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Last week, as part of a cultural discovery project for one of my classes, I spent three days wearing ‘girls’ clothes while going about my day. I wanted to explo...re the general reaction and preconceptions that people in my city have to clothing, especially in regards to gender. To me, the idea that a piece of fabric or accessory can be so intertwined with who are in our conscious is perplexing. I didn’t want to show off, or offend anyone by my act of curiosity. Rather, I wanted to act as a meticulous observer of the times, to see if the community around me was really as open-minded as I wanted to believe that it was. After all, if such things really only had a place in the realm of high-fashion and in Scottish tradition, then something bigger must be at work.

On the first day, I wore a long-sleeve pink top cropped at the collarbone. I received many compliments, a few glares and even a free Venti gingerbread latte. On the second, I rocked a pink blouse with a high-waisted belt. Again, the same amount of well-wishes, questions and passing eye-rolls. These things were to be expected, as it isn’t necessarily the norm to see someone like me wearing things like these. I felt collected and confident in these modest outfits, seemingly convinced that the world around me could care less about the clothes someone wore. Most affirming was the response to my nails, which were almost always met with a cheerful grin, a high-five and a few words of encouragement.

What happened on the third day changed my perspective on humanity forever. I dressed myself as I normally would; band t-shirt, cardigan, plain Vans, etc. However, instead of black jeans, I complimented the outfit with a plain black skirt and matching set of tights. For me, this was a huge step in self-image. Years ago, I was barely confident enough to leave the house for school. These days, the opposite couldn’t be more true. As I set off about my day, the absolute worst in people came out in a full-force flurry of expletives and discomfort. I was ridiculed in whispers. I was mocked in glances. I was obnoxiously and filthily cat-called by a construction crew who, from behind, couldn’t tell that I was a man. Stopping by a bathroom before a lecture, a frat-bro went out of his way to shove me into the adjacent wall after eyeing me up and down on his way out. Expletives and names that might induce me to vomit were I to repeat them, were casually thrown in my direction with almost zero passing thought. By day’s end, I feared a full-on breakdown, unable to stand up for myself or what I believed in to maintain the integrity of the observer’s perspective. In a way, I had no right to feel that way, mostly because of the realization that this is the way that many have to live their lives. I fought back tears as every stare and ill-formed word engrained themselves in my sub-conscious.

Though I may not know you, I think that it’s important that we all come to understand why these things happen. In my book, cat-calling, shaming and harassment are among the worst actions we can engage in. As a heterosexual male, I will never truly know the fear that women may experience while walking home from work, going see a friend for lunch, or being sized-up in public based on their clothing. I will never truly know the gut-rot that a transgender individual may feel while being eyed up and down at the store or in class, strangers seeming to think as if the clothing they see before them begs a legal invitation of ridicule. I will never truly know the plights of these people, but as an ally and a human being invested in true equality, it is now my obligation to stand up for them as if I did.

What scares me the most is not the glances, mixed emotions, or 10-page paper that will inevitably come as a by-product of this project. No, what scares me is that this is the world we live in. We exist in a place where individuals living their truths can be subjected, directly or otherwise, to fear simply for living those truths. We live in an age where feeling ‘normal’ in your own clothing can create unfathomable contention with strangers, despite them having zero investment in their lives. We live in a world where the material, the fabric, the pieces that adorn you are somehow allowed to say more about who you are than the convictions in your heart and the sincerity in your deeds.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse that world. I refuse to let these things overcome the passion and genuine honesty that I’ve been so fortunate to bear witness to in my time. I refuse to let backwards, unprogressive mindsets stifle the glow and drive of those who are undeservingly robbed of it. Don’t say it can’t happen to you. If it happened to me, under the most average of circumstances on the streets in a progressive-leaning city, it could happen to anyone, and that is something I truly do not understand.

After all, it’s just a skirt.

What is it about a piece of inanimate, plain fabric that scares you so much?

