Wearing Shorts in the Winter (Concern Trolling)

TW: Discussion of victim-blaming in sexual assault, clothing


I wear shorts pretty much all-year ’round. That includes during the winter.

There are a lot of reasons why I wear shorts, and I become more familiar with them as the season progresses. Because people are constantly giving me shit for wearing shorts in the winter and I have to justify myself on a regular basis.

I’m poor and don’t have a ton of pairs of pants that are still intact enough to wear. I like to wear long socks that look cool. Long pants that are cut for female bodies are incredibly restrictive, and any sort of long pants make it hard to crouch and move around with ease and agility, as I’m wont to do. That makes it especially difficult to wear pants at the gas station I work at, where I have to walk around and do stuff all day.

But it’s winter. And customers tend to lose their minds a little bit over the fact that I wear shorts. Yes, I realize that it’s cold outside. However, I perform most of my job duties indoors, where they keep it a balmy 71°F.

I also utilize multiple layers of clothing when traveling from one place to another, or when I have to change the trash cans outside or something. Sometimes I wear leggings under my shorts, and I usually wear long socks that cover most of the skin left exposed by cargo shorts. If it’s especially cold, I’ll even wear an additional pair of pants which I remove when I get to work.

POINT BEING. We’re about halfway through winter and I’m getting irritated with people. So many strangers ask me in incredulous voices if I’m wearing shorts, why I’m wearing shorts, if I know that it’s winter, how I’m not freezing to death, etc. Since I’m usually at work when this happens, I have to be tactful even if I allow my irritation to show in these situations. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, so I think I’m finally able to articulate why I hate this so much (aside from the fact that people frequently comment on what I’m wearing anyway).

This particular interaction strikes me as very similar to the kind of concern trolling that women/femme folks get in the form of Don’t-Wear-That-You’ll-Get-Raped. The aghast faces, the raised eyebrows, the genuine concern for your well-being that really comes across as patronizing and infantile.

I’m aware that it’s cold outside. I take appropriate precautions to ensure my safety when I’m going to be outside (because I’m an adult). Women/femme folks also take precautions to ensure their safety when venturing outdoors, whether they’re wearing something revealing or not. We are aware that there is potential risk involved in what we’re doing, but we’ve decided that we’re responsible adults enough to handle ourselves in public wearing the clothes we deem fit for the occasion.

This is one of those times I wish I could experiment with the same behaviors but with an outwardly masculine appearance. Would I get nearly the volume of comments about my shorts if people didn’t read me as a woman? Curious.

What do you folks think? Am I stretching a bit here, or does this comparison make sense to you?

Wearing Shorts in the Winter (Concern Trolling)

21 thoughts on “Wearing Shorts in the Winter (Concern Trolling)

  1. 1

    Where it gets extra ridiculous is if you were wearing a skirt, nobody would blink an eye. I’d love to hear them try to explain how the bare legs are any different depending on the garment worn.

    1. 1.1

      That’s really interesting. I kind of want to try this while wearing a skirt, but the main reason I don’t wear skirts is that they don’t have pockets, and I need those while I’m at work.

        1. Or bring belt pouches back into fashion. (I hate the term “fanny pack.”) Construction and electrical workers wear tool belts and store clerks used to have holsters for price tagging guns. Why shouldn’t people have add-on and removable pockets?

          I use arm bags when I’m cycling to hold ID, money and keys, though they wouldn’t work on the job. Maybe a wrist wallet could work, they’re also useful.

  2. 2

    I would say that as someone who appears ‘typically’ masculine I get less hassle for what I wear, I have a strong feeling this is because our society generally infantilises women/femme people, (especially those without children) and thus it’s more acceptable to comment on what they are wearing because ‘they’re not adult enough to make these decisions for themselves’ or suchlike.

    I can’t say for certain though

  3. 3

    I’d also be interested to see if a male got the same questions, but I’d bet, no.

    Because a woman’s body is public property. Not only men, but, sadly, women, feel they have a god-given right to comment on our looks/dress.

    Men, unless they “look too gay” or otherwise “odd” are adult humans with the right to control their lives. Naturally their choices must be informed because they are men and even if not, if a man is 100 lbs. overweight, well, it’s his business.

