Over spring break, I went shopping. Among other things, I bought a pair of jean shorts, which I’ve posted below.
Maybe a week later, I was wearing them around my house, and walked into the family room where my dad was sitting on the couch.
“You bought those?”, he asked me, a little incredulous.
“Yep, why?” I responded.
“It’s not a big deal or anything, they just look a little girly, rolled up like that”, he replied.
I laughed it off. How often do parents get fashion, anyway?
But it didn’t leave my mind. I wasn’t really bothered by the comment, but the sentiment behind it. The thought that I shouldn’t be wearing the shorts, not because they’re ugly, but because they looked like something a girl might wear.
Behind that thought is the heteronormative assertion that men should act like men, and women, women.
Behind that thought is the misogynistic assumption that no man should want to act like a women, because women are somehow lesser than men. It’s just like the common insult spat out at many less-athletic boys throughout childhood, “you throw like a girl!”
Often, it’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals that receive the brunt of this heteronormative critique, whether it’s gay men acting femme, lesbian women acting butch, or a trans* individual eschewing gender norms, or rejecting their birth sex completely.
This post is not meant as a critique of my dad, but rather, of our culture as whole. This post is to raise some important questions:
Something, or more realistically, a lot of things, hammered into my dad’s, and most other people’s as well, the notion that there’re two distinct genders – male and female, and that the two should not mix. Maybe its picture books read as a kid, countless other forms of media, or a constant refrain of “act like a man” or “act like a woman”, respectively. Maybe it’s something else completely. Which leads to the most important question:
How do we change this?
In my case, next time someone critiques my dress or demeanor as “girly” or “feminine” I’m going to respond with a simple:
So what?I welcome your thoughts.