-Tommy
by on Mar. 6, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Replies (31-40):
smalltowngal
by Platinum Member on Mar. 7, 2013 at 9:35 AM

 

I am wondering if it is because he's frumpier looking and less styled. I use to work at Victoria's Secret and we had one transgendered person come in that always looked perfect. Nails, makeup, hair, etc. I loved her and had not problem helping her out. We had another person come in and he would wear a mini skirt with hair legs and really dirty fingernails. He would always try and exchange nylons for getting a run in them. You wear nylons for long enough, they will eventually run. He seemed like he was trying to make people feel uncomfortable on purpose. I think he was more of a cross dresser than transgender hence why I call him he.

I think people disliked the third outfit because it's so frumpy. People are more comfortable with people wearing clothing of the opposite sex if they're more stylish. 

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

 I'm not so sure it is that simple.

He came off much more "girl-like" wearing the pink blouses and having his nails polished. The first day, he was nervous and not sure how he would be perceived. He found overall, aside from some looks, all went well. He even got a free latte! He got a reward for his painted nails and pink blouse. The second day seemed to go pretty much as the first. Pretty well over all.

Then on day 3 he ups the anty and wears a skirt. But really, aside from the skirt, the outfit was rather un-femminne. It was black and tailored.

My guess: the diference is not the skirt. The differnece was how he carried himself. He was more confident. He was more daring. Not by the cloth but by the fact t hat the previous 2 days went well.

People will tolerate a transgender man or woman but they don;t want it in their face. They don;t want them confident and self-assured. Others will accept difference but you take away the shame/guilt-others will push you down and make sure you remember "your place."

Quoting LucyMom08:

 I'm guessing it's because the skirt is what truly crossed the 'gender barrier'...

Quoting Mrs.Kubalabuku:

Very interesting.  It is odd how he was so well received up until he put the skirt on.  Really?  Girls can wear pants!  But not the other way around...oh no!

 

 

 

 

tambrathegreat
by on Mar. 7, 2013 at 9:36 AM
2 moms liked this

Here's some men in skirts that I doubt would get that reaction:

Dayak warriors in Sarongs:

Roman Soldier:


I suppose cultural context is everything, but I wouldn't mess with any of these manly men.  Modern people don't realize that for centuries the norm was for men to wear 'skirts' and trousers were considered barbaric or unmanly. 

Kudos to the guy who wrote this article.  His exploration of the subject matter was not only brave, but needed.

Sekirei
by Nari Trickster on Mar. 7, 2013 at 9:38 AM
1 mom liked this

^^guy in a skirt... :D

Ms.KitKat
by Platinum Member on Mar. 7, 2013 at 9:41 AM

 I don't think ANY OF THAT was stylish LOL. But, he made his point. and he learned a lesson. He'll get an A. and he is more self aware. Seems like a good spot to be in.

Quoting smalltowngal:

 

I am wondering if it is because he's frumpier looking and less styled. I use to work at Victoria's Secret and we had one transgendered person come in that always looked perfect. Nails, makeup, hair, etc. I loved her and had not problem helping her out. We had another person come in and he would wear a mini skirt with hair legs and really dirty fingernails. He would always try and exchange nylons for getting a run in them. You wear nylons for long enough, they will eventually run. He seemed like he was trying to make people feel uncomfortable on purpose. I think he was more of a cross dresser than transgender hence why I call him he.

I think people disliked the third outfit because it's so frumpy. People are more comfortable with people wearing clothing of the opposite sex if they're more stylish. 

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

 I'm not so sure it is that simple.

He came off much more "girl-like" wearing the pink blouses and having his nails polished. The first day, he was nervous and not sure how he would be perceived. He found overall, aside from some looks, all went well. He even got a free latte! He got a reward for his painted nails and pink blouse. The second day seemed to go pretty much as the first. Pretty well over all.

Then on day 3 he ups the anty and wears a skirt. But really, aside from the skirt, the outfit was rather un-femminne. It was black and tailored.

