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Blog Debate with Louise Mensch and Glosswitch: can you dress for men, and still be a feminist?

(124 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 04-Jun-13 11:46:04


Can you dress for men, and still be a feminist? In today's guest blog, two forthright MN bloggers debate the question.

Louise Mensch is the novelist and outspoken former Tory MP for Corby, who resigned her seat last August in order to move to New York, where her husband is based. She recently launched her blog Unfashionista (subtitled "the lazy girl's guide to gloss"), in which she has written controversially about feminism, fashion - and why women should dress in a way that their male partner finds attractive.

Challenging her position is Mumsnet blogger and contributor to the New Statesman and the Guardian, Glosswitch. She writes about feminism, family and pretty much anything else you care to mention over on her blog, Glosswatch (subtitled "humourless mummy, cuddly feminist").

Read the debate, and tell us where you stand here on the thread - and don't forget to post your URL if you blog on this issue.

PS if you enjoy it, do share it via the FB/Twittter buttons at the top of the page!

KaseyM Tue 04-Jun-13 20:22:15

I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to please your partner, but it's a bit silly not to recognise the societal backdrop that each couple operates in.

Women are pressured far more to look nice by the media and society than vice versa. A man loving a women for who she is, not what she looks like is a thing to be immensely grateful for. For a woman, it's kind of expected.

AnyFucker Tue 04-Jun-13 20:24:37

I have always been under the impression that women mostly dress and primp themselves for the benefit of other women or rather to feel better about themselves in front of other women

That has certainly been my experience.

LouiseMensch1 Tue 04-Jun-13 20:25:48


Common sense, basically. I am talking about no more than a bit of make-up, some fitted clothes, and washing/drying your hair every other day. Certainly not surgery. Nor do I think you should dye your brown hair red because he likes redheads. My posts above assume he likes your original, authentic style and look because he's dating you. Or to put it another way, why would you be with a man who didn't find you attractive in the fist place? If he wants to change you into something else (as opposed to appreciating you looking nice), run away fast.

Fitness will also deliver lots of benefits to your looks but that's another blog.

RippingYarns Tue 04-Jun-13 20:32:21

totally with you on that DameFanny

BristolBanshee Tue 04-Jun-13 21:00:08

I agree with both, but feel posters are misinterpreting Louise on purpose. You may want to disagree but most disagree with the preconceived idea of what they thought Louise had said, possibly prior to this conversation.

I mainly dress for myself, I have had a post baby body many times and sometimes I dress for my husband. I keep myself looking quite together and wear makeup, but these are things I've always done!

Vegehamwidge Tue 04-Jun-13 21:02:05

I think you should encourage men to dress up for their female partners instead, if you want to encourage someone to do it, because women are already bombarded with the message that our looks are super important.

BristolBanshee Tue 04-Jun-13 21:02:21

I'm not really sure Louise's surgery is relevant here. Those are personal choices and not to be used to pick holes/flaws in an argument.

BristolBanshee Tue 04-Jun-13 21:05:40

Have to add Louise I think your "menu" works for you and it's quite foolhardy to communicate that as a message for all. You are beautiful and so it's probably something valued by others your whole life, however it is not the sane story for all. Some will have never placed such things in high regard and so have a different " offer".

On a final note, I like the fact that you get people talking about feminism!

MajesticWhine Tue 04-Jun-13 21:11:29

I am not aware of my husband wanting certain things of me in my looks, dress, hair, and style. It just never comes up. It's more the other way round. I moan at him if he grows a beard and complain about what he wears in bed. And numerous other tactful suggestions.
I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect a partner to take a little care of themselves, so I don't see it as a feminist / anti-feminist issue.

KaseyM Tue 04-Jun-13 21:20:16

I'm with Vege, encourage men to dress up. My XP was a complete minger with the sloppiest dress sense / grooming regime, but he expected me to look nice for him. That was his view: men did stuff to impress women, women looked nice to attract men.

Needless to say he is XP not DP!

wileycoyote Tue 04-Jun-13 21:57:05

I agree with Louise too, but obviously it is a balance like most things..

xebecewyqoc01 Tue 04-Jun-13 22:15:46

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Technotropic Tue 04-Jun-13 23:10:34

I totally agree with Louise but it has to be a two way thing. In most cases people get together as they are physically attracted to each other so what is wrong about the concept of dressing for your man/woman?

Rarely do we meet our partners when slumming it in our sweat pants with that just got out of bed look and often when we've presented ourselves professionally for work. I get smarted up for the company I work for and am in no way romantically attached to work so why not for a loved one?

My partner and I do it for each other. Not every day, that would be tiresome, but it shows that we still care enough to want to still attract each other like we did when we first met.

