Do you get the quickie?

CarnalNation

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When Men Wear Skirts

At a bar last week, catching up with some feminist queer old friends, I began discussing my ideas around Radical Masculinity and the theories I am putting forward about the ways masculinity needs work. I drunkenly argued that women have surpassed men with some of their access, range, and gender acceptance, only to be met with dismissive pshaws.

"Come on," they said. We all come from a feminist, women-are-oppressed-in-this-patriarchal-hierarchy background. "Men aren't oppressed!"

"It's true!" I drunkenly argued. "Can women wear pants, acceptably, with no consequence?"

They laughed. Yes, of course.

"And can men wear skirts?" I pressed.

"Uhh ..."

"The word you're looking for is no.

"Can men have long hair and still be considered manly (outside of the heavy metal scene)? Can men bake cupcakes or needlepoint or grow sunflowers without taking shit from his buddies? Can a butch order a vanilla vodka and cranberry without getting sneered at? Can you name five positive, good traits about masculinity? Can you point to positive masculine role models? When men wear skirts, with no consequence, with no backlash, with full acceptance, then I'll accept that we've reclaimed and revalued femininity and masculinity to the same extent."

I was ranting, it's true. But the point still remains: masculinity has a long way to go. Masculine people still need social permission to be able to pursue the wide range of interests or activities or personal tastes that are (for the most part, though not without caveats) already available to women.

 

Billboard from Dockers'
"Wear the Pants" campaign.
Click for full size.

One of my basic tenets of gender is the deep belief that gender should not dictate one's personality. Personality traits are made up of hobbies, interests, and activities; one of the classic ways we police gender in this culture is to require that men only do "manly things" and women do "womanly things," and when a man does a womanly thing, we get all up in arms about it. Ask my sister's boyfriend: he's a cop, the man carries a gun for goodness' sake, but when he started growing sunflowers, he got teased incessantly by his best friends and coworkers alike. Someone—anyone—is extra quick to criticize when one of the activities we like to do is outside of our gender assignment.

 

Yet it is more socially acceptable for a woman to cross over into seemingly masculine hobbies than for a man to cross into feminine ones (at least at the amateur level—men still dominate fields traditionally seen as "female" such as cooking, baking, and sewing at the professional level, but that is a slightly different topic). The advances that the various feminist movements have made in the last 100-plus years have made it more acceptable for a woman to get really obsessed with NASCAR racing, or World of Warcraft and video games, or pro-wrestling, or environmental engineering, or the stock market, or any of those other supposedly "masculine" interests and hobbies. She may be insulted for these interests, she may be called a dyke (equating her gender identity with sexuality), but she has support. She has other women who have gone through this, she has documents, she has a feminist history to call upon to tell herself—and others—that she can like these things and still be a "real" woman.

However, if a man wants to grow sunflowers or bake cupcakes or learn how to needlepoint or host fancy dinner parties or make greeting cards, there are consequences: the people around him, friends and strangers, will police his hobbies, words, and actions around things seen as "unmanly."

There have been many writers and theorists growing out of the feminist movements who have worked on less policing of women, but not as many texts have been generated tackling less policing of men. And, in fact, some people who are doing work that appears similar to mine, on re-visioning masculinity as a gender and as a social role, want more policing, not less. Take the recent Dockers ad campaign, for example: the tag line is "wear the pants" and its perspective is that men have been beaten down by the advances women have made and need to "take back masculinity" from how women's advances have subdued and tamed men.

Campaigns such as this one want men to have less options, and want to stop men from becoming further "feminized." As if masculine folks don't have any right to feel our feelings, bond with our babies, take care of our elderly, clean our houses, nourish our bodies, or create arts and crafts in any way that our minds and hearts and spirits call forth for us to do so.

