Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It is finished? Not really...

Memorial day was the last day of 30 days in a skirt. At least the formal project. Fitting, really. What better way to honor those who served than to exercise the freedom we so often take for granted in this country. I didn't plan it this way, but when I realized yesterday that I was on day 30, there was something profoundly satisfying about it.

There are a few more posts that have been percolating and will emerge over the next few weeks as I continue to process the experience with folks, and maybe set up some more concrete projects based on it.

1) I really like having the skirt as an option in my wardrobe. Putting shorts on this morning felt weird. Seriously. I had to go looking for them. It is really interesting to me how much clothing effects my experience of the world.

2) This was just a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg. The variation of responses and thoughts on this thing is pretty massive. The skirt is really an intersection of a number of issues that are worth exploring more fully.

Looking forward to catching up soon. Stay tuned for more!

Friday, May 22, 2015

It Finally Happened...the other "f" bomb

I've been lazy about posting the last week or so. On Day 27 now. I've been having lots of great conversations about gender, and I'll be posting them to the blog over the next week or so. But this morning's events kinda pushed me a bit to get a post up today.

Out this morning with my spouse and a friend engaging our new obsession, and location game called Ingress. Join the Resistance. You know you wanna. While we were standing on a corner with a fire station and police station on it, someone (well, two someones, really) across the street yelled "faggot."

At first I didn't even understand what was yelled. I was "hacking" a very important portal in the game, you see. And as I looked across the street, I saw the guys notice I looked and they started walking faster, and suddenly weren't interested in looking at a dude in a skirt any more. I had totally forgotten I even had the thing on.

At this point in the project, the biggest issue I've had is keeping the skirts clean because while I planned to rotate between 3, the sarong I ordered was see-through and just didn't work. So it was frankly almost funny to hear this insult yelled. I started walking to cross the street and they started hurrying around the corner. I wanted to actually engage in some conversation, but they weren't interested.

I haven't been called a faggot in a long time. I'm guessing if it happened more often, it would threaten to tear open that old wound, but it was obviously an act of cowardice in this instance. Although maybe they call every woman they see wearing pants a dyke.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What is the least offensive way for a dude to wear a skirt?

I actually said that this morning.

One of my favorite networking events is today. The list of things that are awesome about it runs really long, but perhaps the best part about it is the facilitator. She's just one of those fabulous, heartfelt people. Which is why the group has been meeting regularly for 14 years now.

So what's the problem? Probably just me. The event is held at a country club. I called before the first one I attended last fall just to find out what the dress code was for men, and the only requirement mentioned was a shirt with a collar. For women the dress code is pretty relaxed, and frankly, I haven't seen the dress code be upheld strictly for either gender. But what's the dress code going to look like for a dude in a skirt? Originally, I was going to wear my bright pink t-shirt with 30DaysinaSkirt.com printed on it, because it tends to generate conversation rather than conflict. And just explaining what I'm doing before they confront me on dress code seems like it might give the opportunity for some grace.

Flip-flops are probably not dress code compliant, either.
After much debate with my spouse, I went with my usual Hawaiian shirt. Standard networking garb on my part. It has a collar, is considered dressy enough for most settings, feels authentically fun to me, and frankly, is memorable, which is key to networking.

But I'm still sitting here scared of the dress code.

Its hard not to see an intersection with class here. I'm automatically out of place in country clubs, even in my nicest suit. My parents were public school teachers and church employees while I was growing up, so we just didn't ever see the inside of a country club. I've visited clubs as an adult, but again, I know that a lot of what has been in play has been my own privilege. I can pass as a Great White Male.

The skirt kind of wrecks that myth. One of the best things about it, actually.

I work with clients all the time as they prepare for big events, and one thing that comes up often is how to dress. The question I ask is "What supports you in feeling confident?" Or if not confident, whatever state of being they want to embody. The problem is...feeling confident in a skirt just doesn't work for me. While it feels incredibly comfortable, it also feels very vulnerable. Feeling confident while wearing a skirt is an act of sheer will on my part, in spite of my clothing.

Maybe this is yet another time I'm going to be surprised at the generous, curious nature of others. Feeling hopeful...

but not confident...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#Howtospotafeminist = #7 on the list of dumbest things ever said

Had to say it, just to lighten this blog a bit

A friend shared this hashtag on facebook and I lost it when I looked into it some more. Here are some posts with this tag:

: when you talk about real problems in the world, they interrupt you and go on to complain about bikini ads.