I don't understand the nastiness levelled at Louise but is typical for keyboard warriors on an anonymous forum I guess.

stepawayfromthescreen Tue 04-Jun-13 23:30:01

for what it's worth Louise, you really, truly, honestly looked beautiful before you lost weight and had surgery. I follow you on Twitter, so I know you don't believe that, but it's true! You have that near perfect Hollywood gloss about you now, but it's not necessarily 'better' than your previous self. Don't get anything else done please, there is no need.

stepawayfromthescreen Tue 04-Jun-13 23:31:14

and I love your Tweets and articles, and often agree with you!

elastamum Tue 04-Jun-13 23:39:59

I think glosswitch sums it up perfectly.

"Men are not household pets, requiring food, water and a suitably blow-dried companion. They have individual preferences, too. To think that isn't anti-men; it's pro-human."

Quite. I dont think OMG, I had better dress up, and make sure I look good for when my partner arrives and TBH, I dont think either of us look at the other in one such a shallow superficial way. But then we are both a bit academically geeky, so find the ability to share stuff, talk about what we are doing, laugh and being on the same wavelength, far more important than a few wrinkles or wearing the 'right' brands of clothing. But maybe its just that we are middle aged

louisianablue2000 Wed 05-Jun-13 00:00:53

DH and I have been home all day together. I have just shouted through to the kitchen and asked him what I'm wearing. 'Clothes!' he said confidently. 'What clothes?' I asked him. 'Em... jeans?' he guessed wrongly.

I don't think I'll spend too much time dressing for my husband!

LouiseMensch1 Wed 05-Jun-13 01:23:00

stepaway, thank you smile much appreciated.

IdealHomeHouseBeautifulLivinge Wed 05-Jun-13 01:23:41

Mr Mensch

Maybe he needs to make more effort for his wife?

RealityQuake Wed 05-Jun-13 01:27:05

I would probably be described as sloven by some. I haven't worn make-up since before I met DP, I haven't shaved since before we got married, I don't even own a blow dryer, my hair is under a cloth cap 90%+ of the time, and I live in long loose skirts and T-shirts and will never touch high heels again. I did enough dressing up in my early years by a pushy mother who's obsessed with looks, I'm going to be comfy now. I get no pleasure out of the primping, it's a waste of time for me. Do as you wish but it doesn't float my boat.

Somehow, I've been with my partner for almost 10 years even without it. Due to health, 4 kids, and working together, we're with each other practically 24/7. Sees me all the time in my slobby glory - and couldn't care less. Seriously, I've tried to get his opinion on me changing my hair for weeks and his response is "Your sexy with it long, you'd be sexy bald, because it's you". Which is incredibly not helpful but sweet and the heart of the matter really.

People are attracted by personality even more than looks, yes even men. And with all the best efforts, conventional attractiveness will fade and not really what I want anyone to think first, second, or third about me.

And I find the pleasure comment quite odd. I'm pretty sure DP's pleasure there is far more to do with our experience with each other and being open with each other and with toys than it has to do with what I do with my hair. It should all end up a mess anyway.

radioeggs Wed 05-Jun-13 08:23:20

I found this quite depressing so I didn't read so far down. How about men making an effort for women? Shouldn't couples be balanced in that regard? Slobby couples aren't bothered, high-maintenance are. But to have big difference between the two suggests there's a problem with mismatched priorities that will probably cause problems down the line.

Its very silencing to high-maintenance (or even average-maintenance) women who don't fancy their slobby male partners, to suggest they are a sexually deviant female because they like a man to make a bit of an effort.

I find it depressing that LouiseMensch1 holds a sexist view like this which is both very oppressive to women (Stress about your appearance women or your relationship will go down the tubes! If his slobbiness turns you off you are defective as a woman) and liberating for men (Relax men - you are fine as you are), - ie very antifeminist in that regard, yet declares very loudly that she is feminist. Its very damaging for women's rights to have confused spokeswomen like this.

Vegehamwidge Wed 05-Jun-13 08:32:51

to suggest they are a sexually deviant female because they like a man to make a bit of an effort

Yes that implication bothered me.

LittleFrieda Wed 05-Jun-13 09:29:52

Why draw the line at dressing for your husband? Why not make more effort by doing all of the housework and childcare? And all of the shopping and cooking. Oh and give up your career for your husband.

juneau Wed 05-Jun-13 10:04:59

I agree with Louise and I don't think it's anti-feminist at all. I'm no rad-fem, but I do think that making the best of what you have (whatever your personal raw materials), is about self-respect and showing love and respect for your partner.

radioeggs Wed 05-Jun-13 10:11:37

juneau self-respect and showing love and respect for your partner

If this is promoted as something only 'required' of women then in it is antifeminist

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