My guess: the diference is not the skirt. The differnece was how he carried himself. He was more confident. He was more daring. Not by the cloth but by the fact t hat the previous 2 days went well.

People will tolerate a transgender man or woman but they don;t want it in their face. They don;t want them confident and self-assured. Others will accept difference but you take away the shame/guilt-others will push you down and make sure you remember "your place."

Quoting LucyMom08:

 I'm guessing it's because the skirt is what truly crossed the 'gender barrier'...

Quoting Mrs.Kubalabuku:

Very interesting.  It is odd how he was so well received up until he put the skirt on.  Really?  Girls can wear pants!  But not the other way around...oh no!

 

 

 

 

 

DestinyHLewis
by Destiny on Mar. 7, 2013 at 9:44 AM


Do you live in Vegas or San Fran? 

Quoting stacymomof2:

I'm surprised he ran into so much trouble.  In my city I see guys in full make-up working the high end make-up counters at Macy's.  The male bank teller has a full set of nails and over-groomed eyebrows.  Guys in drag are a dime a dozen.  Even at the community center pool there is a guy who works the counter in full make up.

An understated black skirt and tights?  That's nothing.  lol



jllcali
by Jane on Mar. 7, 2013 at 9:46 AM
6 moms liked this
The whole "it's your choice if you dress that way" attitude bothers me. Sounds an awful lot like "dressed like that, she was asking for it".



Quoting TranquilMind:

 Lots of people are WAY outside social norms in many different ways , but you can look however you want.  It's your choice if you dress to draw that kind of attention. 




Quoting LucyMom08:


 I think what he meant by that, was that there are many people who have to live with daily ridicule and feeling uncomfortable within their own skin, while simultaneously dealing with the feelings that come from being outside social 'norms'...


Quoting TranquilMind:


" In a way, I had no right to feel that way, mostly because of the realization that this is the way that many have to live their lives.I fought back tears as every stare and ill-formed word engrained themselves in my sub-conscious. "


What BS.


There isn't any guy out there in this country who is "forced to live his life" in a skirt.    And amazingly and conveniently, for purposes of his "experiment' (doesn't anyone do science experiments anymore?), he managed to find the worst of the worst physically abusive men who shoved him around and cussed him out.  What would REALLY be happening the real world (except for rare pockets)  is that a few people would do double-takes and maybe snicker a little if they see a dude in a skirt.


And if I hear another idiot hurl the disingenuous "what do you FEAR?" comment, as if adults were shaking with fright when he passed by in his skirt, instead of shaking their heads, I'm just gonna hurl. 


So over this topic.  I'm sure if I got my freak on tonight and went out looking for bad reactions, I could find them if I targeted my audience properly.  Or any of you. 


I call BS on this one. 


 




 

Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
Euphoric
by Bazinga! on Mar. 7, 2013 at 9:56 AM

 Great article

eema.gray
by on Mar. 7, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Beautifully written.

My husband wears kilts but that don't cause nearly the same reaction as wearing a "women's" skirt.  But what really makes a "kilt" diferent from a "women's skirt?"  Women wear kilts without the kind of reaction that this young writer experienced. 

muslimahpj
by Ruby Member on Mar. 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM
2 moms liked this

No, it isnt. People get judged by what they wear and how they look all the time. 

Quoting TranquilMind:


And that's pretty much the way it really is, in the real world. 

Quoting glitterteaz:

What business is it of ours to judge anyone so long as they are not hurting someone weaker than themselves?




Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Mar. 7, 2013 at 12:46 PM
2 moms liked this
Quoting LucyMom08:

What is it about a piece of inanimate, plain fabric that scares you so much?

People care about how other people appear.  More than just noticing; they act as those the other person has a RESPONSIBILITY to them, to not appear dirty, untidy, fat, out of fashion, slutty or different in non-approved ways.

If the other person behaves that way, many feel this gives them license to be offended, to blame the other person for how they feel, then to 'hit back' by trying to make the other person feel bad with comments or looks.

Just see any 'people of walmart' thread on CafeMom.

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