Because apparently if we're concerned about the scientifically verified connection between violence against women (and all folks who are gender non-conforming) and the commodification of women (especially women's bodies), we're not concerned about real world problems. The only real world problem that effects more people daily is probably poverty. Seeing as how half the population (roughly) is female, about the only group regularly oppressed that I know to be larger is folks who live without daily basic needs. Also, there's a strong correlation between oppression of women and poverty. Go figure. That's not a real world problem, however.

Follow the stench of cigarette, B.O. and kitty litter...

I hope all cat owners caught that last one. Because if you own a cat, you're a feminazi according to this person.

Someone who blames others(generally whites, capitalism, cops and all that commie shit) for all wrong in the world.

Check it. #blacklivesmatter is actually a feminist plot. Also, I wonder if anyone notified Stalin that he's now a feminist. Or Kim Jong-un.

They are ugly

Aside from the obvious beauty value being stated here, I'm glad to hear that now all "ugly" people are feminists. Makes me rest easier at night.

Struggling at the side of the road to change a tire, in the pouring rain, refusing all 'male' help. Oh, & her beard.

Feeling for all the bearded folks out there today. It's been a rough week. Between a study finding fecal matter in beards to this fun little shot of wisdom, anyone with a beard who can't change a tire just got pwnt (especially if they have a vagina). 

Because that's how this hashtag works. Take a characteristic that is especially visible and generalize it. Its a great exercise for the Great White Male to go through these hashtags and see how many of their own traits they find on the list of condemned feminist features. 

Don't worry. You're different. You're our friend. We weren't talking about you.

There were definitely violent, angry responses from in the feminist movement, too, but here's the difference. This thing was started by a someone with power (radio shows are a type of power, like it or not, and this person is also a dude, so...) out to discredit an entire group of people who are constantly oppressed. To return to the prison metaphor, when a guard (the group in power, hence the conservative male radio show host) threatens a prisoner (here, the feminist who is attempting to reclaim her humanity), there is much more power, authority, and actual chance of violence than when a prisoner wishes death on the oppressor for the thousandth time. In fact, there is actual violence done to the prisoner constantly in this scenario. Refer to the Stanford Prisoner study again for those who question this outcome. In short, the above quotes were the exact type of quotes the instigator was prompting.

If you prefer the specific to the hypothetical, here's one that was sent to me. The portion my friend sent is in italics, with my comments in plain print.

Some blog fodder - messaged rather than posted so I can avoid the whiney female label. 

Pause right here. This intelligent, highly educated, employed human (take my word for it, or don't) privately messaged me about this incident rather than post it to the blog or facebook because of her fear of a backlash. Instead of throwing around "I'm not walking on eggshells blah blah blah male privilege blah," stop and ask yourself "What would cause a reasonable human being to assume that they would be labeled that way?"
At Saturday's [church organization name] meeting there was man I did not know taking up more than his fair share of space. He asked a question about upstream advocacy [in a particular location]. When I answered, he interrupted three times, and when I finally finished (I am unusually not easy to speak over for a woman) this was his response: Well that's nice, but my question was what are pastors and churches doing. After handing out a sharp correction, I learned he... has been doing social justice work since the 60s. This is yet another small example of the Great White Male Liberal...someone who imagines they are an ally but actually fiercely perpetuates the problem.

Something as simple as voice exercise, the amount of time speaking, volume, listening and interacting or interrupting, ends up being a battlefield, at least to this person. And frankly, as a dude, I've been in the dude circles after exchanges like this and heard the term for female dog used enough to know that she's naming a real dynamic. Hell. I've done more than my share of running over women in scenarios like this, without even intending harm (there was that one person that just really needed to be interrupted).

This post is charged for me because it is part of the reason I'm doing the 30 days in a skirt project. Any time I hear someone generalizing about a woman, the majority of what they say could be said about me. And to hear it done in a derogatory manner tears me down, too. And here's the intersection for me personally. I need feminism to succeed because I'm reclaiming my own humanity through it. I need gay marriage to succeed because I'm reclaiming my own humanity through it. I need anti-racism work to succeed because I'm reclaiming my own humanity through it. I'm tired of locking parts of my own story, my own self, up with sexist, racism, homophobic systems of oppression. Tired of having parts of me cut off because they aren't part of the Great White Male myth. I'm just tired of not being whole. Tired of not being a real hu-man, just as I am.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Manly Men Doing Manly Things?

