I got into a discussion with some people today about Kaylee from Firefly, and her interest in frilly things combined with her genius for machines. I made the argument that these two traits are not as unconnected as they may initially seem. They may, in fact, stem from a common personality characteristic: complete indifference to patriarchal conventions.
She’s in a male-dominated profession and, while others might succumb to stereotype threat, she does not care what the social attitude is about her choice of work and does not let that affect her.
She chooses a frilly dress that is outrageously girly, but which does not cater at all to the male gaze. Which is not to say that wearing skimpy clothing is bad, but simply that she’s chosen her aesthetic because she likes it, and hasn’t stopped to worry about whether Simon will find it particularly attractive–even though she has a huge crush on him.
After coming back from RuffleCon this past weekend, I observed that a lot of the girls I talked to were working in technical/analytical fields (programming, statistics, math), or had earned graduate level degrees from highly regarded institutions. And they love frilly dresses. It’s an extremely well-run convention, that happens to be something like over 70% female.
When I was a kid watching TV shows and movies, I was always led to believe that societies populated and run predominantly by women were supposed to look like the Amazon women depicted on screen in skimpy leather outfits. But see, that’s the effect of the male gaze in film. It’s 2015 now, and I’ve yet to see a predominantly female-run society/organization–serving predominantly female consumers–that prances around in leather bikinis.
I have, however, seen them prance around in frilly dresses and cute bonnets.