I want more options for more people to express themselves in more ways, and less policing of our interests, activities, hobbies, clothes, presentations, hair, mannerisms, drinks, food, bedspread colors, or fine appreciation of towels and drapes. Speaking of which: did you read Ivan E. Coyote's recent column? She recounts updating her status on Facebook to read "My new towels are so fluffy and absorbent. I felt like a queen. A queen I tell you." and then, later, "Enjoying my new draperies like I do does not make me any less butch." Both of which her followers responded to with insults about her butch gender, with things like suggesting that she needs some "butch quality time" (subtext: she was going soft, getting feminized). One even wrote that butches "should keep thoughts like that to ourselves." Ivan does what Ivan of course does best, which is to unravel this story and give beautiful examples from her life and the internalized misogyny and femiphobia that masculine folks often face.

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Hmm. Let me first say that I

Hmm. Let me first say that I agree with your premise that masculinity is policed in a way that is different from the way that women as a gender are policed. But I think that there is a flaw in even making that comparison; I think that you are comparing a gender expression with a gender identity, and to me, those things are very different. Maybe the root of our difference in view stems from my identity as a femme woman, but I think that what is being policed is really femininity, not masculinity.

While feminism as a movement has created many new and different opportunities for women, some subsets of feminism have actually helped to further ingrain the devaluing of femininity. It is seen as natural for women to want to be "like men," by wearing men's clothing, having "masculine" jobs, or even obsessing about Nascar. However, I don't agree that this means that women have advanced more than men in some areas. It may mean that women have a quantitatively wider range of options, but there are still consequences for those choices that I think are equal to the consequences that masculine folks face when engaging in typically feminine behavior.

I feel like I'm rambling, so I'm going to end this here. Feel free to email for clarification. Maybe I'll be more cogent later. Happy New Year, Sinclair!

manskirts

i live in near raleigh north carolina, i've been wearing a kilt, the scottish kind, and a utilikilt for five years now. only once has anyone said anything about it that i thought wasn't very nice. and they did it behind my back as i walked past them in a bar. there are a few conceptions people have and they mostly make the same jokes or say basically the same things about my choice of garments. i have a few answers ready to say and everyone laughs. i think it will be soon that men will have more options but it will be by taking them. i cook, i clean about my space, i wear a man skirt. i like women. if someone has a problem with that, it's their problem. not mine. will i have to work a little harder at making my way? probably, but when has freedom ever been free or free from labor? i agree with you up to a point. by the way, the american government has a law specifically protecting the kilt. the only garment to have such. there are five distinct cultures that wear kilt type garments. and many others that wear long open fabrics like a dress. attitude goes a long way.

Kilts

I own two Utilikilts. In San Francisco I don't generally get comments beyond the usual "what do year wear underneath" question (Boots and Socks)  I should probably wear them out more often.

Yes, you really should

Some of us are rather starving for the view of mens' calves.

I will second this!

I will second this!

Hear, hear. It's always been

Hear, hear. It's always been a source of irritation for me that both men and women won't let men out of the boy box. I've heard it said that masculinity is seen as something you achieve, something that can always be taken away from you, unlike femininity, which we're all in danger of sliding into (oh horrors). I think there's some truth to that. It's acceptable for women to engage in traditionally masculine activities while men who do the same are scorned in part because we still value masculine ideals and disparage feminine traits. This is a world in which "girl" and "woman" are still used as insults - right alongside "gay" - to knock down anything that doesn't act straight and male. I can go to the range, and that's fine. I can wear pants, I can drink guys under the table, and that's fine, even admirable. But my male friends deal with funny looks when they sew (even when they're sewing combat gear), when they drink fruity, sweet drinks - and wearing a skirt other than a kilt is flat out of the question in this part of the South, unfortunately. (Some of us like masculinities expressed in skirts.)

But thank you for calling out that this crap does hurt men, does effect them and restrict them in both small and heartbreaking ways. I'm sick of seeing a man's friends, family, and significant other think it's their job to police his gender, and I'm saddened that some of my fellow queer femmes fall into the same trap.

I just went with two of my (straight but not narrow, as the saying goes) male friends to get pedicures. They got laughs from the staff, from their friends, from their family. They got teased about being gay (right in front of me - classy) and feminized. Fortunately they laughed it off, had fun and are still walking around with pink toes under their combat boots. It's damn sad that I was proud of them for getting a pedicure.

