Fierce Women Dish

an artist, a journalist, an activist, a psychologist, a student, and a diva place a cup of nourishment on the table.

What constitutes provocative dressing and/or actions? How does it empower or hinder other women? February 5, 2009

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Donna: I think this topic, like so many we discuss on this blog, is somewhat objective. What may constitute dressing or acting provocatively to me may differ to someone else. Having said that I’ll try to sort out how I feel.

The dictionary definition of provocative is as follows:


serving or tending to provoke, excite, or stimulate


exciting sexual desire;

Dressing and/or acting provocatively has a very specific purpose—to shock, titillate and stimulate. I am disappointed any time I see a woman that appears to be throwing all of her eggs into the ‘look how sexy I am’ basket, and I think that’s exactly what women that focus on this tool are doing. (The worst examples can be seen on many co-ed reality TV shows where the women are in direct competition with one another over the ‘prize’ guy headlining the show.) It says that she has bought into the unfortunate general worldview that women need to use their sexuality 1st to get what they want. People are visual; it’s very difficult to get past clothing choices that speak in this manner. And there is a real reason that the stereotype that goes along with this ‘type’ of woman is that she is not very smart: people assume that what they actually see of her is all she has to give, and so she’s using it to the hilt. Key word here, I think, is using.

From where I sit, it hinders women, because of the manner due to the fact that it continues to proliferate the myth that women are only equivalent to the sum of their physical parts.

Kelly: I think the only that hinders women is OTHER women deciding that what they wear or do is “provocative.”  If a woman is more comfortable in sweats, great. Or if you’re a navy suit or sweater gal, great. I’ve done that, but I also rock a pair of leather pants and think topless beaches are liberating. What would empower women is for us to have each other’s back. If a woman is feeling gorgeous in her micro-mini, go for it! The worse thing that women can do is “bitch” about what some other woman is wearing. That tears all women down. Think of it…maybe she’s sporting a low-cut top because she’s finally done with chemo and wants to feel beautiful about her breasts again. Maybe she finally dumped that a-hole, and she wants to let her hair down in an itty-bitty dress and heels for a night on the town w/the ladies. Either way, I’m bias. I love provocative. If we want women all over the globe to be safe in what ever she wears and to have the freedom to do so, then she has to be safe to do it here, as well.

Jenee: Deciding what is deemed “provocative” dressing is a very personal standard. I also think it changes with age…In high school it never bothered me to have my stomach showing and now I cringe at the idea. When I work college nights at the bar I have this desire to run around and wrap towels all over the girls and I cannot stand the Libby Lou store in the mall.

With that being said there are nights when I look at myself in the mirror and I tug my shirt down a bit or when at the mall I go for the tighter dress and the taller heels. I look at myself and think, “Hey I’m single and I want to look hot tonight and flirt and have fun!” I go out with a very powerful aggressive prowler like attitude and its fun!

Donna: So am I saying women shouldn’t be sexy at all? Uh…no. Absolutely not.

Let’s move to discussion of the subtle difference between owning vs. using ones’ sexuality. Provocative dressing or actions is a way to use one’s sexuality as a means to and end. It is a direct, overt and specific portrayal of sexuality as the most important part of the woman’s total persona. This is a woman that is really banking on this one aspect of her personality to get her through life…it’s self-exploitation at its worst because I think the truth of it is that the women that rely on this don’t feel confident enough in other areas of their lives to allow the other parts of her personality  to speak. When I think of someone that ‘owns’ their sexuality, however, I think of  a woman that is quietly confident with herself and that her sexuality is present, but only one  part of the mix of the many other interesting things that make up who she is. Isn’t it exactly what we do not reveal, both physically and emotionally, that makes us the most interesting to others—sort of like a mystery to figure out over time? ‘Owning’ is quieter, ‘using’ is more loud and obvious. When I see a woman that owns her sexuality, I definitely feel empowered by her presence.

