you are grading a pattern to make it bigger, or changing fundamental design features, like shortening a dress into a top, that make a big difference in fabric used.

But then I was like, oh. Duh. I can just write down the quantities of fabric I buy as I buy them. Every receipt lists exactly how much you purchased of each print/fiber/whatever. & if I make some attempt to measure my fabric before I cut it, I can estimate how much I am using in a given project.

So, once I sew up the five projects I have prepped for January (all five of which have been cut & started–edges serged, staystitched, etc), I will have used 13.75 yards of fabric. & so far in January, I have purchased 8 yards. My goal, obviously, is to keep the balance tipped in favor of fabric used. I feel okay about the fabric I’ve bought, because most of it is slated for a set of pajamas, & if there is one thing I can always use, it is pajamas. & it was on sale! I also bought some denim for jeans (also on sale) & some vinyl to make a wallet, both of which are projects I’ve been planning for a while.

Of course there is a little voice in my head saying, “Really, dude? Do you really need to quantify MORE things in your life?” I already write down every step I take every day, every dollar I spent on absolutely anything, every book I read & its page count, etc etc. I often think that I might be a little happier & feel more relaxed if I just lived my life without obsessively cataloguing everything. But…what’cha gonna do.

When Ramona is napping or out with Jared & I am sewing or cleaning or whatever, I like to listen to podcasts. Lately I have been listening to a lot of “Stuff Your Mom Never Told You,” upon a recommendation from Meredith, who runs Wonder Fair, an art gallery/shop here in Lawrence. One of the first episodes I listened to was called “The Secret Lives of Fashion Bloggers,” which was all about the hidden labor that transpires behind the scenes of blogging. For instance, they discussed the time & energy involved in taking 200+ photos just to find a handful to post online.

The whole episode made me think about sewing blogs. I read A LOT of sewing blogs, & more than once, I have seen bloggers talk about the time & effort they put into their photographs, admitting to taking fifty or one hundred or more photos just to find a couple that are right for their blogs. Obviously most of these bloggers end up posting photos that are far superior to the photos that I post, but for every photo I post, I take maybe two? Three, tops? The ones that don’t get posted are the ones that are blurry or where the camera was aimed the wrong way so I accidentally photographed the litterbox instead of my shirt or whatever. Which is to say, for every photo you see on my blog that is actually showcasing a garment…that’s pretty much the only photo there is.

It honestly never occurred to me to stage a full-on photo shoot! I mean, maybe this is why I have like twelve readers instead of 1200, but whatevs. I’m cool with it. I’d much rather spend that extra time sewing or reading or chilling with Ramona or napping or giving myself shitty haircuts. (I recently chopped about four inches off my hair to try to get rid of split ends. Not only do I still totally have a million split ends, but Jared didn’t notice the haircut at all. He was like, “When your hair is like three feet long, four inches really doesn’t make a difference.” But I spent the next several weeks feeling like it was so short because it was only just barely grazing my hips.)

“Stuff Mom Never Told You” also did an episode on beauty vlogs, specifically asking if the YouTube democratization of make-up secrets is changing the definition & accessibility of beauty. One of the hosts was like, “I don’t wear a lot of make-up. Just concealer, blush, eyeliner, mascara, & lip gloss.” Well, that’s five more products than I use. This again made me think of sewing blogs, because so many sewing blog photos feature the authors in full make-up, & some even talk about having gone to all the effort of hair & make-up in order to take photos. Some even mix sewing posts with beauty posts (these blogs generally do not hold my attention for long–I so don’t care about how some random blogger maintains their hair color or whatever).

On the one hand, I am reluctant to be like, “It’s all stupid,” because whatever, people can do what they want. But on the other hand, it’s always a question of whether people are truly doing what they want, or if they feel like they have to go that extra mile because it is expected on some level. Any time someone is doing exactly what is expected of them as far as oppressive beauty standards go, & they say, “Sure, but, I’m doing it for me!” I always wonder how much of that is true & how much is a farce, given that we have all been born & raised in this misogynistic world, marinating all our lives in this toxic broth of feminine gatekeeping & vague affirmations of “choice”.

Of course I also think about this a lot because I have a daughter, & I’m aware that at some point, she will probably start looking to me for cues on how to be a woman. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t shave, I don’t do a lot of things that are perceived by many as just baseline Things Women Do. I don’t want her to think those things are wrong, but I also don’t want her to think she needs to do them in order to be feminine. You know? When I was a kid, my mom was not huge on make-up or shaving or any of that crap, & so, in that respect, I felt like I had the space & support to reject it. But I am glad that it didn’t go so far as to create an environment that was hostile to femininity.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

11 thoughts on “a few thoughts on blogging & femininity

  1. I use 4 more makeup products than you do. :p (BB cream, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara). I also spend way too much on face cream. I know that it’s all just the patriarchy making me focus on shit that shouldn’t matter. But I still do it. I feel better when I do. I try not to let my daughter see me spend a bunch of time primping… but she’s pretty fascinated by it. She gave herself some pretty impressive purple eyebrows with one of my makeup brushes the other day. If she asks me to show her how to put on eyeliner, I’ll help her… but I definitely don’t want to push any of it on her.

