The politics of wearing a yellow manteau

I have a thing for colour. I have been wearing bold colours for as long as I can remember. In fact, I distinctly remember how cool I felt on my first day of grade 6 when I showed wearing head-to-toe tie-dye. Damn, I was cool.

I have a special affinity for yellow (duh!) and may or may not own a dozen yellow coats, not to mention boots, dresses, shirts, skirts, pants, purses, accessories, you name it.

I want ALL of the yellow


Now that 'colour blocking' is an official trend, I feel a little less like a drunk clown, but I still 'stick out'. And it's that sticking out element of my wardrobe that has gotten me thinking about the politics of womyn's clothing.

See, I grew up in a house of people who took up space. Literally (we're all tall!) and metaphorically (we are serial hand talkers & talk REALLY LOUD). When I was 17, my parents bought me my '74 VW Beetle and at the time, she was bright purple and orange. Their first comment was 'Don't worry, we can paint it!' and I remember distinctly saying 'Why the hell would I want to do that?!'

This is what my car looked like for the first 9 years that I had her. Yes, this is me driving a '74 Beetle on Christmas Day. Needless to say, I only drove her in the winter for one year and learned my lesson not to do it again.


I'd never bothered to sit down and think about the 'personal is political' in regards to my clothing or my die-hard love of all things bright and colourful, until a comment my BFF made in passing.

She was giving away some clothes to charity and was giving me first dibs before she donated them. I found this really pretty blue shirt and when I asked her why she didn't want it anymore she said that 'I don't feel comfortable wearing colours'.

Now, let me be crystal clear: This shirt was tame. On top of that, my BFF is one of the most beautiful, statuesque people you will ever see. Ever. I don't care what team you play for or your personal preference, she's a babe. End of story.

So, I gave her the 'Girl, you could wear dirty dishrags as a t-shirt and you'd still look good' routine. But it turns out, what she meant was that she really didn't feel comfortable wearing colour; she felt it drew too much attention to her. She wore greys and blacks because they were muted and made her feel like less of a target for unwanted attention, comments from strangers, leering, etc.

Does it work? I have no idea. That's not my issue here. My issue is the ways in which womyn plan their days (hell, their lives!) around reducing harassment.

The fact that a womyn has to tailor her wardrobe selections to 'things that make me look like wallpaper' is my issue.

The amount of womyn who won't wear shirts with visible writing on the front because they don't want to encourage chest leering is my issue.

The countless womyn who've told me I'm 'bold' for 'rocking bright colours' in my wardrobe is my issue.

Don't even get me started on the amount of womyn who wear headphones and sunglasses in public to avoid interactions with creepers.

And I'm just talking about the surface level stuff. The ways in which womyn change their lives in attempts to reduce harassment is staggering. In fact, in getting my BFF's permission to talk about her in this post, she told me a story about how she was walking down the street yesterday when she stepped off the sidewalk to pass a dude walking ahead of her. The guy was walking in full stride and so when she passed him, he accidentally brushed against her ass. The guy felt incredibly sorry and apologized profusely but she was so used to it happening that she just stewed silently to herself and didn't even bother looking back. It wasn't until she could hear the guy apologizing (over the sound of music in her headphones, of course) that she realized 'Oh wow, that guy's actually apologizing!'

That, my friends, is messed up.

It's the daily insidious ways in which we normalize street harassment rather than calling out the blatant misogyny involved.

I want to live in a world in which womyn dress according to the weather and don't even consider the idea of it provoking harassment (or worse). I want to live in a world in which we only crank our headphones when we want to listen to music; not because we're trying to avoid having to engage with someone who isn't taking clear body language as a sign to GTFO. I want to live in a world in which sunglasses are for avoiding UV rays; not the male gaze.