Dressing Like the Dominant Group

Be careful who you flatter with your imitation.

A sociology textbook that I used in college in the 80’s had a whole section on clothing choices. It stated that throughout history, dominant groups could be emulated by less powerful groups, but that it was always culturally frowned upon for fashion to go the other direction. That has stuck with me over the years, because it’s still true. Once you start looking for it, you see it everywhere.

For example, you rarely see city dwellers dressing like backwoods folk. And colonizers tend to avoid dressing like indigenous people. And while women are “allowed” to wear pants these days, there’s gigantic blowback if a man wears a skirt.

But heaven forefend you imitate your “betters” too well. Oh, my goodness, no! We can’t have that. Be careful who you flatter with your imitation. People will think you’re arrogant, or that you’re assuming you have power you don’t actually possess.

A friend of mine in the 80’s was a substitute teacher for a time. Once, she went to a school wearing a suit and a big floral tie. She was told to take it off and never dress that way again. People would think she was “funny”, and she would be warping young minds.

And when Hillary Clinton was running for president, she was often described as dressing in a manner not feminine enough, and yet at the same time she was accused of not looking presidential. She couldn’t win, and she didn’t. No one wasted time talking about how her male competitors dressed.

And while political women these days are wearing colorful pantsuits that often send a message about the causes they are trying to promote, it wasn’t always thus. As recently as 1993 a female senator showed up to work in an Armani pants suit, and you’d have thought the world had come to an end. It just wasn’t done.

I still look back with horror at the office jobs I had that required that I wear pantyhose. I hated every second of it. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would wear pantyhose ever again. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a woman wearing them. Maybe I just travel in the wrong circles. I suppose you still wear them with high heels if you’re stupid enough to destroy your back and feet in that manner. I don’t know. My finger isn’t exactly on the fashion pulse. I can’t for the life of me understand why the tie is still a thing.

Even though it’s irritating how often women are scrutinized for the way they dress, I still feel rather sorry for men. Their options are a lot more narrow if they want to be viewed as socially acceptable. I have much more leeway.

But I do tend to push it a bit. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told that no one would ever describe me as a girly girl. I’ve even been discounted as potential partner material because of it. It’s all so absurd. I’m judged for preferring comfort and utility over style. Oh, well.

As long as we don’t cross that invisible line, all’s right with the world. But ever since my sociology days, that invisible line is more visible to me. And it sure looks silly.

I think she looks great!

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The View is Different from Venus to Mars

“If I realize I am making someone feel like a shadow, I will move out of the way so they can feel the sun.”

Gender roles and gender differences have always fascinated me. I’ve written about these subjects several times. Most recently, I wrote a post entitled What Do You Do? about the many steps women take to avoid sexual assault. Men rarely have to think about these things.

If you search my blog for posts about gender, or click on my feminism heading, dozens will come up. Some of these include: Sworn Virgins in Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo; Secure in My Manhood; Buying in to Gender Violence Phraseology; and Gender-Specific Jobs? Pffft.

Recently I had the opportunity to have a very interesting conversation with someone who has a unique insight into gender roles. To protect his privacy, we’ll call him Mr. Anonymous. As you will soon see, he has had the opportunity to contemplate this topic even more than the majority of us have. I learned a great deal from this conversation, and so I asked him if he’d be willing to be a guest author for today’s post. He was kind enough to agree. So without further ado, here’s Mr. Anonymous.


Today I was in the grocery store looking for this herbal tea that I usually find in health-food stores. As often happens, a woman approached, needing something on a nearby shelf. I was far enough away for her to easily pass me, but she still felt the need to apologize and grab her item quickly. I assured her that she was not in the way. She replied, “That’s good.”

She said it like it was a relief. Here I was, needing a haircut, and I hadn’t shaved in several days, so I looked kind of rough. I felt rough in that store today. Yet this woman, who was about my age, saw a man looking at the items from afar and apologized for getting in my way when she had no reason to.

Not everyone is like that. There are rude types of people in all walks of life. But there is also an obvious pattern of male privilege that I experience every day. I was not born with this privilege, since I am trans person from female to male.

I have gotten some odd vibes from dudes working in hardware stores. As a man, I’m expected to know about tools and such, and I’m not really up to par on these things. So I have learned to do a little online research before I venture outward. Men don’t expect to have to explain things to another man. On the other hand, it’s assumed that a woman would need help. Women are almost treated like children. I find it insulting. I was often insulted before I started passing as a man.

I have seen butch hardcore lesbians more mechanically inclined than I am. Sadly, in the Deep South, there is a great deal of pressure to maintain the stereotypes of men and women. Because of this, I see transmen put on acts to be like the guys. (In other words, work on cars and be an ass.) Well, I think, “Ask Sally, that butch woman. She will help ya out with that transmission.”

I dress masculine and never had an impulse to carry a purse. I remember things I used to do without realizing that they were “what men do”. I was told that I walked like a man when all I was doing, as far as I was concerned, was walking. My sisters wore makeup. I tried against my will to do the female thing, but it just doesn’t cut the mustard with me. Just give me a big loose flannel shirt and some jeans and I am ready to walk out the door.