  4. 4

    I’m a fat old (60) man who wears shorts & tees year round and have gotten the same treatment for decades, especially when shoveling snow. Some people can’t stand anyone even slightly different.

  5. 5

    Although you make an interesting point Lux , I feel that “anyone” wearing Shorts in frigid conditions is going to attract comments . It’s not about discrimination ; most would be concerned for your exposure to the elements or curious why you don’t sense the Risk of being chilled, like they do…

    As you know ; there are many areas of painful discrimination where the intent is seriously malicious ; I believe our focus should be to that end , rather than minor issues “where no real harm is intended”…
    I appreciate the gender situation, but this is Not about being different ; it’s a concern for well being !

    1. 5.1

      I wouldn’t say this is a matter of discrimination, and I’m certain that people don’t have malicious intent when they bother me about this. Like, I realize that it stems from a concern for my safety, it’s just that I don’t need random strangers looking out for me and practically questioning my intelligence by asking if I know that it’s winter. And it probably wouldn’t bother me if it were one or two isolated events, but it’s been like.. the entire season. Almost every day.

      Yeah, people probably don’t intend harm when they do this. But being on the receiving end of that all the time is what causes people to change their behavior in order to avoid certain interactions. Which is basically how oppression plays out in real life. If I owned more pants, I would probably wear pants to work more often just to get people to shut up and leave me alone about the clothes I’m wearing.

  6. 7

    Just to provide some counter anecdata to the last two comments. I live in Wisconsin and I don’t even think about breaking out pants until it’s well below freezing (or if I’m going on a 10 mile hike or something). No stranger has ever commented on it. But I’m pudgy, bearded, and generally look grumpy. Part of it is that in my neck of the woods (WI), I’m not that rare. Part of it is that I’m a guy, and not particularly approachable. I do think the culture in general has a more paternalistic view of feminine people, so I suspect you’re right. You get attention for being outside of the norm no matter where you live, but people are more likely to voice their concern about that variation if you seem feminine to them.

  7. 8

    I like to wear shorts in cold because I like the crispy feeling.

    I was out on the town last night wearing a dress with a heavy coat but bare legs in fifty degree weather. A group of people began following me and making comments. A man started (in a loud and sarcastic tone), “It’s cold. I’m sure glad I was smart enough to bring my jacket!” A woman, also in sarcastic tone, began vocally expressing her gratitude for her sweater. The rest of group broke out into approving laughter. The harassment was bizarre, but for whatever reason, they found it paramount to emphasize how strange I was and their displeasure with my choice. I immediately thought of your post (lol).

    I was thankful my spouse (a relatively large man) was with me, or I’m sure I would have faced worse comments. In any case, I had expected that behavior (but had hoped for the better) and put on the leggings I kept in my purse.

    1. 8.1

      Jeez, that’s terrible! And also a prime example of what I was just telling 1arritechno up there ^

      Literally changing your behavior because people were harassing you for your clothes. What is wrong with people?! THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY.

  8. 9

    Having lived my whole life under the influence of testosterone, and having been around many others with that hormone coursing through their brainses, i would have to say seeing a woman in shorts in the winter would feel like an excuse to indirectly talk about her legs, which the testosterone would reward with a little ‘splosion of happiness in the pleasure centers of said brainses…which temptation i would resist out of respect for said woman.

    However, i know a lot of people who have the same condition, most of them men, who would happily use the situation as an excuse to interact with the woman in question and discuss her body indirectly, or even directly if they found or made an excuse further move in that direction. Why they do not resist the temptation, if they do not, i could only speculate, but i won’t.

    I try to keep my testosterone to a minimum these days, after years of exploring the experiences of women and other oppressed groups and learning how its effects on me can effect them. I’m happy to say that meditation has really helped me move away from the whole hormonal pinball game and toward the experience of much subtler and more peaceful and, tbh, joyfull experience that does not depend on fulfilling my desires indirectly through others, but rather directly through exploration of the infinite within. I know this venue is for atheists, but many of my fellow meditators will tell you the infinite is not the same as god. And no faith is required; just looking within to find whatever you find, and curiosity to explore.

