Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Don't Dress So Asexually" pt. 3

The thought I left off with at the end of Part Two was that the way I dress sometimes affects my gender identity as it exists that day as much as my gender identity affects the way I dress. A situation can do the same thing.
When I dress up for church, for example, part of the way I make the decision what to wear is based on how my gender identity feels when I wake up that morning. If I feel boyish, I put on pants (still women's pants, mind you) and look around for a button-down shirt. If I'm feeling feminine, I have a couple of cute dresses to choose from. (Somehow, no matter what my gender identity is, I'm stuck with high heels, because I own no other nice shoes.)
Similarly, when I wake up in the morning I choose between a t-shirt, a button-down shirt or a tank top based pretty heavily on whether I feel boyish or girly that day. It doesn't take a drastic change in what I'm wearing to make me feel comfortable on an average day. I can fulfill the need to feel boyish by pulling my hair back tight and wearing a button-down shirt and sneakers. If I feel girly, I can wear a tank top and wear my hair down. Easy stuff.
A little more complicated is when I can't really choose what to wear- some situations, I'm just expected to wear a dress. Let me be clearer about this: I am never in a situation where I'm forced to look more masculine than I want to. I'm often in situations where I'm expected to look more feminine than that day's gender identity would have me feeling comfortable with. I often compensate by acting more manly than is really necessary and I have to be careful to "sit like a lady" in any case, if I'm in a dress. Still, I can usually adapt pretty easily. My flexible gender identity/expression isn't really a cause of any emotional turmoil for me.
More interesting, to me, are the situations where my clothing affects my gender identity. This is usually when I'm in a dress, or when I'm the only girl in jeans and a t-shirt. I start to feel more masculine when I'm with a group of girls who are all dressed more nicely than I- this was a common thing when I was younger and it was in vogue in my age group for girls to hang out at the mall. Frequently, the other girls would dress up, so as to look cute for any boys who might be there, and I would just be in a t-shirt with my hair in a ponytail. Talk about being the token guy!
The other place this happens in when I reenact (Yeah, I'm one of those nerds!) and where, of course, I'm wearing a very lovely, old-fashioned dress. And petticoats. And a corset. There's just something about this that makes me feel very feminine- I like the idea of being a lady in that situation and I never have gender issues while I'm reenacting. It's very easy for me to be just straight-up female. The other thing that probably contributes to my feminine identity in that situation is the fact that the men in those situations treat me as a lady- just like men are supposed to have done in the 19th century. All this works together to make me feel like a lady, just as I'm expected to be. And I really don't mind it. Unlike a real 19th century lady, though, I'm not lacking in rights and opportunities and I think that's what makes the difference. For the most part, I am still thought of as an equal, though I'm treated differently, so I'm not putting up with any of the male-dominated culture stuff that women then did. So I can enjoy being treated nicely, I can enjoy not having to pitch in- although actually I feel guilty about not doing more work, which I know I'm capable of. But last time I tried to help pack up the Unit's gear after an event one of the guys looked at me like I was crazy and said "hand me that". When I did, He said to the guy who'd asked me to pick the stuff up and said, "She's in a dress" as though that explained the whole thing. I actually found it pretty funny. But then, as a good buddy of mine says, "With chivalry comes chauvenism" and I think he's right. But still, in this instance, I can feel female and enjoy it because it doesn't feel like real life. I don't have the experience the downside of being female at that time and it's all playacting- my gender doesn't matter because for the whole weekend I'm living the life of somebody other than me.
I think that may, in fact, be about everything I want to say about my gender. Wow. I'm sure I'll come back to it, possibly in a more explicit fashion, having worked out in my mind what I want to say, and talk about the ase community and gender in general, but I think that covers the specifics.
Having talked so much about my hobby, I think it deserves a picture. Let me figure out how to post one...

1 comment:

  1. Clothes definitely have an effect on image and projection of sexual identity, but I've noticed that fashion trends are continunally pushing the gender envelope.