Did you ever hear that 2006 song by Adam and Andrew, “Emo Kid”? (We always called it “The Emo Song”, but it looks like it is actually called “Emo Kid”.) A few friends and I loved it back in high school, because so much of it resonated with us, and for various reasons. Yes, it was meant to be a parody, but so much of it rang true in our lives. Anyway, I recently found myself singing one of the lines from it over and over again (though I hadn’t listened to the song in years):
[…]I feel real deep when I’m dressing in drag.
I call it freedom of expression,
most just call me a fag[…]
Somehow, the line stuck with me. For days, it looped around in my head, the boy singing that line, taking up shop as one of the regular horses in the carousel of my mind. Eventually the following resulted:
At one point, I recalled a recent discussion of why girls needn’t be called “Tomboys”, but simply “girls”, because it is just part of who they are. If they like sports or wearing baseball caps and loose t-shirts and shorts, then they like it – it has nothing to do with whether they are truly girls or not.
At first, I didn’t like the feeling of that discussion, because I, myself, was a Tomboy in my early school days, and I was proud of it. Even now, I still throw on loose sweatpants, a baggy t-shirt and jacket, and a crooked cap from time to time… and that’s completely normal. But then I understood a new side of what the discussion was aiming for. It is entirely socially acceptable for me to do that, to act and dress as a boy. But not the other way around, because girls can be like boys, but boys can’t be like girls.
As women, we have three general genres of clothing: Regular, Girly, and Tomboy/Comfy. Depending on the girl, the frequency of each can be drastically different, and sometimes is affected by the matter of being at home with friends and family versus being out in public. On average, though, we all wear all three. (Do recall, this is purely my experience in life, so might not be accurate in other people’s lives.) I know that I tend to go much more the Tomboy/Comfy route whenever it gets cold out, and super Girly when it’s hotter weather.
My entire life, I have experienced that it is fine for girls to wear men’s clothing. We do it all the time. ‘The boyfriend t-shirt’ has even become a marketing strategy, making specifically for women t-shirts that mimic the style of a man’s t-shirt. (I think it has even gone into ‘Boyfriend Sweaters’ and a couple others now…) Any day of the week, it is acceptable, and often even appreciated, for women to go out in their low-down, comfy clothes, which really are just clothes that look like, and might even be, men’s clothing. So why is it not okay for men to do the same with women’s clothing?
People tend to have a mini freak-out even when they see a man dressed in clothing that is not strictly and traditionally male clothing, let alone actual women’s clothing. ‘He’s pushing the gender line with that outfit,’ I’ve heard too many people say. But why does that have to be so? Rather, does that have to be so? Can a man not wear women’s clothing the same as women are allowed to wear men’s clothing? I think he can – the observers just have to do some rearranging of what we think it means for a man to wear women’s clothing.
How can we expect men to be self-expressed in their clothing, when they have so few options? I want to see variety in men’s clothing choices. I remember several years ago, walking through the Gap, wondering why men had so few style options, and women so many. “What gives? I would be so bored as a man,” I thought as I perused the entire men’s section in two minutes, after spending 45 in the women’s (before taking a break, because there was just so much stuff!). The only time I have seen true variety has been here in this duality of style that Japan (particularly Tokyo, where I am) is. Men either wear the standard button-up collar with a suit, or they are walking the streets in God knows what. You can imagine which ones have me beaming with delight and interest when they walk past. (On that note, so far as gender boundaries go for street dress here, there is a fabulously large and exciting gray area like I have never before seen.)
When men spend time to fix their hair, is anyone opposed to how good it looks as a result? Definitely not. What’s the difference between doing hair and doing makeup? Makeup is just one more thing that enhances one’s appearance.
I don’t wear makeup almost ever, not because I dislike the effects, but because I’m lazy, and I’m happy with how I look without makeup (though I do occasionally make myself up real nice). However, no one has ever declared that I am pushing the boundaries between male and female by not wearing makeup. So why do people have to comment when a man does wear makeup?
Some students informed me one day that a male student wears makeup. My easy and thrilled response was a simple, “I know. Doesn’t he look great?” And they were baffled.
“Isn’t that weird that he wears makeup and is a guy?” they inquired.
“Why would that be weird? It enhances his appearance, making him even more gorgeous than he is without it. And he likes looking his best. So why would he not wear makeup, if that’s how he feels he looks best?”
Does it really matter, if the only difference is that a guy looks better? I can’t see it any differently than a guy spending time fixing his hair – it merely enhances his appearance. Women wear makeup to enhance their appearance, so how about letting men do the same, since it also enhances their appearance?
Men and women alike wear makeup, and look fabulous for it (well, so long as they do it well, of course, because it does take some training to get it to do what you want it to do (again, why I almost never bother with it)). And other men and women, like myself, don’t wear makeup, and also look great. Lady Gaga showed up for a photo shoot dressed as a man (and a totally gorgeous and classy one at that), saying that he was a certain expression of a part of herself. What if we were to allow and encourage people to express themselves in their appearance, similar to how photographers had to do with Lady Gaga (and then even advertised it to the public)? Even though she was not dressed as they’d anticipated, they rolled with it, because this man is part of who Lady Gaga is, and they were there to capture the essence of Lady Gaga. So they did.
Rather than being rigid about things being ‘only for boys’ or ‘only for girls’ to wear, what if we allowed people to dress as they felt empowered, self-expressed? Most days, I don’t feel like wearing a skirt right now, so I wear pants. Can not a man do just the opposite? He certainly can. The question is not whether it is possible for men to do it. It is instead a matter of our accepting him for who he is, rather than who we think he should be.
Now, I really think I could expand on all of this for a really, really long time… really. But, I’ll continue with those thoughts on a different day. For now, I’ll end with this: If a skirt or makeup is part of your self-expression, then wear a skirt, do your makeup. If it’s not, then don’t. If you have an issue with this, please reconsider, and ask yourself why you have a problem with it – is your reason really worth causing people pain and suffering, or is it simply something you were told, and you rolled with it without too much consideration? And, finally, fashion people, could we get some variety for men’s clothing, please? I feel like their self-expression must be totally suppressed with such a simple wardrobe. I even feel somewhat suppressed on their behalf, and I already get to wear whatever I want.
Yeah… thanks for reading, folks. Whew! 🙂