Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Virabhadrasana - Warrior Pose

Hey You!

I'm afraid this will be a bit of a heavy post, but one I feel the need to extricate from myself. I have attempted to explain my reasons for wearing skirts in previous posts and found it difficult to articulate. It has taken some fairly horrifying news stories and editorials for me to come to a clearer understanding of this decision. Five days of the week for eight hours a day I wear a uniform (a very lovely expensive uniform thanks to a certain music lover (seriously the work playlist changes every couple of weeks and I think I fall in love with Hedi as a person with each new one)), the rest of that time I mostly feel comfortable in myself when I am wearing skirts and layering. Recently my good friend Izzy, asked if I had more skirts then pants, I honestly didn’t know… I have noticed that more often then not I wear skirts instead of pants. This is not because I dislike trousers, but it’s just what I instinctually (and sometimes groggily at 8am) gravitate towards. What with a heteronormative uniform and a conservative work neighbourhood (Midtown: yuck!), I sometimes feel at war and my clothing choices are my weapons. Upon realizing these feelings I was horrified… Of course I have worn skirts before I started my current job, but I had started to allow the environment around me to dictate, at least partially, what I wear.

However I am not sure why this is such a terrible circumstance. In my previous posts (skirting the issue) I described feeling that a male wearing a skirt is simply not a big issue and therefore not worth exploring. I still stand by this point. Working in a more conservative and touristy part of NYC, I understand that, whilst to me it is not a big deal, it is to others… I have previously discussed my viewpoint that gender is nothing more then a social construct. Unfortunately it is a construct with truly devastating consequences.

I was raised in a household of women, I have more close female friends then I have close male friends. Even when I was a young child in Hong Kong I played with the girls in my class and didn’t relate much to the boys. The girls played with toys whilst the boys rough-housed. Why anyone would rather fight than play with toys is beyond me, but apparently it came naturally to these kids. I was never raised to believe that violence was something to respect or a way to solve an issue, yet somehow to this very day, young children, I fear mostly males, are taught that we live in a “top dog” society rather than a society of liberty for all.

If we hypothetically leveled the playing field in the rearing of children and say that 10% of males and females are naturally violent we can explore societal reactions to these children. Being dominating and violent is considered a male trait, therefore children are taught to shun the female who is violent and praise the male. What this does is make being a physically dominating male something to aim towards in order to become more masculine. Consequently this 10% of violent males will, like a disease, cause more boys to behave this way. The opposite occurs with the girls where society will make that 10% shrink as the girls learn that it's not appropriate for them, not as people, but as females to behave this way. 

In my experience as someone who has won a genetic lottery and was born into this world in a position of privilege, I have never felt powerful as an individual. I have always had my beliefs and convictions which I have steadfastly held onto and fought for (and even at times valiantly seceded when my beliefs were proven wrong), but until recently I had never realized the extent of what it means to be a sensitive male in a "mans world".

I would like to say that clearly not all men are domineering, violent and anti-women. There are many more allies in men for the fight for true gender equality then I believe first meets the eye. AND not all of them are people who identify as queerStraight men are and have been opening their eyes to gender violence and authoritarianism too. This being said, I cannot say that I do not every single day: encounter men (and women who must have a sense of Stockholm Syndrome by supporting these men) who believe they have the right because of their natural born chromosomal makeup, to rule over the supposed weaker sex.

The media that we consume is almost always anti-feminist. Look at the microcosm of news culture in the United States. Almost every woman in order to be merely listened to by viewers and taken seriously by their coworkers has a full face of makeup, hair blown out, plastic surgery etc. Now look at the men, how much time in comparison are they spending on their outward appearance to "speak to the nation"? The simple fact is, men when arguing a point only have to fight on one front: that topics front. Women fight on two fronts: to be taken seriously by a masculine society and whatever it is they happen to being talking about. The more one opens their eyes to gender bias the more one can see it in the smallest details of society.

Whilst it is painful to admit we clearly do not live in a just society based on individuals true rights, at least we can teach children what society should be as well? This brings me to the article written by Rebecca Solnit recently in the Huffington Post.
“We have far more than 87,000 rapes in this country every year, but each of them is invariably portrayed as an isolated incident.  We have dots so close they’re splatters melting into a stain, but hardly anyone connects them, or names that stain. In India they did. They said that this is a civil rights issue, it’s a human rights issue, it’s everyone’s problem, it’s not isolated, and it’s never going to be acceptable again. It has to change. It’s your job to change it, and mine, and ours.”
The article is full of startling figures and stories which I could (but will not), quote ad nausea. Please take the time to read it, it’s very well written and hopefully it will be eye opening to you. The reality that we live in: is one where there IS an underlying war on women. Of course not all men choose to participate but it is there and it is real. Gender on one hand is one of the most tricky social constructs we have created. It is more complicated because of the it is one of the largest categorical boxes society uses to describe a human being. Personally I have never identified as female, and although I may wear women's clothing, I am doing so as me, not as a male in women's clothing, not as a transvestite (although categorically speaking I must be), not as a drag queen but as me.

Since I can remember I have been concerned with injustice and fairness. Part of the reason why I feel comfortable wearing skirts and other non-heteronormative articles of clothing is because it is a weapon. I now understand this. The reactions I get from wearing a skirt, are in fact fantastic. By showing these items irrelevance to my gender, I expose the unimportance of gender. I may not have ever felt very powerful but I can say the first time I put on a skirt I felt empowered as a male.

