- Be a woman.
- Put on clothes.
That’s it. That’s all you need to do to dress like a woman. Of course, that’s not what Trump meant when he reportedly told female staffers to “dress like women.” No, he meant wear dresses, wear heels, wear makeup, look pretty, be feminine, be pleasing to men. Because really, what else are women for? Apparently, Donald Trump thinks that my flannel shirts, overalls, hiking boots, ponytails, and flat-out refusal to wear any makeup unless I absolutely have to make me less of a woman. I have two words for Don. Fuck you.
Fuck Trump, and fuck the patriarchal standards of femininity and beauty that made me spend a significant portion of my teenage years trying to look like somebody I wasn’t and feeling bad about the things that made me feel most comfortable. It pains me to think about how much happier and more successful I could have been in middle school and high school if I hadn’t cared so much about performing femininity “the right way.” It pains me to think about all the women and girls out there making themselves unhappy and uncomfortable just to achieve a certain standard of femininity and beauty. If dresses and makeup and heels are your jam, that’s great, and you should wear them, regardless of your gender. But no woman should ever feel pressured to wear a dress, as several female Trump staffers said they did.
I recently binge-watched Netflix’s new original series One Day at a Time. It’s a wonderfully feminist, radically progressive, heartwarming 90s style family sitcom with one of my favorite queer story lines ever, but that’s a blog post for another time. Anyway, in the second episode, Elena, the teenage daughter, complains about the way she’s treated at school, and the fact that people don’t take her seriously. Her grandmother, Lydia, manages to convince her that if she’ll just wear a little makeup, her problems will be solved. At this point, I wanted to scream at my computer, “Don’t listen to her, Elena! You don’t need to look a certain way to be deserving of respect! You do you, girl, and don’t wear makeup unless that feels like you!” Of course, Elena figures this out on her own over the course of the episode, because she’s very smart and the most feminist 15-year-old ever. She comes home having taken off all her makeup and explains to her grandmother that she feels most comfortable when she’s not wearing any makeup, and she’s fine with the way she looks, even if her grandmother isn’t.
I remember the huge wave of relief I felt when I got rid of the last of what little makeup I ever owned. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve got nothing against other people wearing makeup. For people who like makeup, it can be very empowering–feminist even. But it’s not for me, and it never has been, and it never will be. When I realized I didn’t own any makeup anymore, it felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. It wasn’t just the makeup I’d been freed from (I never really used it, anyway), it was the pressure I allowed society to put on me to dress and look a certain way. Getting rid of my makeup was a major step in my process of self-acceptance, of rejecting the notion that I have to fit a certain mold of femininity and allowing myself to define my own womanhood and femininity. I’m happy in my “tomboy” clothes: my flannel shirts, my button downs, my boots, my overalls, my basketball shorts.
No matter what I wear, I always dress like a woman, because I am a woman. And there’s no “right” way for a woman to dress. But by telling female staffers to “dress like women,” Trump’s reinforcing the notion that there is a right way–his way, patriarchy’s way. “Dress like a woman” is a completely meaningless phrase, because there are as many ways to dress like a woman as there are women in the world, and all of them are completely valid. The response from women has been beautiful: Doctors, athletes, astronauts, police officers, firefighters, and women of all ages, races, religions, and styles are showing Trump how they dress like women. Newsflash, men: Women don’t get dressed for you. We get dressed for the revolution.