I saw this and just about barfed. Partly because the kids are being so sweet in the picture. I'm a sucker for munchkins. They're just so darn curious and sensitive and loving.

And partly because the number of twists in this meme are literally breaking bones in my body. Hand this message to a man in a wheel chair and watch the light bulbs in his brain explode. Hand it to a woman who has been abused by a man. Won't let me? Who are you to tell me you won't LET me? Hand this meme to someone who is one variety of non-gender conforming or another. Sheesh.

Cultural messages like this are the reason I'm wearing a skirt (today its the kilt again...the mancub has a band concert). The idea that there is a "real man" or a "real woman" is...

I'm at a loss for words. Not a good place to be when writing a blog. Mom's voice is popping up now, reminding me that if I don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. All I've got is swearing when I hear the concept of "real man" or "real woman." Yep. That's pretty much it.

These terms are broken for two reasons. One, the binary gender system is a joke. Seriously. A cruel joke played on us by marketing execs. Think about it. Why did facebook want the binary gender system embedded in their profiles so badly that you couldn't have a page without it once the company started to monetize? Simple. The first piece of demographics that companies want when they pay for marketing is gender. This reality is slowly changing (even facebook started allowing other options), but between big money and religious fervor, the binary gender system is entrenched deeply in our society. Who benefits? Big money, and big power. Some would argue that all men benefit from it, and while there are certainly benefits, this entire skirt project is about uncovering the traps of that privilege.

The second reason the terms "real men" and "real women" are broken is that they put forward the notion that the complex web of the human reality can be simplified into a penis and a vagina and a couple behaviors that go with them. Just for the record, while typing, I accidentally misspelled "real men" as "real mean." Freudian much?

Seriously. How long did it take us just to map the human genome? And these jokers still want us to believe that we can be divided down the middle by a genital identification and a set of 2-3 behaviors.

Not really sure how this one concludes. Do I think chivalry should die? Not even close. I intend to extend kindness to everyone I come across every day, regardless of their gender performance. But I also need to be able to receive it, so that others have a chance to give. That's the challenge of the human condition. Sometimes giving is receiving. Sometimes receiving is giving. And some folks do nothing but one or the other. And it all has to be ok.

So bugger off with the "real man," "real woman" crap. I'm going to go watch a few Swiffer commercials. At least there I might see a man caring for his family in a way that feels familiar to my reality...

Monday, May 4, 2015

May the 4th be with you!

I couldn't resist. Geek side exercise complete.

The weekend's uneventful nature has me pondering. I'm starting to see several things clearly.

First, some folks really just don't want to engage this thing. There is a willful not noticing of the skirt on a dude. We spent 6 hours at the showroom buying a car last week, nerves jangling, the smell of rubber and new cars in the showroom mixing with the odor of stale cigarettes on some of the salesmen. That was my first day in the 30DaysinaSkirt.com shirt. It's bright pink (like the business card). With the shirt on, folks asked about the project, and hung in there for at least a polite exchange. One guy did actually explore the subject with me a bit, which was refreshing. A couple also buying a car engaged it strongly, and really talked about the dynamics of gender that they've experienced. Really cool. But frankly, without the obnoxious bright pink shirt on, getting people to talk about it is hard. Especially getting guys to engage it.

The second thing I'm seeing clearly is how awesome wearing a skirt is. Saturday I got to wear the Mountain Hardwear Kilt for the first time. Folks didn't engage at all, but what was fun was going to the park with the kids for our weekly LARPing game (the geek is strong in this one). Live action role playing is always a dress-up adventure anyway, so I decided to wear my regular costume pants. At the end of the day, I put the kilt back on, and as soon as I took the pants off, I thought how stupid pants are. Yeah. That just happened. Skirts are awesome. Its just too hot already for pants. I'm not going to be giving up the skirts at the end of 30 days. I will be modifying my black one to put pockets into it.