    Lately my explorations (after about 15 years of practice) have taken me to the most wonderful, subtly joyful experiences. I still wonder what on earth they are all about; my curiosity drives me to ask a lot of questions and explore; and the exploration yields some dead ends and some more fruitful paths as well. I keep moving to see where this will all end up. It’s all about curiosity and seeking further inner experience, asking a lot of questions, and staying relaxed enough to be open to whatever happens next. And i guess a little faith or hope that there is indeed a possibility that what you discover within you will be something you might like.

    But anyway, thanks to much discussion about the lives of women and others who live with female bodies or estrogen, I am happy to say i know better than to ask why a woman is wearing shorts in the winter. I just enjoy the pretty legs without comment or leering, and move on to whatever is next on my list of things to do. And maybe send her some good energy as thanks for sharing her beauty with the rest of the world.

  9. 10

    Yeah, I can really relate. I’ve had the same experience, well, almost. I wear long pants all year long (1 reason being that I really don’t feel comfortable about showing my legs), but I also used to wear nothing but a T-shirt above the belt (only short-sleeved ones btw), all year long. And believe me, when people see someone walking around in a T-shirt while it’s snowing, they’ll ask lots of questions. “You know it’s winter, right?” “Aren’t you COLD?” “How can you not be freezing right now?” “Wh-what is WRONG with you?” Some people’d even be so forward to touch my arm and notice “Wow, you’re warm.” Yeah, people… >.>

    Sometimes I’d screw around with them. “Cold? What’s that?” It can be a funny topic of conversation sometimes. At other times, it’s pretty depressing to discover how plenty people will consider themselves superior because… “I’m immune to the cold, you guys! Yes, that makes me different from the norm. No, that doesn’t make you better than me. You’re totally missing the point, boyo!” People can be so lovely sometimes. >.>

    I can’t say if gender is the decisive factor though; I looked pretty boyish in my youth. It might play a bigger role when it comes to showing leg than when it comes to showing arm. The experience sure made me empathize with what Muslim women have to put up with when they cover their hair with a headscarf, though. People like to make a big fuss about that over here in Europe.

    As for a possible solution, well, I started wearing a leather jacket once I started getting kinda fat and after a sizable amount of pleas from family members (it doesn’t matter how many times you ensure them that you’re totally fine). So yeah, I gave in to the pressure. :/ Basically, I only see two possible ways to reduce the comments: either by making yourself seem a lot less approachable or by wearing long pants. I’m not sure how accepted this is for women in the States, but I usually wear long loose-ish (but not rapper-style hey-lemme-show-everyone-my-underwear loose, mind you) man-jeans and I’ve never had any trouble crouching or moving around with them. I haven’t had any strangers come up to me and ask me about my jeans, but again, I dunno if an American would be equally unfazed about it.

    Either way, good luck in dealing with people’s peculiarities. I hope you find a solution that works for you. 😉

  10. 11

    Regarding pants, poverty definitely sucks. I take it stretch pants or jeans aren’t possible for multiple reasons? I’ve taken to stretch jeans because they REALLY have a lot of stretch (I have 27″ thighs), and they bend well at the hips and knees.

    Regarding shorts, if I wear them between November and March, people here look at and talk about the “crazy waiguoren”. Taiwan doesn’t have winter as you and I know it, but people react to shorts the same way you describe.

  11. 12

    OMG yes.

    My partner (cis male) gets this ALL the time. it’s odd…I live in London, and he grew up in Africa, so like Australians they tend to wear shorts 365 days of the year, even when Brits think it’s cold. He’s Scottish originally, so has those genes and that whole ‘Not cold yer southern jessie!’ sort of attitude (not that he speaks like Billy Connolly 😉 ).

    He gets comments 24/7 about ‘aren’t you cold?’ – it gets offensive at times. Weirdly I’m the one who sometimes wears a kilt, and I expect those jibes and never get them. I did for one winter wear shorts, and yes I got the whole policing of my clothes act!

    It was a revealing (if minor) look at how I suspect people police genderfluid and trans* – I mean if people freak out about shorts when it’s above freezing, I hate to think what people do if they think your presentation doesn’t match your perceived gender!

    tl;dr – people are idiots and seem to comment on clothes to everyone. Dumb.

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