Only when guys, men, butches, and everyone else who's pulling up a chair in the boys' club can drink pink fruity drinks and wear skirts without anyone batting an eye will we truly have any kind of gender equality (although for the record, I know a lot of butch sailors, male and female that swear by cranberry and vodka).

Those people who laughed and

Those people who laughed and made fun of you are the "slave - owners of America." They are inferior and 3/5 of a person. It should be made a crime to make fun of a gay man or a guy in a kilt/skirt.

Best place to find men in skirts

Very well-written piece, thank you! The best place to find men in skirts used to be at Grateful Dead shows. Ironically, as hetero as the Dead scene was, it was the first place that I encountered gender bending. Men in skirts, with long hair; women who didn't shave. I loved it!

Kilts and boots and calves, oh my!

By choice femme, born female and with a great variety of choices in my life, my wardrobe and my men, I swoon for a guy in a kilt (or kilt-like skirt, i.e. hitting just below the knee and standing a bit away from the body) and boots. I find it one of the butchest looks around. If he's got shapely calves and looks strong, mm-mm-mm. Can't beat that with a Tom of Finland come to life.

men/boys wearing skirts

I think that men should be able to wear skirts, dresses or the like when ever they feel like it. Women (who usuually shop for the husbands, sons or boyfriends) should demand that stores like Walmart, Kmart, Sears, etv,, carry skirts, dresses or skorts for males.
I have been wearing these items since I was 11 yrs of age. They are comfortable. They do not wrap you up or cause you perspire like pants and shorts do, especially in the area between your legs. I current own 11 skirts, 6 skorts (knee lenght) and 2 kilts. I know from experience that these garments are cooler, especially during the warmer months here in northeast Ohio.
I am not gay, nor have I had any inclinations to go that route. I have friends that are gay and they know I wear the items previously mentioned. I have gone shopping at the local stores and have never had any problem with anyone. As a matter of fact several ladies have comment on the good taste I have in choosing what is more becoming on me because of my frame. I am 6 ft. tall, but only weigh 135 lbs. I am in great physical shape for my age (59), I don't drink alcohol of any type (it destroys brain cells) and have a limited use of tobacco products. My doctor said i have the verility of a 40 yr old. I think that is because of the fact I wear skirts, thus not allowing the heat to destroy sperm cells, that is generally associated with wearing of pants. Oh by the way guys I never itch down there, nor have I ever developed a rash.
So guys if you want to maintain your masculinity Start wearing skirts. Mothers make your boys wear them, especially if they are nearing puberty, The semen you save may be your grandchild.

Interesting

I admire your nerve for making such a politically unpopular statement as "men have limitations that women do not have." And in many ways what you are saying is true, at least on the surface. Of course it's unacceptable for men to wear skirts, while women can wear either skirts or pants. That's a fact, that can't be argued with. And it sucks.


But if we look at the root cause of why it's acceptable for women to do "masculine" things while men can't do "feminine" things without censure, what we will find is misogyny.


Women are grudgingly allowed to do "masculine" things because masculinity is seen as desirable. It is associated with privilege, economic sucess, and power. Femininity, on the other hand, is associated in the cultural imagination with subservience and weakness.


Hatred of women is what causes this fear of femininity, not hatred of men. And that bears emphasizing, before we go off thinking men and masculine creatures are oppressed. There is no system that specifically keeps MEN in place. The social pressures that go into policing men's identities are sexism and homophobia, and although masculine individuals can suffer incidental fall out from these systems of opression (like not being able to wear skirts), they are not the primary target.


 

It is not hatred toward

It is not hatred toward women, but hatred toward that which is not 'male' that is the root. (And I'm using 'male' here to be the straight, male stereotype of masculinity that is under discussion.) But realize that this *supports* the argument presented.

Men are not the 'primary target'. This is true. Far more women fall into the 'not male' target category than men, of course. But both are oppressed in some way or another by this system. In most ways, women far more so than men. There is no system that specifically oppresses men (as defined by the stereotype of masculinity) in place. But our system does oppress many males who do not fit the stereotype. Again, this is not to say men have it harder or that they are oppressed to the same degree or in the same numbers -- just that the system is indeed there.