So there's the thing. I haven't heard any push back other than folks who really don't engage or say they didn't notice it. So let's try something. If you're reading this blog, send it to a Great White Male and ask them to read the first impressions post. Share it on facebook and ask dudes to jump into the fray a bit. I'm curious what will happen if more men engage this subject.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Why? Part 1: Daddy, am I gay?

Me: What makes you ask that, buddy? 
Little Dude: That's what the kids at school called me because I kissed you goodbye this morning on the lips. 

Yes, that actually happened. our little mancub was about 6 years old when we had this conversation. What's really going to flip your lid is where that school was. Hint: it is the last place you would expect to find bigotry around gender identity or orientation. Seriously. The last place. I'm not even going to tell you where just to make you guess.

The message is clear. Men don't kiss each other. Unless they're gay (unspoken: and those aren't real men). Keep in mind that I spent the first 6 weeks of my son's life at home with him, and ended a successful career to go back to school so that I could experience more life (especially life with him). I gave him his first bath. I cleaned up his first poo on the countertop after his first bath, prompting his second bath. He fell asleep on my chest so often that it became a thing. We are a physically affectionate family, so to my son, kissing his dad goodbye was just business as usual. It would be one thing if the kids had just asked why our family kisses goodbye (families navigate this stuff differently). Instead it was an opportunity to participate in the bigotry of our culture, using an entire group of people as an insult regularly: how gay. Gay as in happy or cheery? Or gay like you're a bigot? 

The many problems with bigotry are well documented. It has been likened to a prison sentence. Whether racism, sexism, ablism, agism, or any number on the list, we take certain behaviors or ways of being, attribute them to a group of people and lock them in a prison cell for it. The Great White Male benefits from this system, and is often seen as participating in the locking up, even when he doesn't intend to participate. This is the outward, obvious evil at work in bigotry and dehumanization. What no one ever questions is the cost to the Great White Male.

To be clear, Great White Males most certainly benefit from this system, and participate without even intending, but every time we slam the cell door on a behavior or way of being we attribute to a group, we cut ourselves off from the behavior or way of being. We may be the prison guards, but we're still in the prison! DUH! THIS IS A SHITTY, NO WIN SYSTEM!

The Abhu Graib abuse illustrates the dangers of the Guard/Prisoner dynamic
If you want to know what happens when you take normal people and drop them into the role of guard or prisoner, check out the basic wiki on the Stanford Prison Experiment a few decades ago. Hint: IT WAS SO HORRIBLY DEHUMANIZING IT WAS INTERRUPTED AND CANCELLED. We are all so sickened by what happened in the Abhu Graib prisoner abuse scandal, but we decided to simply lock up those who committed the atrocious acts as guards (or let them off with no real consequences). The real problem is the what happens when we create a prisoner/guard dynamic. A better question might be how on earth did young people who signed on for military duty to defend their homes end up being twisted to the point that they could do these things?

This is the problem with bigotry. Great White Males benefit from the many -isms that collude with our culture, and at the same time, are imprisoned by it. Not imprisoned the same way everyone else is, but nonetheless made to serve this system by constantly being taught that we will lose everything if we disobey it.

This is why the 30 days in a skirt project is important to me. The skirt is simply a symbol that can be used to start a larger discussion about privilege. I have something at stake in every single struggle for justice. Even though I benefit every day from our system of -isms, I also am cut off from really important things like how I relate to my kids. That's not a cost I am willing to pay.

Ok. I lied. I'll tell you where the school was. It was in Berkeley, California. That's how strong the binary gender messages are in this country. Even in a place like Berkeley, kids clearly receive the message of how males are allowed to relate to each other.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What's so awesome about wearing a skirt?

When I saw my doctor this week for a check up and told her about this project, after she told me all the reasons she loved wearing pants, she asked why a man would wear a skirt when they could wear pants. I'm enjoying asking that question myself, and I'm surprised every time I put it on how much I like it. Seriously. I'm really starting to love this thing. I cool off much faster, and it is hard not to note that men in other cultures who live in places with regularly warm to hot environments often have loose bottom garb that men in the USA would call a dress (its a tunic). The ease of wearing it is really incredible, and it just plain feels good on my skin. I love this thing!

Until I go out in public. What's really starting to percolate is how much clothing is about managing self-perception and the perception of others, which is silly because we can't control the perceptions of others. Clothing is about culture at least as much, if not more than it is about "rational"
decisions of what to wear. Practicality, environment, and context inform culture, even as our culture informs our perception of those things.

