Friday, May 18, 2012

Skirting the Issue

Iggy Pop in a dress. Your argument is invalid.
I like skirts--long or short, on women or on men, on other people or on myself--so long as they are wide enough to permit free movement and have usable pockets. I like trousers that fit those criteria as well, and find them more suitable for some situations, but I still prefer skirts for on the basis of comfort and aesthetics.

A lot of people seem to have this mental block: they see skirts as women's garments, and cannot move past that. Men wear trousers. Women wear skirts...and trousers. Why are women permitted to wear both, but not men? They cannot be bothered to ask questions like that.

Maybe they just do not want to consider the likely explanation, which is misogyny. This is a very reductionist version: women wear skirts, men wear trousers, and women are inferior to men; it is good for women to strive for something above their station, therefore women may wear trousers; it is bad for men to sink to something beneath their station, therefore men may not wear skirts.

Other people can accept certain types of traditional men's skirts, such as kilts or sarongs, but only if one belongs to the culture that produced said garments. My partner's mother is convinced to this day that my partner's and my predilection for kilts is justified by our Irish American heritage. The number one question we get asked when we walk around in kilts is, "Are you Scottish?" After all, why else would a man wear a skirt? Is 'personal preference' that difficult to understand?

Yes, Utilikilts 'count' as skirts.
There are also people who embrace the idea of men wearing men's skirts--but only men's skirts made for men only! Strangers sometimes ask about my 'skirt', only to be corrected by other well-meaning strangers: "It's a kilt, not a skirt!" That strikes me as similar to insisting that blue jeans are not trousers. The obsession with framing men's skirts (or men's unbifurcated garments, as some prefer) as exclusively male and unambiguously separate from women's skirts seems kind of neurotic to me. It goes back to the same misogynistic message that it is more humiliating for a man to appear womanly than it is for women to appear manly.

Every culture attaches a different set of largely arbitrary meanings to clothes. Living in the Information Age affords us the opportunity to experience many such sets of meanings from all times and places. Furthermore, we have the freedom to question, change, or discard these meanings if we find them wanting. I call bulshytt on the notion that only women can wear skirts.

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