One of the most alarming things about being on the other side of the rainbow is the fear I create in women just by walking down the sidewalk. If a woman is walking alone in front of me, she picks up her pace. I can feel her fear. I slow down, take detours, or sit down if there are steps or a bench until I feel she is far enough away from me so that she can relax.

A part of me wants to tell her that I know how she feels. I was born female. I know that fear. I was someone who was looked at and hit on by strangers. I felt degraded by people asking to pay me for sexual favors. That was disgusting.

I remember, in my early twenties, riding the bus home from work every day. It wasn’t the best neighborhood. I’d be standing at a bus stop waiting for the bus and several times men stopped, thinking I was a street walker. They would try to get me to go with them. Even after telling them I was only waiting for the bus to go home, they still persisted until the bus showed up.

I remember men asking me if my husband is home when I had no husband. I would reply yes. I would paint the imaginary husband as some rough around the edges redneck that didn’t take any BS. That was my life in Louisiana in my younger years.

I was not brought up and treated as male because I was born female. It’s most heartbreaking to me that women are often raised to be so passive and molded into being the shadow of men. They shouldn’t feel the need to apologize and get out of my way.

On the other hand, when I was seen as a woman, women would treat me quite rudely. I guess it has something to do with the pecking order or something. I don’t know. I never understood it. But wow, those same types of women became passive and apologetic once that they saw me as a man.

People make different assumptions about men and women. As a woman, if I told people I had bought a power-tool, I was always asked why. As a man, I can say the same thing and I get an OK.

As a man, I can add my input to conversations without being contradicted. Women get contradicted no matter how right they are. Many men do not want to be intimidated by the intelligence of women.

I am not a very social person, but I observe and feel compassionate about the issue of gender roles that are forced upon people. How many female geniuses in history, prodigies even, have been passed up and never given the chance? Women are half of humanity, lest we forget.

Evolution seems to be in the favor of men more than women because men are physically stronger. Men use that strength to their advantage. The bad ones belittle women because those women do not have the strength to physically defend themselves. (Although in fairness, some women will rip a dude a new ass. Even after years of my being on hormones, these same strong women could whoop my ass easily.)

Generally speaking, though, that feeling of power can bring out the worst in a man. Because of this, women are conditioned to be less, be passive, obey, and act like perfect good girls.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the shadow or if I am casting the shadow. It can be confusing. I might go to a bar and have a drink or go home and sip on hot tea. Either way, I’d like to be respected as a human first. But if I realize I am making someone feel like a shadow, I will move out of the way so they can feel the sun. That applies to all the women who have apologized to me when they had no reason to.

Everyone should be entitled to simply be respected as a person. It should be that easy. But it’s not.

Venus Mars

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Strong Personalities

Just the other day I got told I have a strong personality. I get that a lot. The observation usually comes from a man, and it’s not intended as a compliment. I’m also often told that I “speak my mind” or am “opinionated”. (Uh, isn’t that an opinion?)

I can’t deny any of those descriptions. I’ll often speak up when others are afraid to. And if you ask me my opinion, I assume you want to know what it is, so I oblige you. I’m baffled as to why these qualities are supposed to be negative.

Yes. I have opinions. Everyone does. Never once have I insisted that anyone agree with mine. I’m not a bully. I never have been.

I also refuse to be bullied anymore. I was bullied half my life, and I’ve had it up to here. I stand up for others just as often as I stand up for myself. Again, tell me why that’s a bad thing?

Recently I’ve started considering the source of these criticisms. These people never make the same observations about men. Or if they do, they’re transformed into compliments. That’s interesting. And they are usually people who are, or would like to be, in positions of power over me. I’m quite sure that they’d prefer that I simply shut up and do as I’m told. They don’t want me to think, or have an opinion, or be strong, or even have a mind to speak. I’d be so much easier to deal with if I were soft and compliant.

Sorry to disappoint. Not gonna happen.


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“You’ve got a little bit of androgyny going on,” a friend told me recently.

I never really thought about it, but I suppose that’s true. I’ve never been a girly-girl. I don’t wear makeup. I’m more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt than I’ll ever be in a dress. People assume I’m a lesbian all the time. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Androgyny has just never appeared in my mental list of self-describing words. I have womanly desires. I’ve definitely got curves, and I’m told I exude a goodly amount of sex appeal when properly inspired. So this is an interesting new lens through which to look at myself. There’s nothing better than having new perspectives.

Now that I’ve posted my profile on a website under the heading “women seeking men”, I feel like I’m examining myself closer than I ever did before. Who am I? What makes me unique? What is open to compromise and what’s cast in stone?

If you’re into women who wear high heels and perfume and like to giggle, I’m not the woman for you. If you are looking for someone who likes to pretend to be helpless, look elsewhere. I’ve spent too many years taking care of myself for all that foolishness.

Actually, it isn’t foolishness. It’s just on a different part of the psychosocial spectrum than I happen to reside on. Everyone has their purpose and their place. My niche just doesn’t happen to be decorated with lace and silk, which is great, because it leaves more of that stuff for the women who want it.