Today in the movie theater restroom, with the smell of popcorn mixing in a queer manner with the antiseptic smell of the bathroom and not quite cleaned up bodily fluids, I stood at a urinal again. The black, shiny tile in front of my face acted like a mirror and allowed me to see behind me and eased a bit of anxiety. At least I'd see the strike coming, I thought. One man came back from the blow drier and picked up something from beside the sink, turned and looked at me, gaze pointed down toward my skirt, and then he seemed to slightly nervously shift the package he'd retrieved and left the bathroom. Big exhale.

Exiting the restroom hurriedly, I almost bumped into him, and I scampered out of the lobby to stand in the hallway leading to the exit doors. The lobby just felt too exposed. While I waited for my partner, the man from the bathroom came up to me and commented how much he liked my skirt, and how good it was to see a man in a skirt. This lead to one of the most touching and really special conversations I've ever had. Just reliving it for this writing brings me to tears. There are a ton of amazing people in the world that I've never connected with.

I'm starting to wonder at what point I might start telling stories like that in my head when people notice the skirt instead of all the fearful things I hear now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

First impressions....Please post here!

This project is in part about what first happens when we see someone who isn't conforming to our expectations, especially around gender. There is something really interesting at work here, and I'm not sure what it is yet.

When I'm out in public with a skirt on, I have no way to know what people think without engaging them in conversation. Otherwise, something I perceive as a dirty look might simply be heartburn. I will say this. There have been an unusual number of people with heartburn around me lately. I'm making myself start conversations with complete strangers at the dog park, in Office Depot, etc, and handing them a business card that just says: 30DaysinaSkirt.com and asking them what their first thought is when they see a man in a skirt. Ok. Well maybe the card says more than just 30DaysinaSkirt.com. It is hot pink, after all.

The responses to this question have been interesting. The knee-jerk response is almost always one of two, "I didn't notice," or "I thought it was a kilt." This is interesting because if the person stays with the conversation, the majority of the "I didn't notice" responses become something else. I'm starting to wonder if we simply don't see it in part because its just too far outside our expectations or whether folks are really uncomfortable admitting their own impressions under those circumstances.

I've asked folks to share their thoughts on this blog, but there has been some reluctance to engage, so I'm using this post to invite those responses. I'm doing my best to keep the comments in this unmoderated so folks can post in their own voice, and I only intend to moderate if things become hateful instead of reflective. There's a difference between "I wondered what kind of weirdo (insert your favorite term) this guy was," and "You're such a weirdo."

So that's the invitation. Please post your first impressions. Maybe some of my own assumptions are completely off on this thing. Maybe a man wearing a skirt is totally acceptable to everyone...

Look! Its a surprise tag!

Not really, just some instructions on posting. Please look for a box to check that tells the great Googly in the sky that you are not a robot and punch in the characters in the picture. Lots of folks mentioning posts aren't coming through, and the system is a bit tricksy on the posting thing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This project is NOT courageous, people...

Before we dive in, I had moment #8 of skirt love this morning (if you missed the first 7, sorry you don't live in my head, although its probably better that way...also, remember when # was a number sign instead of a hashtag?). I woke up bleary eyed this morning and went to pull on my skirt to drive our son to school and I didn't have to find the correct hole to put my foot in. Skirts are cool that way. Jump in and go. Got it on backwards? Just spin it around. So awesome.

I'm struggling with this courage subject a bit. Several friends have commented about how brave or courageous this project is. This energy feels really good, and I accept it in the spirit it is being offered, one of encouragement and love. There is certainly an element of courage for me. I define the term courage as experiencing fear and not letting it dictate an outcome, and fear is wrought throughout this project for me. 

That being said, I must push back on the idea some, too. This project is borne of privilege. It is about exploring the trap of privilege. One of the insidious mechanisms of privilege is that even taking no action or an action that undermines the privilege is, indeed, an act of privilege. Choosing to not vote does not negate the privilege of voting. Neither does protesting the vote while not voting. It is things like voter suppression laws that negate the privilege of voting. 

