A man in womens clothing?
February 24, 2005 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Historically speaking, what are some great examples of men occupying a woman's place in society, business, etc.?

I am writing an article on being a male knit shop owner and could use some examples of men who have taken places in society normally occupied by women. Thanks.
posted by BrodieShadeTree to Society & Culture (28 answers total)
Mrs. Doubtfire.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 11:21 AM on February 24, 2005

In the same vein as above, "Mr. Mom" or "Charles in Charge".

Outside of television or movies, there are male Mary Kay Cosmetic Sales people. There are male hairdressers (not barbers). There are male nannies. Are you looking for names or just general examples?
posted by blackkar at 11:36 AM on February 24, 2005

Mummers wenches!
posted by sixpack at 11:53 AM on February 24, 2005

I was looking for possibly some well known, or even obscure but important examples to cite in the paper of men who, thru whatever means, ended up occupying a womens role in their society.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:01 PM on February 24, 2005

I think you might want to google berdache.
posted by Specklet at 12:03 PM on February 24, 2005

There are a few books written on male Native American's that have taken the place of women in their society (historically, not necessarily currently) in dress, duties, etc. Feel free to e-mail and I can give you more info. and/or references.

Or, on preview, you can listen to Specklet...
posted by blackkar at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2005

Leslie Feinberg's Transgender Warriors walks through a number of examples (including a chapter, if I remember correctly, on native south-americans).
posted by nobody at 12:35 PM on February 24, 2005

When I was in college, my department (computer science) was the 2nd most gender-segregated one on campus.

How about the first? College of education. My roommate was one of total of three guys in early education program.

So, I suggest looking in education systems - the earlier (Kindergarden, elementary school) the better.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 12:52 PM on February 24, 2005

Shakespearean Theater – “Romeo Juliet”; the part Juliet was played by a boy.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:59 PM on February 24, 2005

Not quite a self-link (unless you count the fact that I helped edit/proofread parts of it), but my sister just published a social history of male midwives in England within the context of the development of obstetrics, sexuality, etc.
posted by scody at 1:00 PM on February 24, 2005

...whoops, not just in England, but throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Carry on!
posted by scody at 1:04 PM on February 24, 2005

Do you mean someone like Prime Minister Thatcher's husband?
posted by Cranberry at 1:04 PM on February 24, 2005

“Romeo & Juliet”
posted by thomcatspike at 1:05 PM on February 24, 2005

Over on the blue, the second FPP for Feb 23 is about male geishas.
posted by clever sheep at 1:08 PM on February 24, 2005

BTW, if you're writing an article on knitting, you may be venturing into territory where time has seen a man's role turn to a woman's role. I've heard and read that knitting began with netweaving and was the province of fishermen first, with repairs and other weaving duties eventually undertaken by women second.
posted by clever sheep at 1:11 PM on February 24, 2005

The Hijras of India might fit the bill. Although, some would say they are Neither Man Nor Woman.
posted by mds35 at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2005

Charles Cullen was a male nurse that killed a lot of people.
posted by makonan at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2005

James Lileks?

(I kid, I kid. I love Lileks.)
posted by Asparagirl at 2:34 PM on February 24, 2005

If I correctly understand the kind of example you are looking for, then you're probably not going to run across many examples to cite.

As I understand it you're looking for a male Joan of Arc or something like that. The reason we know of women like Joan of Arc, is that she took on a role that was visible because it was in the public sphere*. Historically Men's roles are more visible than women's roles so when a woman takes on a man's role she becomes visible, but when a man takes on a woman's role he becomes invisible (from the macro perspective ... making it into history/lore etc... obviously on the interpersonal level, the man at the quilting bee is hyper-visible).

For the most part, we tell stories about people who go to battle, not about people who who clean up and do the bookkeeping and shopping. So while they were surely men filling women's roles, they probably havent made it into our history/mythology/lore etc.

* Yes, I know the private/public sphere distinction is an anachronism when used with regards to Joan of Arc's time, but you see what my point is.
posted by duck at 2:53 PM on February 24, 2005

Has a man given birth yet?
Reading duck's comment, seems my example was not a good one since today a female plays the role. The male was first in my example.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:35 PM on February 24, 2005

The american artist Chuck Close has often stated that his paintings are made in a manner similar to what is typically considered "women's work". By this I think he means that the large work is made in small, related, but not immediately dependant pieces. These pieces can be made independently, and at sporadic intervals, while other work is being done. The finished product is not made all at once, but in discrete parts as time, and circumstance allows. A parallel example of this in work that has been traditionally done by women, would be the construction of a quilt. The small parts can be made in between the other obligations of the maker, such as child care, laundry, or meal preparation. I seem to remember him discussing this with Terry Gross on the WHYY radio show "Fresh Air" (you can search their archive). Interestingly, this manner of working has allowed him to continue to work even after becoming somewhat disabled.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:49 PM on February 24, 2005

Wasn't it the case that ?pygmy tribes who, for one reason or another, lost their womenfolk but still had nursing aged infants and some of the males developed lactating functional breasts?
posted by peacay at 9:12 PM on February 24, 2005

Funny thing about women's work. If its out of the home, it used to be man's work.

Funny thing about women: I have found, in the States (outside big cities), women are far more sexist than men when it comes to a man coming to do what they think of as "women's work", in an office environment. I did clerical temping all over the states, and sometimes this was a real problem. A friend that worked as a checker in a supermarket (10 miles from the middle of nowhere), he had one customer who refused to use his line, because he was depriving a woman of the job!
posted by Goofyy at 10:44 PM on February 24, 2005

Male sopranos?

Richard Gere?

The Chevalier d'Eon?

William Sharp?

Jeffrey Zaslow? - maybe the only pop culture one that will work for you?
posted by dhartung at 11:59 PM on February 24, 2005

James Derham worked as a nurse in New Orleans in 1780's. He bought his way out of slavery and ultimately became the first black physician.
Not much found else found from google.
posted by peacay at 12:16 AM on February 25, 2005

In the movie Meet the Parents, Gaylord "Greg" Focker chose to become a nurse instead of a doctor despite high MCAT scores. (They show the scores briefly near the end of the movie, and they're exceptionally high.)
posted by Plutor at 5:59 AM on February 25, 2005

I'm not sure you can find a good answer, as basically, it seems that when men do something, it is seen as natural and good, and if a man was going against the grain, he would be seen as just a little off (or in some cases a hero), rather than "occupying a woman's role"...

The definitions of "men's work" and "women's work" can change dramatically over the course of time. You might have better luck just looking at it from a "going against the grain" view than "men doing women's work"...

MenKnit.net has a brief introduction to how knitting was "men's work" originally. After reading Kyoko Mori's "Yarn" in The Best American Essays of 2004, I noticed mentions of the male roots of knitting popping up all over (wasn't it on the Blue, too?).
posted by MightyNez at 6:37 AM on February 25, 2005

There are a number of men who are stay-at-home dads, but some are giving it a twist by blogging about it. One of my favorites is Ben Mac at the Trixie Update. Read through some of the comments and you'll find other men who are doing the same thing.
posted by Coffeemate at 7:38 AM on February 25, 2005

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