[Image credit: dapperq.com]
[Image credit: dapperq.com]

10 Quotes That Should Piss Off Any Woman With Sense

What breaks my heart is that this blog entry could practically write itself.

  • “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.” –Republican Mike Huckabee (Gee thanks, Mike. It sure has been no fun being a victim of my gender up to this point.)
  • “If I was a woman over 50, I wouldn’t need gynecological services.” –Republican Allan Rothlisberg (So, Allan, can I assume your prostate disappeared at the same time my vagina did?)
  • “Legitimate rape rarely, if ever, results in pregnancy.” –Republican Todd Akin. (Oh, where to begin.)
  • “You know how to stop abortion? Require that each one occur with a gun.” –Rush Limbaugh (Now let’s figure out how to stop you from talking.)
  • “Do your husbands like you working full time?” — Democrat Joe Biden on a visit to Japan (What is this, 1950?)
  • “The women in my family are doing great. That’s what I see in all the statistics coming out. I have, you know, young women in my office that are the leading intellectual lights of our office. So I don’t really see this, that there’s some sort of war on women that’s, you know, keeping women down.” –Republican Rand Paul (SUCH a relief that your family is a valid statistical sample for the rest of the country, Rand. It makes life so much easier.)
  • “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was.” — Failed Virginia Republican candidate for lieutenant governor E.W. Jackson (Really?)
  • “If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women. It also makes the point, it is kind of embarrassing, the Democratic Party ought to be hanging its head in shame, that it has so much difficulty getting men to vote for it. I mean, you do see it’s the party of women and ‘We’ll pay for health care and tuition and day care — and here, what else can we give you, soccer moms?’” – Ann Coulter (There’s nothing more idiotic than a women-hating woman.)
  • Liberal women “have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness — to let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient. That’s what we need you to do. Because if you don’t, then the debt will continue to grow…deficits will continue to grow.” –Republican Allen West. (Sounds like time to invest in cast iron cod pieces. Do it for the economy.)
  • Birth control is “not okay.” “It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” –Republican Rick Santorum (Sounds like you really have your finger on the pulse of how things are supposed to be, Rick.)

This is 2014, isn’t it? Keep reminding me. It’s easy to forget.


[Image credit: thepoliticalcarnival.net]

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Feminism: Why does it Terrify You?

Without a doubt, my most polarizing blogs are the ones with even the slightest feminist theme, and that always astounds me. Honestly, if you look at the definition, what on earth could you possibly take issue with?


[fem-uh-niz-uhm] noun

1. The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

2. An organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

3. Feminine character.

What could possibly be wrong with wanting equal rights, equal pay, and respect? What’s the problem with not wanting to be sexually harassed? Can there possibly be people out there, in this day and age, who think women deserve to be abused either physically, sexually, or emotionally?

The vast majority of feminists aren’t man-hating, bra-burning radicals who expect special treatment. We just want equal treatment. Is that too much to ask? What I find sad it that we even have to ask.

How is it possible that men can see women as inferior when they have without a doubt had mothers, sisters, and aunts? How do you look at those people sitting down with you at the dinner table and think, “this one deserves more out of life than that one.”

I realize this is an extremely complex issue. As long as there are women in the world who are gang raped on buses, as long as female babies are aborted simply for being female, as long as there are forced marriages and travel restrictions and genital mutilation and glass ceilings, there will be a need for a feminist movement. But fundamental equality, for anyone who has even the slightest bit of common sense, should not be something to fear.

I suppose that in any situation in which there is an anticipation of any form of power shift, however slight, someone is bound to feel threatened. But honestly, guys, you have nothing to worry about. We’re not going to make you wear aprons or, God forbid, pink, if you don’t want to. And if we ask you to step up and wash the occasional dish, it won’t kill you.

Everything is going to be all right. Really.


Watch What You Call Me, Buster

If you want to see me completely lose it, in other words, explode all over you, sending shrapnel of pure fury raining down upon your soft underbelly until they will need a hefty bag to gather your putrid remains, simply call me a gender-specific curse word. And there are so many of them available for you to choose from, b**ch being just one of those.

Not that I get cursed at on a regular basis, mind you. In fact it’s relatively rare. I’m a basically peaceful, non-combative person. If you treat me with respect, I’ll happily reciprocate. And I’ve developed an increasingly thick skin over the years. Call me all the gender-neutral curse words you want. That’s really a reflection of your low character more than anything else.

The reason the gender-specific ones bug me is that you’re not only saying what you think of me in your extremely uncreative way, but you’re adding on, “you lowly female,” as if being a woman makes me beneath your contempt, and that is something I cannot abide.

I PARTICULARLY hate it when the source of this epithet is another woman. Why would you want to contribute to the illusion that we deserve to remain in a minority status? Why would you want to pile on like that when women in general, in the vast majority of cultures, are already catching crap from every direction? I simply don’t understand this disdain for your own gender.

So I’ve hereby established my boundaries. Step beyond them at your own risk.