Courage around the subject of gender in general, and non-conforming specifically is much more like the Mary Anne Radmacher quote above. How many LGBT or non-gender conforming teens will be on the streets tonight because they are not welcome at home due to their gender identity or orientation? How many kids today will hear the message that they throw like a girl? How many trans folks do everything they can with their body to have the face in the mirror align with the self they see in their heart, but can't afford reassignment? 

Imagine that for a moment. Every day you wake up from your dreams, and you are herculean, the manliest of men. Then you look in the mirror and see your sister's or your mother's face staring back at you instead of your own. Better yet, read writings from someone who is trans about what that is like. Here's a good one: http://www.sophiagubb.com/what-does-it-feel-like-to-be-transgender/

The personal ping here is that when folks tell me how much male energy I bring to a situation, I can't even hear it. In my head, I've never been man enough, so how could that be possible? Looking in the mirror is not the picture that others see of me because of this distorted self view. What kind of man cries when he leaves his children for a few days on a work trip? What kind of man can't focus on work because he's running grocery lists and errands for the kids in his head? What kind of man fails to protect his children from trauma? 

The gap between my experienced world and the reality I'm supposed to inhabit as a Great White Male could swallow the Atlantic Ocean. That's the trap of privilege. Because I'm privileged, I have all this assumed or projected power, but there are costs to that. I'm not supposed to have intimacy with my children. Or my male friends. I'm supposed to provide for my family through monetary income, not food, laundry, and care. And I'm certainly not supposed to wear a skirt. Tell me again where all that freedom is? 

To be clear, this trap is NOT the same as the reality every other gender identity in this country endures on a daily basis. The point is that the binary gender mechanisms that oppress women and the LGBTQi Qmmunity leave an invisible wall for the Great White Male, too. That wall supports his privilege. It also distances him from parts of himself. It tells him what he can and cannot do. And until he can see the parts he's cut off from and decide sexism matters to him, it will persist in dismembering him. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Product Review: Skirt #1

Thanks to the article linked here and to Jenna Talackova for her courage.
To set the scene for today's conversation, ask yourself if you were more or less likely to click through to this post based on the fact that there was a woman in a bikini in the thumbnail. The commodification of women's bodies in US culture is well-documented. If you want to argue this point, don't bother reading further. Go google it and come back in a week or so when you've read 1% of the material out there on the subject.

What I hadn't noticed is the strength of the collusion on the subject of not just women's bodies, but anything marketed to women that might have even a remote relationship to appearance.

In beginning this project, I had to lay out what the skirts would look like. I wanted a skirt that I felt was gender-neutral by all standards outside of the fact that it was a skirt. A second skirt I'm going to use during this project is from another culture and is a skirt that is typically worn by males in that culture. And the third essential skirt is the kilt. Partially because I have to have a skirt that I can wear to things like my kids' band concerts and not have it become about me, and partially because the kilt asks different questions of the skirt project. The goal is not to dress like a woman, or cross-dress, any more than a woman is cross-dressing when she wears pants. It is interesting to note that pants have become "gender-neutral," which really just means that women have to become men in order to be normal or neutral.

For the gender-neutral skirt I went to REI. I knew I wanted a skirt that was a knee-length black synthetic mix knit fabric that had enough weight that I didn't have to worry about it flying up, but was still light-weight enough to enjoy what I anticipated as one of the joys of wearing a skirt: ventilation and lightness. We should probably take a breath after that last sentence. The english teachers and grammar wonks in my head are collectively screaming at me.

Reeking of privilege...but it says its fair trade!
Shopping in the REI women's department is not normally a strange experience. As a homemaker, I buy stuff for the women in our house all the time. But despite the familiar feeling of REI that normally exudes the comforting aura of the potential for adventure, I hesitated this time before my foot left the winding yellow brick road and crossed the thin rubber threshold at the edge of the carpet under the racks that made up the women's section. I went right to the clearance rack because I knew that in spite of having a small REI dividend to spend, I didn't want to spend a bunch on the skirt. There were two skirts that fit the description. One was the right length, but size small. Massive understatement. It was a legwarmer. Seriously. I could have worn it around my thigh. Maybe that's the next project. The other skirt was size extra large. That'll be too big, for sure. I kept looking around the department. After not finding anything, I returned to the clearance rack, went item by item, and decided out of due diligence that I should at least hold the extra large skirt up to my waist. Shock.

