Through the wardrobe

October 30, 2014

I struggled with Sally Feldman’s article, “Post-dungaree decisions”, about academic dress (Opinion, 16 October). I know plenty of chic female academics. I wear dresses and am also a radical feminist, and an academic. Perhaps if I had grown up in the 1960s, I would have gone for dungarees in the 1970s too.

Feldman’s claim, that women who were “radicalised in the 1970s” have “softened” their attitudes towards patriarchy and now wear fashionable clothing, is cheap. I do not think 1970s feminists imagined they’d smash the patriarchy merely by wearing flat shoes and dungarees. To imply so is to reduce a very necessary, important movement that questioned the construction of femininity, to the level of silly women thinking they’d change the world with their clothes – that is, to the same old misogynistic “isn’t it funny how trivial women are?” trope.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of talking about how women get it wrong by focusing too much/too little/too superficially on clothes, we could talk about why there are so few of them in the room?

Lucy Allen
Cambridge

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