Men in skirts
Sociological Images, in Rejecting the Gender Binary in Fashion, writes about Kasmeneo, a fashion guru who felt limited by the “much too boring” world of male clothing in a gender-segregated fashion world.
The images also reveal a kind of sexism: androcentrism, or the valuing of things masculine over things feminine. As Kasmaneo mentions, girls can wear guys’ clothes without drawing much attention to themselves. This is because we value masculine things over feminine things and aren’t surprised when women want to do them.
Sometimes, we wear oppression on our bodies. I love traditionally female clothing (especially dresses), but I do recognize that it is cut to reveal my body in a particular way that is primarily for other people, even if I like it too.
Gender segregation in clothing is maybe most important–in a social way–with young children, who are mostly androgynous. Babies especially. People get really freaked out if they can’t immediately recognize the gender of a baby. There really aren’t any clues there with infants, while in adults, we have body size and shape, facial structure, hairstyle, and a whole host of other gender indicators (even if they are frequently limiting and problematic). We don’t know how much to coo at or coddle the baby, or what to say it will grow up to be. We don’t know whether to say, “Oh, she’s so little!” or “Oh, what a big boy!” It freaks us out. We get uncomfortable with gender-neutral infants and young children because gender is such a fundamentally important part of how we order our society, and how we schematize our interactions.
And so, even for adults, who often have non-clothing markers of their gender identity, what you wear is really important to showing where you stand. So, it’s cool that Kasmeneo (among many, many others) is trying to break this down. Skirts and dresses should not be a marker of a lesser person, whether on a man or on a woman. They’re fun, and comfortable, and pretty, things all of us should feel worthy of being.