Thinking about Questions

I studied Anthropology/Archaeology in University and I have found it enormously helpful in understanding the world around me.

Among other things, Anthropology gave me a good understanding that the person who decides what questions can be asked (in a conversation, in research, in any specific context), has a lot of control of the outcome of a given situation. Good questions expand people’s thinking, encourage them to make new connections, and they open the narrative.

Narrow questions limit the answers you can receive and they can negatively influence how people perceive their situation.

I have come up against this in many contexts – and I often bring it up when I am telling stories – but my most recent example was when I downloaded an intriguing fitness app because of an Instagram ad.

Wait! How is a fitness app affected by questions?

You can find out in my latest ‘Fit is a Feminist Issue’ post ‘Let Me Set My Own Goals ThankYouVeryMuch’

Train of Thought: On Clothing – But How Do You Feel?

For example, here are two pieces of an outfit I choose for 'Minnie Cooper' a talk show host who was a black sheep in her conservative family. She dressed to call attention to herself and she didn't buy into what her family thought was appropriate. She didn't care what they thought.

For example, here are two pieces of an outfit I choose for ‘Minnie Cooper’ a talk show host who was a black sheep in her conservative family. She dressed to call attention to herself and she didn’t buy into what her family thought was appropriate. 

I can remember watching ‘What Not To Wear’ back in the day and being annoyed, not only by the fact that they tended to dress everyone so much alike, but that they had no consideration for what people wanted to wear/felt comfortable in. There is more than one way to look good and they never seemed to get that at the time.  (I think Stacey London gets it now, though.)

I mean, I get  that our choice of clothing can be a message to the world. It’s a good thing, in general, to understand that and then to be able to choose what message to send, to choose whether to meet the ‘standards’ set by the situation or not. I often make those choices when I pick a costume for characters I play in monologues or mystery games. It’s interesting to decide whether this particular character would dress ‘appropriately’ for a given situation or whether they would choose to subvert expectations.*

 

And all of that doesn’t even get into the messages that other people can read into our clothing. I flatly refuse to accept that we are responsible for those messages, but again, it’s a good idea to know what they might be so we can be prepared to deal with them. That’s not the same as accepting responsibility for their thoughts and actions, it’s just acknowledging that we might have to deal with them.

 

Anyway, this is all just sort of a long introduction to a question I feel that we don’t ask often enough…
 

How does your clothing make you feel?

 

What about if, instead of concentrating just on how clothing *looks* we, instead thought about how it makes us feel? What about if we took the emotional ramifications into consideration?

 

If your clothing makes you self-conscious, if it leaves you feeling too hot or too cold, if it keeps you tugging down a hemline or rolling up a waistband, then it doesn’t feel good. If you are going to spend your evening thinking about your clothes instead of doing whatever it is you had planned, then it isn’t a good choice of outfit. I get that sometimes an item can *seem* like a good idea until you get to the event and something is not as expected, but often we choose an item of clothing and immediately know that it isn’t going to work.

What I’d like is for everyone to be able to dress for their own comfort and enjoyment and not have to give a damn what anyone else thinks. I know that isn’t possible at this point in history, but I am hoping that is going to change. In the meantime, I hope that, the next time you are getting dressed, you think about how you will feel in your clothes.  And, if you think that your clothes will take up too much mental space, if you think that it will distract you from having fun, then you choose something else to wear. I want you to make a choice that serves you well and keeps you happy.

Tune in next week for the third part in this series: Dress For Your Own Power.

*Of course, some of my characters would have no idea what the ‘appropriate’ thing is. That’s a whole other layer of characterization.

A Train Of Thought: On Clothing, Part One – Why are they wearing that?

One of my friends chooses her outfits like they are a piece of art. She goes in for composition of colour and fabric rather than using the criteria that we are more used to – ‘modern’ style, ‘dressing up’ for the occasion, colour coordination. I love the way she dresses, even more so now that I know why.

Another friend of mine told me that, in some parts of the world, people judge photographs based on the spirit they were taken in, rather than on whether the individuals pictured look ‘good’ or not. I found that intriguing and it tied nicely into the idea of how my other friend dresses.

That, in turn, led me to back to an old train of thought – noticing how I look at other people’s outfits.

Just like any other dame raised in this patriarchal culture, I have been well-trained* to judge what other people are wearing and whether I look ‘better’ than them. I am well versed, at least mentally, in deciding whether someone ‘should’ wear a particular type of clothing, whether it flatters them or whether they look ‘ridiculous.’

However, since I started paying attention to how I think and how my thinking has been influenced (thanks, Feminism!), I have been increasingly annoyed with that automatic internal commentary on other people. I got tired of the waste of time and energy involved in assessing other people – and for no good reason. It doesn’t go with the general empathy with which I try to live my life, and it’s no fun.

So, since I can’t stop noticing what other people are wearing, I decided to start using different criteria to judge it. Now, instead of looking at whether they meet some sort of moving target of standards of appropriateness, I look for their intent.

Were they aiming for comfort? Attention? Moveability? Colour? Excitement? Were they trying to highlight one specific item? Do they look like they are happy in what they have on?

In this photo, for instance, Sharon and I are dressed to kick some ass. Our intentions are clear. (She won, by the way. I need to up my skills.)

In this photo, for instance, Sharon and I are dressed to kick some ass. Our intentions are clear. (She won, by the way. I need to up my skills.)

Now, I’m not spending a lot of effort on this, I’m just channelling an automatic train of thought down a different track. And I’m not generally thinking harsh thoughts about anyone’s outfits, I don’t care that much.

I am a people watcher, though, it’s my inclination as a writer, a storyteller, a coach, and someone with anthropology training, and I am much more comfortable thinking in these terms than in any other ones I learned.

What kind of intentions do you use for choosing what to wear?

Tune in next Thursday for Part Two of this series – ‘But How Do You Feel?’

*Note: I am not referring to my parents’ training me here, just the kind of training you get from living in this society