A Gender Issue: I've Never Worn a Dress
But People Can Do Whatever They Want
I’ve been questioning the underlying drives—historical, cultural, social, political, moral—that lead a man to behave like a man and a woman to behave like a woman. Why should a man or woman only present themselves according to how their culture or larger society dictates? I would think that for most people, to some extent or more, one only has to look in the mirror to see what’s actually there. But what if a man doesn’t like being as manly as he’s been socially taught to be? The same conundrum can apply to a woman’s case. I guess, being a man myself, I’ve never thought about these issues in much depth before. In this instance, however, it’s important to be open and honest about what I’m exploring here. That’s why I’ve written this article.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about what it would feel like to wear a dress. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to belittle or demean women by imagining how funny it would be for a man to don a dress to show how stupid women are. No. That would be entirely sexist, if not misogynistic. The real intention behind this thought concerns the topic of gender roles and what drives men to be men and women to be women.
By extension, I’ve naturally expanded on that thinking by focusing intently on clothes in relation to gender, for example, the idea of a man wearing a dress. Most of us know the implications that carries. In actuality a man (or woman in the contrary state) should be able to wear a dress without fearing the encroaching claw of judgement from anyone or anything.
Any man who’s walked down a public street in a dress has most likely withheld similar notions. The other day I asked my mum what would happen if I wore a dress. She curtly replied with something like, “That’s fine, mate. It’s really up to you. But you’d have to be prepared for what people would say”. That was the most expectant response I had in mind, and yet I yearned to explore more—to explore what it would physically and emotionally feel like to wear a dress. I also mentally considered the reverse situation of what a woman might feel like wearing male clothing. Still, the major and all-encompassing conclusion I always arrive at out of these inquiries is this: our ‘gender roles’ are only a brutal mirror to the staunchly patriarchal society we live in and the entrenched ideas of male and female conceptions that patriarchy affords.
This is why we ought to seriously challenge certain fixed norms about gender. We should also accept why it’s okay for a man to wear a dress, that is, if he wants to. The same point, as I’ve said before, relates to women, albeit with equally complex but different problems.
Men especially should be taught not to laugh at a man who’s decided to experiment with his physical identity publicly. The same goes for a woman who dresses up like a man. That’s a decision for the individual regardless of whether they're male, female, or however one chooses to consciously define oneself. Any man or woman who decides to do that should, frankly, be applauded for it. Yes, we’re still a fair distance away from achieving that, but as long as people are continually supported for the decisions they make with their gender identities, then a wider understanding and acceptance should come.
As for myself, I’ve never felt compelled to dress like a woman. I’m obviously as much a victim of the age-old strictures of gender as anyone else, but I don’t think I’d actually wear a dress or anything like that to spread some advanced philosophical point about gender. But, in all honesty, the bigger point I’m trying to make here is this: that it’s perfectly alright for a man or a woman to follow alternative expressions of gender identity, even if that expression opposes what society routinely expects of people.
In today’s age, particularly in certain Western countries where certain attitudes about things have changed, people aren’t asked but are expected to think and act in ways that aren’t representative of the behaviours of an older time where structures like gender roles weren’t even questioned. People should maintain their inquisitive natures, if they have them. One should also try to debunk archaic myths and beliefs about gender in the hope others will be educated about how gender has become a wholly porous entity. And, most importantly, more of us should’ve learned by now that the concept of a human society doesn’t have to be explained in the narrow and now outmoded context of what defines both male identity and female identity.