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Posts Tagged ‘Making Choices’

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Posted by learntobead on June 24, 2020

It has always seemed to me that society has a strong bias against women and their ability to make choices. Men are decisive; women are not. That’s what society seems to say, So are women incapable of making choices in the pursuit of fashion Which bead color, color combination, style, silhouette? Which bead stitch? Which arrangement of beads and parts and pendants on a necklace? Which metal? Which stringing material? For women, so society seems to say, it seems the implications of any one choice are imbued with so many social and personal and cultural and situational issues, that it becomes too overwhelming to make.

The fact today, or I hope it is a fact today, however, is that we can use “women” and “choices” in the same meaningful and positive sentence. The pursuit of fashion knows no gender biases. Yet, this might be considered a relatively new phenomenon. For it was not always that way — or at least, as society viewed it. It took hundreds of years of feminism, strident and subtle, violent and passive, to change society’s views of how women think, and if they could think at all. There’s been a lot of kicking and screaming, put-downs and denials, resistance and sabotage, cruelty and abuse that has occurred during my lifetime, and before, to get to the place where women are today. Not all women that come into the bead store are as appreciative of their feminist sisters who opened so many doors and opportunities. And not all women are as aware of their gender-history, as they should be.

It was Darwin who wrote, in the latter part of the 19th century, that women were not as evolved as men. They were given equal amounts of protoplasm as men. But women were incapable of using that protoplasm. God made women to procreate. Procreation was a totally biological function, requiring no thought. Raising children was a biological function, requiring no thought. If forced to use their brains, women became ill, exhausted, infected, disordered. Only men had the will, ability and motivation to think. And in deference to women, men had to think for them, as well.

The 19th century thinkers were thus enlightened. The tasks of men required intelligence. The activities of women did not. Women lacked the ability to reason and comprehend general principals. Women would not have evolved at all if they had not been blessed, because of evolution, with men’s brains. The argument continued, if women had not been blessed with men’s brains, they would not have been able to procreate. And thus, the human species would have become extinct.

Craniologists, at the time, found that men’s brains were bigger than women’s brains, and thus concluded female inferiority. However, one scientist, proceeding along this same line of research, found out that, on average, German brains were 100 grams heavier than French brains. And this line of research ended abruptly, for fear of fomenting civil conflict. And so, too, ended any more research comparing the brain matter of women to that of men.

Physicists, at the time, speculated that each human organism had a finite amount of energy. Women had to expend so much energy on reproduction, that they did not have enough energy left over to think. Men had this excess energy, so they could think. Since women eat less than men, women also had a harder time generating new energy.

Educators, at the time, used Darwin’s explanations as reasons for denying women an education. Since women could not think logically, they could not be taught to do so. It was the widely held belief that women could not grasp knowledge.

Physicians, at the time, described all illnesses affecting women, as symptoms of one illness only — a disease of the womb. To cure any disease, meant some surgical, physically abusive and cruel treatment applied to the woman’s reproductive organs. A common prescriptive was to tell the woman to think less, in order to cure herself. Sleep more. Never touch a pen, brush or pencil as long as you will live.

Advice Columnists, at the time, and this is 1849 New York, advised women about their expenditures on dress. Do not delude yourself with appearance, they wrote.

– Do not permit fashion to impair your health
 — Do not allow dress to infringe on your delicacy
 — Do not allow unnecessary expenses on fashion
 — Do not spend too much time with fashion

In Boston (1840), one Advice Columnist went so far as to warn women to wholly lay aside their ornaments, as fast as possible, if they expected to have any sense of well-being. It was a mark of bad judgment for a woman to pursue fashion.

Wow! I think I need to knock Darwin, and certainly some of his contemporaries, down a few notches. And what does this all mean for beaders and jewelry designers and fashionistas? From the 19th century scientific point of view, a craft like beading or jewelry making would have to be primarily intuitive, requiring no thought or logic. It would have been beneath a man to do. For men to get involved with beading or jewelry making, it would have meant resisting evolution, and resisting progress.

Beading and jewelry making, from the Design perspective, are very much about making choices. Women are assumed and subsumed to be as capable as men. Beading and jewelry making are processes of construction, whether conceived and executed by women or men, which happen within an environment, and the results of which are judged as art, as the pieces are worn. There’s a lot of choice going on here. What goes together, and what does not. What will hold the structure of the piece together, and what will not. What you want to happen to the piece over time, and what you do not.

The Designer, whether woman or man, has to make the same kinds of choices, to be successful. Perhaps there are nuanced differences between women and men, in how they think through and come to any choice. I do not know. But the choices need to be made, nonetheless.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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