Look at the original premise: "women have surpassed men with some of their access, range, and gender acceptance". I think the article does an excellent job in supporting this point, and the point being made does not detract from other causes.

If you belong to a privileged

If you belong to a privileged group, people will react with perplexity, horror or outrage anytime you deliberately adopt something that's considered anathema to that group, or a signifier of a non-privileged group. In plain English, women can wear pants because they're taking up a signifier of power, and while a few traditionalist die-hards will sneer at them and call them "unfeminine," most of us will cheer her on or not even think twice about it. But if a man puts on a dress, he's taking up a signifier that sets him apart from power, and people will think he's crazy for it.

It's the same reason why people shake their heads in dismay at middle-class white kids wearing hiphop clothing and "talking black." The African-American kids they're imitating bristle at their inauthenticity, while their peers wonder why anyone would want to disenfranchise himself.

It's also why mainstream culture views environmentalists with such thinly (if at all) disguised disdain. We live in the land of glorious stuff! Why would anyone consider it a virtue to have less stuff and use less stuff? Why in God's name would you want a smaller house and a smaller car and a smaller yard? After we all worked so hard to get bigger houses and bigger cars and bigger yards?

Why the discussion?

For what reason are men's skirts put in discussion?
Very clear: Men and women are equal, have the same rights, including fashion. Men usually do not spend too much attention to it but we can't walk and talk with double standards.
Take a man with a Scottish/Iris decent, put him in a kilt and he is a real man celebrating his Scottish/Irish heritage. Put the very same man in a skirt and he is now (according to society) trying to be a woman. It makes no difference if the kilt and skirt are made from the same piece of cloth. Both are lengths of cloth wrapped around the lower part of the body, just the style differs.

Maybe someone can explain, but I guess not.

Who makes the difference, and who is listening to that what some people are saying? Mostly important is how people are feeling in their clothes, what makes them feel comfortable. That it, and that the secret of fashion.

I can't see any problem for men wearing skirts, they are just looking really good and hot in it.

Evolving masculinity in

Evolving masculinity in Japan...

"In Japan, 'Herbivore' Boys Subvert Ideas Of Manhood"
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120696816

The worst offenders and those closest to you

As man who wants the freedom to be able to wear skirts (more comfortable in the hot Australian summers) the ones who are the worst trouser tyrants and the WAGs (wives and girlfriends). These are educated women who have experienced their own freedoms curtailed and in theory appreciate that men should be able to wear anything with the caveat being as long as it is not their husband or boyfriend!

Can you image the response if I looked at my 15 year old niece and told her to stop wearing jeans like a boy or worse sweetly smiled at her and said you will change (into a frilly skirt) before we go out. However when missy looks at me and tells me to put on pants the whole family supports her.

We can't get angry at them (the consequences are too severe), we can get angry at society but it's like punching a cloud so who do we get angry at?? Either ourselves and slide into depression or destructive behaviour or at women which is also destructive. The worst part is when we do get destructive and lash out at women we are considered to be real men. How sad is that???

Men will wear skirts when...

...they look upon the situation and ask themselves "why not?"

It's going to take some out of the box thinking on the part of the guy who wants in on the comfort that only a skirt can offer.

Honestly, I don't understand why there has been such a skirt segregation for so long. Take a look at the shorts men wear in the summer. They are typically knee length, the same as a skirt. They are typically no less form fitting than a pencil skirt. They just have bifurcation where a skirt has none.

As Dan Rather would say: "Courage". That's what it's going to take. And it's the same courage that women like Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy displayed when they first started to wear pants while the rest of the female world here in the U.S.A. were wearing dresses and skirts. MAN UP!

Kilted Hoosier

Courage, not cowardy

For all things which are new men need time to take over. As a daily skirt wearer I can tell a lot of stories but none are bad. Okay, some frozen smiles in some male faces, but a lot of nice comments from women. It is a question where you live and how you wear a skirt, I do it in my own way (pants for instance you can not wear in your own style, pants styling you) and must look good to most I met. And through my profession, I am very public.
One time in church an elderly woman came and said: "You have courage, I love it, and you are a real man because certainly you are not a coward to go with new ideas". That was a signal to me.

