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my new shirts

June 29, 2010

Geek Feminism posted a great article recently discussing many ways to view clothing as related to geeks and feminism. I wanted to respond to it with a discussion of two t-shirts:
Think Geek’s Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie “Heroine” t-shirts.

I bought these shirts pretty much as soon as I heard about them, as a graduation present to myself. Not only are those two kick ass awesome women, but one’s a chemist with physics leanings and the other is a programmer – I enjoy being on t-shirts. I love these shirts, on so very many levels. I love the blatant celebration of women who kick ass at sciency things. Marie Curie has always been a hero of mine, since I was ten or so and Mom told me that there was a famous scientist who shared my name. Ada Lovelace is a more recent love, but she too kicks ass in so many ways, and when people ask who she is I love being able to explain that she was the first computer programmer.

I love also that they’re stylish. If you don’t look closely, they’re just nifty looking t-shirts. I love that the design is off to the side and down on the bottom – it’s an off beat placement and also means that people studying it don’t have to stare at my breasts. I love that both women are portrayed as being beautiful and surrounded by their science. I love that both are feminine without being sexualized.

I love the size of them – they’re long so I’m not always accidentally showing skin when I stretch or bend over. I love that the fabric is substantial – they feel utilitarian, like these are everyday go to lab sort of shirts.

I love that they’re cool shirts celebrating geeky women, but they’re also just cool shirts. I’m not wearing a sign that says “YO I’M A FEMINIST”, just a shirt that shows an awesome woman, a shirt that’s subtle enough that I can wear it to work without feeling like I’ve got my heart on my sleeve, but a shirt that’s interesting enough that people sometimes ask me about it. (Interestingly, no one has asked about the Marie Curie one. Dunno if that’s random chance, or that she’s more recognizable, or if people aren’t looking at her shirt – the pink one – as closely as they are Ada’s shirt – the blue one.)

I think my only problem with these shirts, in fact, is that there are only two. Can we get Hypatia of Alexandria, or Rosalind Franklin, or a dozen others?

So why is this a response to the Geek Feminism post I linked at the top? Because sometimes that much thought goes in to clothing. Because at the intersection of “geek” and “woman” clothing choices get very interesting. Honestly I consider myself very lucky to be skinny, small chested, and tall, which makes my choices much simpler than other women I know. A lot of thought was behind my purchase of these two shirts, and that much thought goes in to a lot of what I wear, especially where work in concerned. I think about exactly what message my clothing is sending when I’m at a conference or a work get together, and I’m careful that my clothes say what I want them to say. Sometimes this is why I like to stay home and wear pjs (or wear them to work, for that matter). These shirts made me happy because all the thoughts that went in to them were happy thoughts. No agonizing about a shirt that’s too tight or might show too much skin, no worry that a skirt will have people thinking they need to lift boxes for me or help me with my computer, no wondering if I can walk in a pair of heels without breaking an ankle. Awesome, geeky, comfy clothing that I really love. Such a rare thing. So of course I bought them.

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