Is wearing a miniskirt as a cisman appropriative?
August 26, 2014 7:17 PM   Subscribe

I was talking with one of my friends and they brought up that they saw my wearing of miniskirts as inappropriate. I've never considered this, having considered my ability to dress how I want as a part of my liberation from conservative past and binary gendering of clothing. I wear mostly women's clothing simply because they feel comfortable and I have a phenomenal set of dance legs which I enjoy showing off in a myriad of fashions. Am I missing something? Thanks!
posted by burntbook to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (71 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Tell'em it's a kilt.

What kind of extreme politically correct friends do you have that won't let you wear skirts unless you're a woman or a trans man? That's ridiculous.
posted by musofire at 7:19 PM on August 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

At some contradances, men wear skirts because it's fun to dance in a skirt. Many of these men are gay, not all. When you choose attire that is unconventional, people sometimes get bent out of shape. That's not your problem.
posted by theora55 at 7:22 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

some people will have a problem with it. those people might voice their displeasure. that's their hangup. I do not see it in any way as appropriation. fwiw I love men in skirts as long as they wear proper underwear and learn to cross their legs.
posted by nadawi at 7:22 PM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I mean, if you're wearing a micromini to the office, maybe -- but certainly the rules of work-appropriate wear should be no different than for women. On your own time, rock whatever you feel comfortable and happy in! (And yes, sit with your knees together, and wear underwear).
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:23 PM on August 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

You want permission to wear a miniskirt? By the powers vested in me as a lifelong gender bending butch and appreciater of short skirts, I hereby award it to you.
posted by latkes at 7:23 PM on August 26, 2014 [43 favorites]

I don't know who you would be "appropriating" skirts from in this instance. Appropriation has a deeper meaning than, "it's unusual to wear this."
posted by xingcat at 7:25 PM on August 26, 2014 [20 favorites]

Honestly, I don't know who gets to be the arbiter of this sort of thing. I don't consider it appropriation, but my vote doesn't count for any more than anyone else's does. Have your friends explained their reasons for objecting? Do you find them convincing?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:27 PM on August 26, 2014

If you mean inappropriate, which is not clear from your question, in what context are you wearing it?
posted by J. Wilson at 7:28 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're wearing miniskirts in venues were it's not appropriate for women to wear miniskirts, and getting away with it only because you're a dude... well, that's still not appropriation but it is sort of rude and I'd probably point that out to you.

Some people find cross-dressing to be inappropriate in public because they see crossdressing as a sexual fetish, and they believe that fetishes belong in the privacy of ones home. Personally, I don't 100% agree with either clause of that argument, but I'm not in your social group so I don't really get a vote.
posted by muddgirl at 7:33 PM on August 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

Aren't you wearing them in part specifically because they are 'inappropriate' to wear? Shouldn't your friends' concern be reinforcing your decision to wear them?
posted by Kololo at 7:34 PM on August 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

Times it is Probably Inappropriate to Wear a Miniskirt

- To a wedding
- To the grocery store, at least before noon
- I mean, probably to almost anywhere before noon, it's super bright out and I'm still drinking coffee
- To church
- To a baby shower
- To dinner with your grandparents
- To a funeral
- To the office

Note that these rules apply regardless of gender.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:34 PM on August 26, 2014 [42 favorites]

Appropriative and inappropriate aren't exactly the same. I don't think it's appropriative/offensive/problematic/you're stepping on someone's toes by wearing them at all. But there still may be places or occasions where a miniskirt is inappropriate for some other reason. (But I'm a cis woman who has never chosen to wear miniskirts so I can't offer good advice about what those places/occasions would be.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:35 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it the skirt part or the mini part that's objectionable? Because those are two different things.

I think the first you can shrug off, but the second could mean that you're showing more skin than the friend is comfortable with, and you have to think about whether that's just your friend's problem or whether other people may be uncomfortable with that too, and whether you care.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:48 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

"Appropriative" is a ridiculous concept that you should dispense with. It's a bigoted notion that marginalizes historically oppressed groups by trying to scare others away from being anything like those groups. In everyday real life (as opposed to theoretical discussions on the internet), people normally go around emulating other people who they want to be like. There's nothing offensive about that. Don't shut yourself off from trying to be like other people. If your friend succeeds at scaring you away from expressing yourself, then you'll be allowing yourself to be quietly oppressed.

