Minnie Mouse went to her tailor… and all hell broke loose. Cartoon characters don’t usually have dress designers. They do their cartoonish stuff in cartoon land by sticking to their one and only attire forever. Richie Rich, Archie, Phantom, Tintin, Chacha Chaudhury, Jessica Rabbit and Betty Boop, none of them ever reached for an outfit change. Fashion is pretty static in animation land.
But now Minnie has swapped her dress for a pantsuit. Instead of that old red polka dotted affair that we presumed has never been dry-cleaned, here she is in a bespoke blue tuxedo with black polka dots and a matching bow, custom-made from ‘responsibly sourced fabrics’. There had been no warning squeak, no discontentment expressed over the old frock so far.
Stella McCartney, a British fashion designer, has done the new design to coincide with International Women’s Day as well as the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris.
Women who wear the pants includes most political aspirants – this means business. Don’t take us lightly, they are saying, we are one of the boys. Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Kamala Harris, Meghan Markle, they have all frequently worn trousers.
The question is not whether cartoon mice have sartorial choices they can exercise, the question is why is everyone so riled up. Like most things in the universe, this too is boiling down to a feminist debate. People taking offence on her behalf are protesting that Minnie is being turned into a lab rat; experiments are being done on her that may be without her permission. What’s next, will Mickey be renamed Michael, as someone asked on Twitter. Is this outfit change about gay inclusion, a trans statement, a feminist speech – no one is sure. But it is definitely a woke act. Wokeness has been slowly creeping into our daily life. Those who fear the cancel culture to come get them are quickly revising statements and, in some cases, wardrobe.
The problem with Minnie Mouse discarding her short frilly skirt for a pair of pants lies not just in her abrupt designer leaps; the wannabe yearnings go beyond aesthetics. While in a single stroke she seeks to reverse misogyny by a simple dressing room tactic, chauvinistic roots go beyond the cosmetic. Why must a unisex dress code begin with the woman? If dresses remain feminine and are therefore perceived as weak or flirty or secondary, is it the fault of the gender or the garment? Perhaps we are wearing the argument upside down.
Now if only Mickey Mouse had opted for a skirt, flounces would start to signify power and might, ambition and aggression. Men are taunted with ‘go wear bangles’. If men did wear bangles and bindi, would these not automatically become symbols of machismo? Putting Minnie in pants and leaving Mickey too in pants is already an anti-feminist stance. Why must adjustments always begin with the woman?Now that Minnie has taken his pants, it is to be hoped that Mickey will soon invest in a matching puff-sleeved LBD.