    1. to be fair, i do wear a moisturizer with sunscreen in it. but that is more for health than for looks. no sense getting skin cancer just because i don’t want to fuss with product.

      people always say, “i feel better when i do it,” or, “it makes me feel confident,” or some variation on this theme. far be it for me to judge. i just want people to consider that that feeling of confidence may be a reward for submitting to the patriarchal standard, rather than just a happy shiny feel-good moment they’re giving themselves.

  2. My mom wore some minimal makeup when I was younger, but she never suggested I do so or shave. I formed a negative attitude toward those things on my own. It has mostly dissipated, but I still kind of feel like I’m contributing to women’s oppression when I go out displaying my shaved legs or lipstick. I definitely don’t think there’s an “I’m doing it for me” in the sense that people usually mean it. There is no “me” outside of these structures!

    1. exactly! i had a big-time feminist friend who waxed her junk completely bald & tried to claim that she just did it for herself, because she preferred the way it felt to be hairless in that area. tell yourself whatever you want, i guess, but in what world, free of patriarchy & this weird idea that adult women should be hairless, would it even occur to someone to remove all of their pubic hair?

  3. I’ve been meaning to comment on your coat post to tell you how awesome it looks and how your completed coat has inspired me to get off my couch and actually work on mine, but I’ve been overwhelmed with catching up with sewing blogs after being out of town and therefore having less computer time. But of course it’s a feminism post that actually brought me out of the woodwork!

    This discussion is interesting to me because I have very conflicted feelings about makeup. When I was growing up, my mother would take two hours every day to do her hair and makeup (and still does)! So for the longest time, I just put my hair up and never wore makeup as an act of rebellion. Somewhere along the line I started wearing makeup semi-regularly and I’m not sure how or why, but I usually wear it when I teach and when I go out with friends. I used to only wear the kind of makeup that most people would call “natural” – the kind that people say isn’t supposed to look like you’re wearing makeup but it’s supposed to “enhance your natural beauty.” (which I think is just a judgy thing people say to privilege their own makeup habits over those of others) But sewing made me excited about colors because I could wear whatever color I wanted instead of waiting to find the rare thing that fit me *and* was available in a great color. So I started buying nail polish and realized I can wear ALL THE COLORS on my body! Now I have blue and purple eyeshadow and I love them so much. So while I don’t like that I’ve somehow developed a habit of wearing makeup, the makeup I wear that’s most recognizable as makeup is the stuff I really wear for myself because I just like colors and want to adhere them to as many surfaces of my body as possible. Sometimes I even feel self-conscious in my blue eyeshadow and painted nails because I worry people will think I’m vain. Which is also messed up. :/

    1. thanks! i am not 100% thrilled with the way the coat came out. mostly just the quibbles i mentioned in the post about it. but it definitely serves its function as a coat. it is very cozy & is holding up very well.

      on the topic of “natural” make-up: http://reductress.com/post/woman-wearing-lots-of-makeup-complimented-for-not-wearing-makeup/

      i like lots of color in my clothes too (well, that or all black), but with the result that i don’t like a lot of color anywhere else. then again, i have a lot of very noticeable tattoos, so maybe i feel like i’m kind of maxed out as far as adornment. i also don’t wear any jewelry, for the same reason.

      1. That article is hilarious and makes me think of the “Girl, You Don’t Need No Makeup” song from Amy Schumer’s show. I don’t watch her show because I’ve heard of some sketchy things she’d said about race, but that song is really funny and so true.

  4. I have a pretty wacky relationship with makeup. I think that most people wouldn’t notice the difference between when I wear makeup (I wear tinted moisturizer and mascara most days) and when I don’t, and yet I’ve spent a lot of time and money on makeup. I’ve bought a lot of things that I don’t use either because they’re junk or because I feel awkward in “obvious” makeup. (And the whole idea that women should wear makeup that looks natural is ugh.)

    In late December I went for dinner with two friends who were wearing bright lipstick, and I thought they both looked really good. I decided that my NY resolution would be to try lipstick, since I feel very self-conscious wearing anything other than chapstick. I splurged on some red lipstick and I like wearing it, but I quickly lost momentum because of the effort to get it on evenly and then it all wears off by 10am.

    I started to get critical of the whole project because my son watches me put on lipstick and he demands to wear “makeup” too. I’m not going to send him to daycare with a Heath Ledger Joker smile, and anyway the lipstick was expensive. I do let him put on chapstick though. The fact that it would raise so many eyebrows if I let him really drives home how gendered the whole enterprise is. Beyond that, I don’t want to convey the message that makeup is mandatory or even desirable.

    1. Well, let’s be real. I think sending a two-year-old girl off to daycare with lipstick one would also raise some eyebrows. (Mine, anyway. I am not at all sorry for being judge-y about little kids wearing make-up, regardless of gender.)

      I definitely hear you though. I wore lipstick for a few years, just for my own amusement, I guess. I am super-thrifty about using…uh, everything (I can make a tube of toothpaste last for like two years–the amount Jared uses with each toothbrushing session is seriously enough to last me a few weeks, it’s bonkers), I think I only went through two & a half tubes during my five-year experiment. Eventually I started feeling sketched out by the chemicals & the gendered expectations element, & I was also looking for things to boot from my daily routine because somehow having a three-year-old is like ten times more exhausting than having a newborn (for me).

      Yup. This stuff is very weird!

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