In contrast, "inappropriate" is an important concept — but it doesn't have much substance in a vacuum. So it's not very helpful to ask whether your friend is right that this is "inappropriate." What's the setting? One of the commenters said: "certainly the rules of work-appropriate wear should be no different than for women." Well, no. For instance, as a man, I am required to wear a suit and tie every day to my job, and my employee handbook explicitly says I can be fired if I don't strictly comply with the dress code. The rules are far more liberal for women. So it would be "inappropriate" for me to show up in a skirt, or even without a tie. And even if you aren't subject to an explicitly strict dress code, as long as you're a man living in society, you should know there are often harsh consequences for men acting like women, which don't apply to women acting like men. I wish things were more fair and equal, but they aren't, and you should be aware that you could suffer from social sanctions — without necessarily being aware of it at the time. You might look back much later and wish you had proceeded differently. Choose your nonconformity wisely and to your own advantage.
posted by John Cohen at 7:50 PM on August 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

OP, can you clarify what exactly your friends' objections are? You use the words appropriate and appropriative, and they suggest two different things to me.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:51 PM on August 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Do they consider it inappropriate because they think it's appropriative? If so, have you asked them what/whom they think you are appropriating, and what do they say?

If you (and they) just mean inappropriate as in "men should not wear women's clothing in public" kind of way then I think you should get at least some new friends.

On preview: "Appropriative" is a ridiculous concept that you should dispense with. It's a bigoted notion that marginalizes historically oppressed groups by trying to scare others away from being anything like those groups.

This is absolutely not gospel, and you should not take this declaration as such. But this isn't the thread for arguing about it, either. Just know that there is a lot to argue with, there. It also doesn't seem to me like something that would apply to you wrt wearing miniskirts. But I'm not the authority, either.
posted by rtha at 7:53 PM on August 26, 2014 [17 favorites]

Get friends with better gender politics. Express gender however you like.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:54 PM on August 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

Many cross dressing men are straight, so I have no idea what you would be appropriating. Wear skirts if you want.
posted by emjaybee at 7:56 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are they conflating any cross dressing with drag queen culture? Maybe they read about the appropriation of that in an esteemed publication and are batting it around.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:06 PM on August 26, 2014

Ask them why they think it's inappropriate, and then ask them if what they really mean is that they are uncomfortable being around you or knowing that you wear miniskirts as a cismale. Hammer that last point, because them being uncomfortable does not mean they get to determine what is and is not globally appropriate behavior.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:07 PM on August 26, 2014

Dude, yes you can wear a skirt. I think there's an argument about capitalism which might run like "as cis men become more and more able to wear/use previously 'female' items such as skirts and make-up, they take on all the "fun" parts of femininity while not having any of the burdens" - ie, you're wearing a skirt because it's fun but you will never have to shave your legs for a job interview, worry about wearing just the right amount of make-up for work versus a date, have to spend money on nylons and pedicures just to look acceptable, etc. And I think there's an element of truth to that - you are lucky enough to live in a milieu where you, a cis man, can wear certain items of women's clothing just because you like them and not get dinged for it, while still not having to do all the body work bullshit that women do. This isn't the same as being "appropriative", because that would mean that there was some kind of coherent culture of "women" for whom skirts had a particular meaning which was being mocked or trivialized. But basically, guy, you already have male privilege. Wearing a skirt isn't adding to your privilege; if anything, you're more likely to get harassed or assaulted for being insufficiently masculine. What's more, by messing with the gender signifiers associated with skirts, you're helping to break down a lot of the stupid stuff around markers of femininity - if skirts stop signifying "dainty girlish woman performing femininity correctly", that's good for everyone.

What's more, I think that "skirts are for women, men should not wear them because that is appropriative" really leans on a BAD idea - that there is such a thing as a stable identity of "Woman" which is transhistorical, transcultural and transnational. "Women" have been many things, historically, and have worn all sorts of clothes. The more we start asserting that we can identify capital-W womanhood, the more we risk excluding people who want to be included.

Also, the oppression of women under patriarchy is not exactly analogous to racism or imperialism - women do not relate to men as native people relate to colonizers, etc. Cultural appropriation is a useful concept but if you're not careful it turns into one of those "when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" situations.

As a gender non-conforming person of uncertain identity but AFAB, it might piss me off that a dude could, like, wear lipstick whenever he wanted and get coolness/transgressive points for it but also not have to wear make-up to job interviews or work or weddings or whatever. It would definitely piss me off if a dude thought that he had special insight into my lived experience because he wore dresses sometimes, or if he thought he had "given up" his male privilege. But you don't sound like you're doing those things, and even if you were, the problem would not be the act of wearing lipstick or skirts, the problem would be various kinds of injustice under patriarchy.

I think that though your women friends may be wonderful and clever people - and honestly, I think it's better to be theorizing this stuff out even if you're not totally right than to ignore it - they are not working with really good definitions of culture, appropriation and gender, and need to work on those more carefully.
posted by Frowner at 8:14 PM on August 26, 2014 [46 favorites]

I don't think there can be a definitive answer until there's a pic to show off the phenomenal dance legs.

In the meantime, where what you like as long as all the appropriate bits are covered in public. Consider new friends.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:23 PM on August 26, 2014 [19 favorites]

I know a dude who regularly wears stilletos and miniskirts but only when he's going out, like Friday night party time out. Or to Britney concerts.