Skirts? NAh, tights . . .

Sorry to be slow responding to this topic (When Men Wear Skirts), but I've been working a medieval
faire, which ties in rather loosely with this topic.

When I do faires, and promote them, I wear tights, kilts, chlamys, hosen, knee
length tunics, and generally things that your average macho Hummerkun Dewd would
rather commit seppukku with a pretzel stick than be seen in. I wear fashions
that over the centuries actually flatter the male form rather than merely
covering it in a functional manner. (Beau Brummel would shit himself to death if
he saw how men dressed these days)

To take any concern over one's appearance is somehow at odds with the macho
image, and women are supposed to swoon at the sight of a rugged, semi shaven
slob whose dress says 'take me as I am, or beat it'. However, I can tell you now
that based on the sheer number of women who have literally tripped over
themselves while staring at my ass in tights, or trying to get a peek up my
kilt, guys are SERIOUSLY blowing it here.

Now, the thing here is that carrying off this kind of thing is EXACTLY like
passing. When I've wrangled guys into garb, they act like they're about to be
emasculated by a mob of laughing women, and their body language reflects this.
However, once (sorta like a nudist camp) they get over it and discover that
women are *interested*, it's amazing how fast they start to strut. I put one of
our volunteers in 16th century Venetian, which is about as poofy as it gets, and
told him to go work the crowds. When I saw him later, he was awestruck at how
much his butt got grabbed, and his reaction was 'God, some of those women were
so target locked on my ass it wasn't even funny!'.

Now . . . while women react with interest, male reactions are different.
They generally just shake their heads and swear that THEY'D never be seen in
public dressed like that, and while they're generally polite (having a 38"
rapier on my hip generally keeps 'em that way . . .) it's clear they're
confused. They have a vague admiration of the fact that I have the stones to
wear something like that, but THEY'D never be caught dead in that stuff. And
anyone with THOSE kind of stones can't be gay, even dressed like that. Even
though their girlfriends can't get their eyes off my codpiece, the idea that
perhaps dressing outside the norm gets more chicks than drinking Tree Frog Beer
does never makes it through . . .

I have noticed that modern dress has shifted towards the masculine utilitarian,
with an accompanying drop in personal fashion sense. Women now dress more like
men, simply out of laziness, and the fact that women are tending towards male
characteristics in general. I can remember when my mother would never even THINK
about appearing in public without being 'presentable', but now a trip to your
local Wal-Mart will show how much THAT'S changed.

What's revealing is that the american male will spend millions on things that he
is assured will make him sexually irresistable, but will not move one iota
beyond what is accepted for male clothing. A fashion conscious male is
automatically suspected of being gay. Men dress to fit in, not stand out . . .

I think that men in general are herd animals when it comes to outward
appearances, and seek conformity. Women tend to seek individual expression in
their dress, and that may be one of the first manifestations of emergent gender
dysphoria. I've had more than one girl tell me was that one of the first
pleasures they got from their femininity was dressing, and freeing themselves
from their male forms.

Women have FAR more latitude in what they can wear. Men wear Pants (and variants
therof, Shirts (in various forms), Shoes (generally utilitarian), and Jackets
(which serve as a social status indicator) and that's pretty much it. Hats are
rare, are generally just caps anymore, but up until the '50s, a well dressed man
ALWAYS wore a hat. Suits haven't changed fundamentally over the last 180 years,
while women's fashions have gone through some wild changes.

But I think my point is that guys are so bound up in gender identification modes
that they have been conditioned to react negatively to ANYTHING outside the
strictures of 'Guy Clothes'. Women can wear male clothing, as that projects an
image of masculine strength, which modern society has accepted. But for a male
to wear anything even subtlely outside the norm gets him looked at with
suspicion.

Sieggy

I might be wrong....

