On extravagant self-expression

This is my opinion on the article:

‘I like to look smart’: female dandies of DRC delight in extravagance

-From The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/08/sapeuses-female-dandies-of-drc-delight-in-extravagance).

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is a female minority — the “Sapeuses”. They support an interesting subculture centered on the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville called Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People), who are originally “a band of men who turn the art of dressing into a cultural statement, and abide by a code befitting of the gentlemanly clothes they don so resplendently each morning”. However, according to the article, “some sapeuses face homophobia because of dressing like men, whether they are gay or not.” For me, I just think that this is another way of cross-dressing since most of the clothes the women wear are designer suits and trousers that are sometimes paired with dresses or skirts. In other parts of the world, it is now accepted for girls and women to wear not just skirts and dresses but also pants and shorts. However, in DRC, despite doing it as a ‘frivolous escape’ for sexual violence, it is still for women to go out in menswear because some sapeuses do not get a positive reaction from other people. For sapeuses like Iye Bilele, they just accept the fact that they are still criticized or that some people judge them because of the way they express themselves. She said,

“People are usually very happy when I dress like a man.”.

It’s good that Bilele and the other sapeuses are confident but what was sad about it was what she said next:

“And I like the religion too much – I like to look smart.”

This just showed how patriarchal their society is. Bilele’s last statement, emphasized by the headline, gives us the idea that if you dress “like a man”, you will automatically feel or “look smart” even though in reality, it does not. The headline also said “female dandies of DRC delight in extravagance”. I want to point out the choice of words for the headline. Why did they say “female dandies of DRC”? Why are people not familiar about the term/word quaintrelle — the female counterpart for dandy?  Is it because as the time passed, extravagant and flamboyant appearances became more common with women and were not usually associated with men, thus giving these “men living in luxury” more attention and recognition? Also, the word “delight” makes the readers think that the female dandies are materialistic since they are “delighted in extravagance.”

This article should empower women in DRC by emphasizing that they should not be ashamed of what clothes they wear or how they express themselves and that even if they did not do so, it will not make them more inferior to men. It does not matter if someone a man or a woman or if he or she prefers designer suits more than dresses, as long as we bring good influence to other people. We all have our own tastes and preferences. We all have differences and it should not be an issue within ourselves because our differences make us one.


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