In Which the Author Conducts a Partial Feminist Analysis of a Tacky Mail-Order Catalog
Remember last week when I regaled you with stories of neighborhood kids trapped under avalanches of the mail-order catalogs I reluctantly accumulate in anticipation of Recycling Day? Well, this morning I stuck my trembling hand into one of the piles and pulled out a catalog. I wanted to see what a random sample would register if I ran it through the old Patriarchy Detector.
I identified the collected sample as the "late fall" issue of TravelSmith. TravelSmith’s schtick is dorky-looking "no-iron" clothing for wrinkle-phobic travelers. The no-iron clothes are all "imported," which is a euphemism for "cheap crap from China." It is impossible to find clothes anywhere that are not cheap crap from China. The only way to get around this most basic requirement for First World citizenship would be to grow your own cotton, spin your own yarn, weave your own cloth, and sew your own moo-moo. It is unlikely that you will undertake to do so, as the growing-sewing-moo-moo instinct has been bred out of the American sub-species by the forces of post-industrial capitalist eugenicists.
But I digress.
Fashion, as the patriarchy-blamer knows, perpetuates misogyny by creating fake "differences" between men and women, exaggerating them to delineate the concomitant difference in status, and enforcing them until they are perceived as "natural."
TravelSmith clothes are conservative and dowdy (as opposed to revealing and stripper-y), and misogyny gleams off’em like the Texas sun on a freshly-spat loogey. The language, the styling, the selection, and the colors all rigorously adhere to repressive gender stereotyping..
First I note that the women’s duds are all aimed at people who wish to shrink while traveling. The premier product is a One-Size Slimmer Top, which promises to make the wearer Look One Size Slimmer Instantly.â„¢ It works by incorporating a "secret power liner" that "magically" squashes your internal organs for "effortless travel."
The "secret power liner" is in fact a spandex corset.
Still too huge? Pair your secret magic corset torture shirt with One Size-Smaller Pants. Thanks to the fact that these pants are "near-miraculous," it doesn’t matter "what you eat," since "new tummy panel technology gently trims and hugs your tummy for a slimmer appearance."
Tummy. Tummy tummy tummy. What am I, four?
But go ahead. Eat a water buffalo. TravelSmith really understands the woman traveler’s food addiction pathology, and alludes jovially to the colorful female tradition of bingeing, viz. the Tummy-Control Skirt ("even if you overindulge in local delicacies") and Five-Pounds-Slimmer Pants (when you "enjoy the local cuisine a little too much"). Even the garments that don’t promise virtual weight loss or josh about eating disorders are "slimming," and the ones that aren’t slimming are "flattering," and the ones that aren’t flattering are "the stuff of miracles."
TravelSmith’s dudely clothes, on the other hand, are for the adventurous, non-nonsense man of action. They all have action-y names. The Correspondent’s Jacket. The Venture Vest. The Great Escape Shirt. "Span the globe in suave-savvy microfiber!" "Bring on the dusty backroads and the unexpected downpours!" "A great safari jacket is rugged and capacious!" The emphasis is on "tough travel," "top-gun styling," "suave sophistication," and "the classic days of aviation." The men are not, as are the women, encouraged to "curl up" in the clothes, or to "scrunch them" into their bags, although they are permitted to "roll them into a ball and stuff them."
Each men’s garment is made with 267 pockets to load up with "the tools of the trade–notebook, camera, binoculars, and more." It will come as no great surprise that the women’s clothes only have a couple pockets; that’s because a woman naturally prefers to be weighed down with tote bags and purses; binoculars make her look fat. In the one instance where I came across a woman’s version of a "male" garment–a photo vest the sole purpose of which is a pocket delivery device–it naturally had fewer pockets than the dude model.
It will shock no one when I reveal that TravelSmith declines to describe guy-products in terms of slimming, losing 5 pounds, bingeing, magic, romance, miracles, or rampaging uncontrolled "tummies." There are no dresses, purses, sleeveless polos, tunics, "poet" shirts, or "romantic portrait necklines" offered for men. I can’t buy a Varsity Blazer in my size. And the bomber jackets sure as hell don’t come in fuchsia. The natural order is preserved. Thanks, TravelSmith!