Since starting The Beskirted Man, I have been asked multiple times what exactly I mean with the tagline “promoting femininity in masculinity”. I have answered the question in various shorter forms as I have been asked, but I thought it might be worthwhile to write a longer, more detailed answer.
On the surface, this blog appears to be about non-traditional, gender non-conforming fashion for men. While that is certainly the main topic, the purpose of it goes much deeper than that.
Femininity Is a Part of Masculinity
Through the symbolic use of clothing, my goal is to promote the idea that masculinity and femininity are unequivocally intertwined and that men should embrace some of their more “feminine” characteristics.
Examples of more “feminine” characteristics are emotional vulnerability, softness and tenderness, sensitivity, passivity, etc. These are points that Western society has attributed to women rather than men and it often leads to men who exhibit any sort of, say, tenderness or sensitivity to be considered weak and “unmanly”.
According to Western standards, a true man should be aggressive and not bother with any sort of emotions other than happiness and rage. Everything is black and white without any room for anything in between. That is toxic masculinity and many men suffer from feeling like they have to live up to that expectation.
True masculinity, however, embraces every aspect a man has to offer. If a man has to cry because his beloved hamster is sick, then he should be allowed to cry and be vulnerable in that moment free from judgement. A true man embraces all aspects of his personality regardless of what is considered “feminine” and “masculine” and isn’t afraid to show it.
Why Distinguish Between “Feminine” and “Masculine”?
I have been putting “feminine” and “masculine” in quotation marks because we have to ask ourselves what they really are. If a person has both aspects to their personality, then why distinguish?
The answer to this question is, unfortunately, something largely out of an individual’s control. Society differentiates between the two genders it has defined in a number of ways including clothing and characteristics. That means using this nomenclature is still necessary for people to understand what is meant.
When talking about characteristics, it is a superficial division that in reality shouldn’t exist. Both men and women have a plethora of traits that are assigned to both categories even though it really makes no sense to do so. They should just embrace their traits and not worry about whether they are “masculine” or “feminine”.
Calling a piece of clothing “masculine” or “feminine” might make sense in some situations such as cut, but also not always. In fact, I would suggest doing away with describing clothes in that way as well and finding new ways to describe how a piece of clothing is cut. They should simply work with body types rather than gender to describe its cut.
Every type of garment, pattern, material, etc should just be genderless and available to everyone. All shoes, including heels, should be available in all sizes and varying widths. They also shouldn’t be labeled as “masculine” or “feminine” either.
Everyone should be able to feel free to not only wear clothing of any sort, but also to show personality traits that are typically assigned by society to a different gender. So why is that not the case?
Bullying and Self-Suppression
The headline sums up the answer to that question concisely. The idea that “masculinity” and “femininity” are two separate concepts has been sometimes literally beaten into our heads from an early age and continues to be throughout our entire lives.
Schoolyard bullies, closed-minded family members and the pressure to be “cool” in school drive individuals to conform to the majority for long enough that it becomes normal for them. Boys aren’t born with an aversion to wearing dresses or crying. They are taught to have one.
The bullying continues into adult life as well. A man who dares to don a floral dress in public is potentially opening himself up to ridicule by others who are so close-minded that they are unwilling to even consider why it’s not “normal”. While this very rarely ever happens in reality, the fear of it is enough to keep most men who would love to wear gender non-conforming clothing from doing so.
Discrimination and coercion are other ways adults bully each other into confirmation. A great example of that is in the workplace. Many companies impose a dress code on their employees which bars men from wearing skirts or dresses, for example, because they consider it to be “unprofessional”. Why is it unprofessional for men to wear them when it isn’t for female employees?
The same goes with men showing their “feminine” characteristics. Unless there is a real tragedy, you will be hard-pressed to see a man moved to tears by something in public. No one would bat an eye at a woman crying for joy because she was just proposed to, but if a man did that in the same situation, people would look at him strangely.
This sort of suppression of one’s self means people are forced or feel forced to hide a part of who they are. By doing so, they essentially kill part of themselves which is not healthy in any way.
How Clothing Plays a Role
At the beginning of the article, I mentioned that I am using the symbolism of clothing to promote the idea of “femininity” in “masculinity”. That is because clothing is often underestimated when it comes to expressing one’s identity. People who dress in a way considered by society to be eccentric, whether that is gender-conforming or not, will often say they dress that way to express themselves.
In my experience with wearing skirts and heels, I can say the exact same thing. When I am forced to wear jeans rather than a skirt because I’m visiting my arch-conservative relatives in the rural Deep South of the United States, I feel like I am not being true to myself or to how I am. I feel like I am playing the role of a pre-defined person that in many aspects doesn’t actually have anything to do with how I really am.
Through the use of clothing, I can express my disdain for the boxes that people on the outside put me in and expect me to conform to. When I am wearing a skirt, I feel like I am embracing and presenting my true self which is a huge boost for my confidence, even in public. It shows how proud I am of all of myself, including the more “feminine” aspects of my personality.
The point I am trying to make with my rambling is that there is really no such thing as “masculine” or “feminine” characteristics. They are artificial labels for a subset of traits of which every single person on this planet has a unique mix.
Many of us suppress some or all of the traits that are considered to be characteristic of a gender which we do not identify by. I am certainly guilty of that even to this day. Everyone who does that is suppressing part of their own personality and are therefore not being true to their loved ones or themselves.
Clothing plays a major role in that it keeps an immediate visual separation of “masculinity” and “femininity” which serves as a continuous reminder of it every time we see someone, including ourselves, even at a subconscious level. Wearing gender non-conforming clothing is one way to break the stereotypes and show others that you are embracing being true to yourself regardless of what label society puts on it.
How do you feel about society’s separation of “masculine” and “feminine”? What sort of experiences have you had conforming to one or the other? Do you do anything to break the mold? If so, what? Let us know down in the comments below!