Amy: Labels can be “provocative”.  The “label wars” that occur among women are very provocative.  Walk down the street and you will see bags covered in C’s, G’s, F’s, and LV’s to name a few.    Blaring labels create a provocative power play, which immediately draws socioeconomic lines between women and girls.  Teenagers are carrying designer bags costing hundreds and thousands of dollars. Not only are young girls dressing sexually but they are also carrying power bags typically reserved for the office or country club to sleepovers.

Jenee: I think, like with most things, its not how your actually dressing its what your motives are when you put on the outfit…what means to an end your trying to achieve. I work at a bar…I know being ‘sexy’ is apart of the business. I know that having a certain look will get you the job but it defiantly won’t keep the job. My mindset is never one where I think my looks will get me what I want or need in life. I am a smart women who will progress in life because of what I can do not how I look.

I think it hinders women when they start to think being ‘sexy’ or dressing ‘provocatively’ is the only thing they have to offer the world….that is what we have to stop.


Media Recommendations from Fierce Women! October 9, 2008

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Bitch (which is having a fund drive right now)…

Marie Claire …mixes in features on real people with models and 
champions causes

O the Oprah magazine…

Queen of All Media is also Queen of Empowerment.

Entertainment Weekly…who can forget their classic cover of the 
Dixie Chicks


Body and Soul Magazine


Vanity Fair – love their articles


I love Bust as well!!





The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan   A touching memoir about a thirty-something mother of two who is diagnosed with advanced breast cancer just months before her father- and the center of her world- is diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  Touching and funny, you’ll want Corrigan to be your best friend and her father to be your surrogate dad.

Accidentally on Purpose by Mary Pols   A memoir that details the results of a soon to be forty-year-old writer’s one night stand which starts innocently enough and ends with a pregnancy.  Pols and her baby’s father never couple, but they deliberately work through their issues to become effective co-parents to a boy that brings meaning and grounding to their lives.

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta  Perrota’s fiction never disappoints.  Here, he tells the story of a sex education teacher who is chided for her frank talk about fellatio and must now teach only abstinence after a new evangelical church in town catches winds of her misdeed. 


Orange, Mint, and Honey by Carleen Brice

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Radical Acceptance  by Tara Brach


Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Memory Keepers Daughter

Mere Christianity

The Handmaids Tail

Water For Elephants

Mrs. Dalloway


Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Our Bodies, Ourselves 
(loved the update)

Anything by Gloria Steinem and

Eve Ensler

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (scary, very scary)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (if you’ve only seen the movie, you 
need to read the book)

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Manifesta by Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner 

Anything by Ann Lamott

Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely 
Stripper by Diablo Cody

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Are Men 
Necessary? by Maureen Dowd

The Bitch in the House by 26 Women Tell 
the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage by
Cathi Hanauer 




Norma Rae


Boys Don’t Cry

Broadcast News (I so identified with the Holly Hunter character)

Philadelphia Story (and nearly everything with Katharine Hepburn)


Terms of Endearment

Steel Magnolias

Vera Drake


What’s Your Point, Honey?

Out of Africa


Penelope – wonderful movie about self-acceptance and accessible for all ages. 


Sex and the City



Donnie Darko

I heart Huckabees

King of California

Whale Rider



Crystal: Who needs Perez or TMZ when you get celebrity dish and 
fashion without the airbrushing?

Life on the Clearance Rack ( 
This blog is by my pal, Ramona Holloway. She rocks. And she’s a good 
blogger. :)


Post Secrets




Always Sunny in Philadelphia



The Shield

Mad Men

Friday Night Lights (it’s on 
DirecTV until spring ’09)

The Closer

Saving Grace


Brothers and Sisters




The Wire

Homicide: Life on the 

Sex and the City

Judging Amy

The Gilmore Girls

Hall of fame: Cagney & Lacey

Lou Grant (this and the watergate 
hearings had a huge impact on me becoming a journalist…that and 
being nosy and loving to read)


Wonder Woman

Bionic Woman

Days and Night of Molly Dodd

Any Day Now


John Adams

The Wire



The Office (British Version)

Arrested Development