As a white male in society, I automatically inherent a lot of privileges that far too many people do not have (identifying as a male who’s preference is members of the same sex of course takes away many of these…). Even if I believe this physical shell to be irrelevant to who I truly am, I can use myself as a vessel to stand up for those who cannot and to join this fight with my sisters. I do not believe anyone has the natural right to exert authority over a group of individuals. Women should not need to fight extra for survival because this global society treats them as inferior and objects.

[source: http://www.mid-day.com/news/2012/dec/221212-Delhi-gangrape-Protests-turn-violent-as-police-resorts-to-tear-gas-baton-charge.htm]
What is so interesting about a skirt is that for many it is actually a symbol of rape culture. When someone is forced into a situation they have not consented to, authority figures blame the victim for what has happened to them. Why were you out late at night? Why were you drinking? Most of all a startling number of (often male) authority figures blame what a person wears for what has happened to them. A skirt is easy access, apparently nobody can blame a man for having un-consenting sex with a woman if she's wearing a skirt, particularly if it is short. Men can't apologize for their naturally violent urges, but women should apologize for their choice to wear a skirt, because you know, they aren't wearing chastity belts and being virginal maidens. Apparently women are not allowed to be sexual at all, in fact a woman has to apologize if she flirts with a male. Oh and her choice of clothing is apparently an act of flirtation for the world to perceive as fuck me?!

There are many reasons for doing many things, this is one of many reasons why I choose to wear the clothes that I do. We males cannot allow others of the same sex to continue believing that they have the right to control a woman; whether it is their bodies or their rights. I leave you with this image of the beautiful Jyoti Singh Pandey who was gang raped and assaulted at the end of the last year and sadly died of her horrific injuries. Her death should not be in vain, we need to stand up for those around us and never let this happen again. If we as a species cannot stand united even by the most basic divider as gender, how will we deal with even more difficult issues like climate change and the impending collapse of the health care system as antibiotics increasingly are losing their requisite effects.

Jyoti Singh Pandey 1989-2012


PS: I realize how heavy this post is. I can never do this subject justice and I do hope to not offend anyone with its content. I believe that a dialogue must be opened, lack of communication is one of the main reasons why there is so much strife in the world and if my paltry voice (of white male privilege...) can open a single persons eyes then everything is worth it. This is very much a subject I am deeply concerned about and I truly do not mean any disrespect to women or victims of rape. Especially by discussing it alongside such a superficial subject as my choice to wear a skirt but to me these things are linked.


eugene said...

your views are insightful as always. i love the idea of "weaponizing your clothing".. thanks for seeding me with something to think about for the next little while. speaking about plants, hope the one on the balcony has been brought in.

Izzy said...

What a beautiful and noble way of articulating your choice to wear skirts. Maybe other people feel this way too, maybe they don't. I have merely taken a little dip into the habit of wearing skirts (I only have one), and I can tell you it was a very memorable experience. Gender is indeed a tricky thing, and it disappoints me to see people of marginalized genders who I consider to be strong perpetuating notions that oppress them. Many things to discuss at an impending tea date.

Sean said...

So much food for thought...I don't know if I can summarize all of my thoughts in a comment! I actually got into a fight with a guy about the "asking for it" conundrum the other week, specifically in the context of the legality of walking around topless in NYC - I was saying men are bastards (oversimplification, maybe) and should be held accountable for their actions and "urges", instead of people chalking that up to part of "being a man" (how charmingly old fashioned *barf*)

A woman should be able to wear whatever the hell she wants and not worry about whether some guy thinks he is allowed to take that as an invitation to ANYTHING. That mindset is a sick social construction that we feed into with our "oh, what else can you expect of menfolk," attitude. Men should be offended by it, too, because it makes them sound like neanderthals!

Also, yes, it is SO TRUE that there is this weird thing in the media that a woman's sexuality must always be commodified, she has to be conventionally attractive, again because I guess we've trained those helpless men with their inability to think about anything but sex for eight seconds to hear her out if she isn't also arousing. Oh, no, now I'm on a tangent...I feel like this should be some sort of video roundtable discussion performance art piece. Also, I wore my kilt/tartan skirt the other day! It was really cold, but it got me thinking. My post on it will elaborate. And P.S. I would like to cordially invite myself to your tea with Izzy :p

Mari said...

Not only gender,when you choose your friend,you don't care about your friend's age. (I am talking about me,haha!) And I think NYC is one of place where you can wear whatever you want pretty much than the the other place.I bet you must get compliment from even stranger when you wear skirt. So you should not care about people who don't like your in skirt.I really enjoy your style by tumblr.

Brandon said...

Eugene - Glad you enjoyed the post so much! the plant is still out there enjoying it's slow painful death!

Izzy - Thank you so much for commenting Izz! Love you to death! You Sean and I will have that tea date very soon! Would relish such a discussion!

Sean - THANK YOU! RIGHT!? who the fuck do these people think they are?! And you are right! do men really want to think of themselves as neanderthals? IT's ridiculous! Tea with Izzy is a must! Hopefully before my trip to Asia maybe next week but Let's connect and figure it out!

Mari - Thank you Mari! <3

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