/end rant

Seriously. Can someone please create a clothing line that names the sizes after something fun, instead of naming them after judgements? I want a clothing line with sizes named after flowers or herbs or colors or anything other than XL or a number. Yes there will have to be a translation the first time we buy, but based on the responses to the rant above from the folks who regularly shop women's departments, I'm guessing there might be something to this...

Back to the review. No pockets. WTF. Where am I supposed to keep my phone, wallet, and keys? Which brings us to another commodification collusion. I have to buy a purse to keep that stuff in. And then I have to fill the purse with other stuff. And on and on. Our daughter refuses to buy pants in the women's department for this exact reason. She likes pockets. This is actually the least coercive explanation for no pockets that someone has mentioned on this subject. The other one is that they make hips look too big. Appearance again. More commodification.

So after all the ranting and stupid, what do I like about the skirt? Yep to ventilation and lightness. When I'm not out in public, there's something really freeing about it. There's a flow to this skirt that really just doesn't happen with pants or shorts. Cool stuff.

So how does all this effect the Great White Male?The root of this project is something I noticed years ago: the commodification of women leaves men invisible. Men are not meant to be consumed by our eyes. The evidence for this is everywhere. There are exceptions, to be sure (the gay community really illustrates this), but unless a man is playing a power role, he is not meant to be viewed. Folks in the LGBTQi Qmmunity are often very familiar with this phenomenon because our reality blurs the entrenched binary gender system constantly.

Try this: Walk down the street and take note of how many people look you in the eyes. Note their gender (or rather, your perception of it). How is the eye contact different between viewer and the object being viewed? How is it different between male and female folks that you see? When do you smile during this mini-exchange? Is the smile compulsive for you, or part of an intentional communication? How does this experiment differ from your usual habit for engaging folks on the street?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

#1 on the list of scary places to wear a skirt as a dude: Truck Stop Restrooms

Pretty sure those shoes don't match. At least that's what my inner style editor says. But my sense of style has always been questionable, so we'll go with it. It was raining today, so flip-flops were not an option.

Pretty sure I could blog for a month just on the experiences of the last 24 hours. From buying the skirt, bumping into strangers and friends alike, to the truck stop.

Today was the last day of my latest round of continuing education as a coach, so in addition to the random folks in the hotel I checked out of and time with colleagues finishing the days work, I drove home. From Denver to Albuquerque. Look at it on a map some time. Between Colorado Springs and Santa Fe there is a no-man's land of small towns. And lots of truck stops. I knew I wanted to limit my stops to a single stop, and I made myself actually go into the restroom.

Before I describe the terror of using a men's restroom while wearing a skirt, I need to acknowledge several things. Folks tell me I'm a substantial human these days. But somewhere inside is still the little dude who was always gasping for breath on the bottom of the smear the queer pile or getting his face pounded in for one reason or another. I've never been man enough, white enough, or anything enough that was important. At least, that's the story the little boy tells. This is also nothing compared to the reality of so many folks today who are queer in one way or another. All we have to do is check the headlines to find another hate crime or domestic violence incident.

I pushed open the door to the truck stop and the familiar smell hit me: coffee dogs. That unique boutique of burned coffee and flavorless tubular meat product known as the truck stop hot dog. Maybe the key is to dip the dog in the coffee? My toes curled. As I looked around for the restrooms, trying my hardest to not make eye contact and once again wonder why I cared what a complete stranger was thinking behind the face they were making, I could feel the tension creep up my legs. Spotting the bathroom, part of me tried to bolt back to the car, rationalizing how much safer it would be to just pull off on the side of the dark freeway as trucks blew by me at 80mph in the rain. The tension climbed with every step so that by the time I stood in front of the urinal I was thoroughly convinced that I was going to die while peeing. About 15 miles south of the truck stop I began to stop shaking.

The fear probably isn't rational, but it was still very real. I have too many friends who are gender non-conforming with very real scars to take these things lightly. As I shared my experience with my partner, her comment was to welcome me to her reality. A reality she lives everyday, every time she goes into a restroom outside our home. It dawns on me that even in the 'Merica of 2015, gender non-conforming might simply refer to the degree to which one is not a Real Man. Women my be more gender conforming that folks who are transgender or gay, but they're still not aligned with the default gender by which conformity is measured: The Great White Male.