So what about teh menz?
I’ve been asked a few times now, by a few different readers, to write about menswear. I wish I had more to say about it: it’s certainly an interesting and fertile topic. But I don’t have a lot of personal experience with this. I’m a woman; my partner of many years is a woman; we both tend to dress on the more feminine side (although I do venture into butch and genderfuck on occasion). Menswear really isn’t in my wheelhouse.
But I do have some general observations on the topic. And the main one is this:
With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.
Or, to put it more analytically: The range of socially acceptable clothing for men is far, far narrower than the range that’s available for women. As I said when I wrote my Fashion is a Feminist Issue piece: Fashion is one of the very few art forms/ languages/ forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men.
And it’s not just that men have a narrower range of self-expression through style. The very idea of men expressing themselves through style is seen as suspect. There are some particular subcultures where this is less true: historical costume nerds and the kink community are the ones I’m most familiar with. But in general, men who are seen as caring too much about fashion and style and how they look are generally derided as being feminine, or gay, or both. (This is changing somewhat, with the whole “metrosexual” thing — but it’s still there.) Men are expected to achieve a perfect, razor’s edge balance between good grooming and carelessness. You’re supposed to look good — but those good looks have to seem effortless.
I see this pattern a lot with rigid gender roles. They hurt both women and men, in mirror images of each other. Women are screwed over by the expectation that they be sexually passive (the piece of common ground in the virgin/whore dichotomy); men are screwed over by the expectation that they be aggressive sexual studs, and always make the first move. Women are screwed over by the assumption that they’re over-emotional; men are screwed over by the expectation that they repress their emotions. Women are screwed over by the glass ceiling and earning 78 cents on the dollar and nineteen thousand other forms of economic discrimination; men are screwed over by the expectation that they be the primary breadwinner. I’m certainly not going to argue that these roles and expectations hurt men and women equally — I think that’s bullshit — but I do think rigid gender roles hurt everybody, of all genders, and I care about it.
So men — and people of all genders with men in your life — what do you think? How can men express themselves through style, using the limited fashion vocabulary they’re permitted? And what are some interesting ways for men to stretch that vocabulary?
(Oh, quick note: If any MRA assholes show up in this thread to scream about how the issues I’m writing about here aren’t the same ones they most care about, and therefore all feminists are evil ballbusters who hate men and want to destroy them… please ignore them. Whenever I write about how rigid gender roles hurt men as well as women, they almost always show up. I’ll deal with them as quickly as I can. Don’t let them derail the thread. Thanks.)