I think it is not the question to see wome n or men in their 'genderilized' wardrobe, and it doesn't make sense to check what women could do in past with their wardrobe compare to men. The only question is that that should wear just that what they want, not feeling guilty doing something different or opposite.
I am going out in skirts whenever I want, wearing pantyhose when I like, commenting a laugh with an answer in laugh (just two times in 3 years), smile and I'll get a smile back, answer a question "Are you a Scott"? with "I don't know, are you" and all is fine. A lot of people want to talk about why I am wearing skirts, and I give them the possibility, and this talks are always very interesting.
In other words,I take it seriously but on an easy way. And yesterday a women asked me directly how I am feeling in a skirt, I said: "Great, it is a wonderful free feeling" , she answerd with: "You are looking phantastic in a skirt, did you know that"?
I did not answer because I know that everybody has a different taste in this case. But for sure, I like wearing skirts very much. Is that wrong?

Masculinity and skirts

Masculinity has nothing to do with clothing - we are making this up. And don't tell me that a man looks maculiner in a pair of pants than in a skirt. I came around the world several times and I never saw more "manly" men in countries where men wearing skirts - with no exceptions.
What some people of today try to discuss about men's skirts and his masculinity is pretty silly. There are no single reasons on earth why men should not wear skirted garments. And it does not help at all counting what men can do and women can do - both sexes can all, if they want. Fortunately, we are far away from the situations that something is ALLOWED, we are talking today what is proper to do, to wear, sometimes with restrictions of a job or situation. But in general it is in hand of all single subjects.

Nothing can be more innovative, creative and flexible for a man to wear what was for a long time out of reach, even it was formerly HIS garment: the skirt.

men's rights

Men's rights are like women's. Period. If somebody think this might be different counting on clothes and fashion, are wrong. Simply wrong.
Fashion is not connected to fashion. So what? What makes a men or women? The body and the brain, together it comes up with the feeling. And the body will tell what it likes, like the taste what you eat. The body react exact the same, and it tells you what you should wear.
All others what people might think is just silly and stupid.
Why I ask what are men's rights? You might think about and all about some very good comments above, and you'll find an answer. Yes, men should wear what they like - no restriction at all!

skirted guys

Like to see guys skirted, looking exciting! Why men have fear to go with skirts? They make their own problems because transforming a skirt into a typical female garment. That wrong - without any doubts a skirt is a typical males garment. But men don't know that of have forgotten already. Just check a male body and you'll understand it.

Great stuff. Julia Serano in

Great stuff. Julia Serano in "Whipping Girl" really gives these issues a workout. Thanks for shaing.

Thank you!

thank you thank you thank you for addressing this! In college I took a lot of shit for being a butch woman who not only knew how to bake but really enjoyed it. Also I was one of the few people on my hall that knew how to sew a button back on or repair torn clothing, at least at a basic level. Every one used to look at me like I was nuts when I volunteered to fix someone's shirt before they threw it away, or offered to bake cookies for an event. They'd laugh and say something along the lines of "Isn't that cute?" or say "Seriously?". Also some of the other butch women would give me a look like I had totally failed or something, and this was despite the fact that they knew I knew how to do more 'manly' things like fix clogged/broken drains, build stage sets, and change the oil in my car. I still take a fair amount of crap from people who don't know me well, but I have become known at work for being the one who will randomly bring in scones or cookies I baked the night before just because I felt like it. In fact some of my co-workers, if I haven't brought in bake goods for a while, start pestering me to bring some in!

Of course

I wear skirts. I don't have a problem, and I'm not homophobic. I feel confident to wear it whenever I like. The difference? I feel comfortable in it, and I am proud about myself. Lots of people which I don't know/knew before, greeting me, others starting nice conversations, others like to know where I got my skirts, it is just amazing. I only can recommend and encourage men to do the same I do and did.

Skirts for MEN

Only men which are confident with their sexuality can wear skits and dresses. It is sad that so many men must find an excuse NOT to wear a skirt, and if you read in some blogs the comments, their excuses almost endless. Some intelligent comments give some hope that we should not give up...... maybe some men are leaving their lethargy and becoming real manly mens again.... in skirts.

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Sinclair Sexsmith
December 31st, 2009
Sinclair Sexsmith's picture
Sinclair Sexsmith is a sadistic kinky queer butch top who writes about sex, gender, and relationship adventures at Sugarbutch Chronicles. He partners with femmes and gets off on intentional...