Ni hao! (I’m learning Chinese, let me practice!).
So, with all this talk in class and readings about gender, socialization, and all that jazz, gendered clothing has really been at the forefront of my mind.
I wear skirts. A lot.
I think maybe a reason this topic has been sticking in my brain is because I’m getting a bit defensive. There’s this idea in my head of judgmental feminist overlords that will chastise me for my clothing decisions, or perhaps do so internally with a *tisktisktisk* about how naïve and incapable of breaking free of gendered standards I am. I know this is (probably, for the most part, I hope) a fictitious creation stemming from my own insecurity, but nevertheless, I am defensive.
Whenever I’m in a tiz about something, or I’m afraid of people’s judgment, I think about conversations I would have with someone that confronts me. A conversation with the imaginary force I described in the paragraph above goes something like this:
Them: Why are you wearing a skirt? That is sooo gender normative.
Me: Oh yeah? Well that’s pretty ethnocentric. Where did you even get that t-shirt and those jeans? Was it from the juniors section? The women’s section? Maybe the petites? Why do you buy clothing in specifically gendered areas? That sparkly batman logo sure looks androgynous. Why is it a problem that I wear a skirt? That implies that females are gendered incorrectly, what if it’s men who are gendered incorrectly into not wearing skirts? Do you know skirts actually make more sense for men to wear because they’re better for sperm count?…
Aaand so on until I make myself actually angry at the imagined foe I am hurling my words at.
So, this is not so much of a conversation, and is probably something I would never do in real life.
I guess my worry is that even if I did have logical well thought out reasons, I would be so taken aback by someone tactless enough to say something like that to me, that I just want to have something prepared so I don’t stare back in gape-mouthed stupidity.
But I think my word soup of indignant anger up there actually has some good points.
1. Almost every single clothing item someone wears is gendered.
Even plain, solid colored t-shirts are altered to be feminine. Different fabrics are used, different edge detailing, different shades of colors, different cuts (though that part may be because of the shape the “average” female has that differs from men). Women’s jeans have different sizing logic, colors, detailing, and styles (as well as different names for similar styles). Shoes are either “female sized” or “male sized”.
The worst example of gendering clothes, to me, is the altering of licensed clothing for the female market. Licensed clothing is clothing items that feature elements from TV shows, movies, video games, etc. Color differences are huge. Pastel blue for superman shirts (because god forbid a woman wears bold blue), pinks in the batman logo and the Big Bang Theory “BAZINGA”, etc. etc.
It seems worse that people think something that already exists isn’t feminine enough, and purposely alters it so it will be “appropriate” to grace a female body.
I actually buy my nerdy t-shirts in the “men’s” section. I want my Spock to stay Spock, with shirt colors that reflect his Starfleet division, not colors altered to be “girly” enough for my oh-so-fragile body.
2. I think I could successfully argue that it is not so much that people are taught to understand skirts as something girls are supposed to wear, as much as something boys AREN’T supposed to wear. It is the socialization of the male gender that is incorrect. Skirts are objectively an advantageous form of body covering. They are cooler than shorts in the summer (shorts just mean more fabric is smothering my poor body), they’re easy to put on and to move around in, and they require less fabric, skill, and time to make (and thus should be cheaper). I’ve even read that they are better for sperm count in men, which makes them seem the logical choice as a gendered item for men. Which brings me to my next point…
3. It is a modern, western idea that skirts are for girls.
Think about the ancient Greeks, Romans (and though non-western, Egyptians). Picture what someone in that culture looked like. What are they wearing?
Then there’s the obvious: kilts.
Furthermore, varieties of sarong-like “skirts” are worn by men in India and parts of Africa, and pretty much every “loincloth” is, in essence, a skirt.
This article does a much better job of explaining the “only women should wear skirts” fallacy. It’s apparently information for hikers, but the first bit is all about the history of the masculine skirt. Seriously, it’s super interesting. Click on it. Here it is again, just to make sure you have tons of opportunities to click on it.
4. Some of the rigidity of gender is still being held up by the feminist side of thing, though not in the dynamic of my imaginary fight. No, it is not the women still wearing skirts that are holding us back, but the people like this author that use stereotypes as humor and accidentally reinforce gender norms (and accomplish extra horribleness by vulgarly making fun of other cultures in the process). Ohhh, the problematic Jezebel, full of articles written by the very people I am afraid to meet in person (possibly the kind I run through imaginary fights with, like the above). From white lady savior complexes about hijabs, to *tisktisking* about how naïve the participants in Lolita fashion are, to pretty much anything they don’t understand and take from the point of view of Western ideas values. But this is all for another article.
Whelp, that’s enough for now.
Keep reading guys. I promise I’ll work very hard to make it interesting and more like a real conversation than a regurgitation and summary of ideas on a half-hearted homework assignment.