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.