I'm an adult woman who wears miniskirts regularly (though with brightly colored tights on under them) and I get told by fuddy duddy types all the time that I'm not dressed appropriately. But since my cats haven't unlocked the fucks-to-give mining technology over on Kittens Game yet, well, there you have it.

Dress how you want. Do periodic self check-ins from time to time to make sure you're still satisfied with how you're presenting yourself to the world. Proceed to do you.
posted by phunniemee at 8:30 PM on August 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:34 PM on August 26, 2014

Agreed that your friends need better gender politics.

Men (and other folks assigned male at birth) in Western culture are rigidly socialized to avoid femme expressions of gender, and those that choose to do so anyway are often mocked or otherwise punished for associating themselves with femininity and womanhood that are viewed as lesser.

Thanks for doing your part to subvert these restrictive norms, and I'm happy that you're comfortable expressing your gender in a way that feels good to you.
posted by kylej at 8:35 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Clarifying appropriate vs appropriative would be good.

With appropriate the primary question is - would this be appropriate for a woman? That's your guideline. The other is: can I see your wang? Wearing short skirts without flashing one's underwear is a skill and there is something of a difference between knicker-clad vulva and knicker clad penis. Could they be, clumsily, telling you that you're flashing your jocks every time you sit, stand, lean, bend over, shift position or move?

(I am not used to wearing skirts shorter than my knee and every time I do I end up flashing people)
posted by geek anachronism at 8:37 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Okay, the only sense in which I could see this is an issue that verges at all on appropriation is if you are going to queer/gay clubs dressed like this, and this is making it annoying for gay/queer people who assume you are one of them until they hit on you and find out you aren't. Kind of like how my gay friends don't really love that a bunch of straight people have started hanging out at their gay nightclub and making it harder for them to pick people up, and also diluting it into a mixed/straightish club instead of a gay one.

But I only see that being a problem if there's an epidemic of cis guys wearing skirts around queer clubs where you are, and I think that's unlikely.
posted by lollusc at 8:37 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tell them to take it up with Eddie Izzard. In the meantime, rock on with your miniskirts.
posted by scody at 8:47 PM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Appropriative? I'm going to say 'no', for reasons others have already put better.

Appropriate, as in 'fitting for the occasion or circumstance'? Well, how long is a piece of string? We don't know when and where you are sporting these miniskirts, or whose criteria of 'appropriate' you want to fulfil.

I'm sure you're aware that many people will think it's inappropriate for a man to wear a miniskirt anywhere, but I'm sure you're not bothered about their opinions (nor should you be).

Could you perhaps be a little more specific?
posted by Salamander at 9:31 PM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't really care if anyone wears a miniskirt as long as their genitalia isn't flashed at me, regardless of gender. So as long as it's not TOO short, fine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:31 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Because honestly, people on metafilter will tell you that 'anywhere it's appropriate for a woman, it's appropriate for a man', but obviously metafilter is not representative of the world at large. I think I could walk into any place of business within a 10 mile radius of where I am right now and ask this question, and get a near-100% 'absolutely not appropriate for a man to wear a miniskirt here' response rate. Not saying that's right or wrong, just that it is.)
posted by Salamander at 9:35 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

I guess the appropriate thing to do is ask them why it bothers them and listen.

There's a whole bunch of answers that are bullshit problems that belong to them and not you. There's probably a range of answers that can be addressed with thoughtful discourse. There are one or two answers that might call on you to address as a respect issue (possibly they feel you are being irreverent to an at-risk population).

They might be less enlightened, but that doesn't necessarily make them automatically assholes, just people who need to get all the way through that conversation so they can think it through for themselves.

After all that, the ones that don't want to be seen with you just 'cause maybe need to be downgraded from friends to acquaintances.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:38 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone! This is all helps. I am going to have the conversation with this person in the future about clarifying what they meant about appropriative and appropriate, but I was unsure as to if I was missing something when they mentioned this in passing, it is something we are going to talk about in the future. This was specifically about how I was wearing miniskirts, and the appropriative nature of such. This was a very short conversation and I would not want to mis-state their context as it has only been brought up to me in brief.

To clarify: I wear mostly very short shorts, mini skirts and all sorts of very tight clothing because I am comfortable in them and have been for half a decade as well as being a dancer. However, as cismale, I wanted to make sure that before I had a conversation about privilege and identity, appropriation and what was appropriate, I had done some research. Having asked my friends, done some googling around and not finding anything, I wanted to check with metafilter because my cadre is mid20's students, metafilter has decades more experience as humans.
I wear clothing like this to the beach, when its hot, and when about town in a very progressive city. I am a student and on summer break, and this was brought up about times when we were casually hanging out. No one has ever brought anything up except at the beginning when I was unaware that the underwear I was wearing was inappropriate, and most people are very supportive and just say what y'all are saying. This is a new friend who is new to the city and I was making sure that this wasn't something that was just outside of my range of knowledge. I try to be aware of the bubbles of privilege that I live in.

These are my legs from a few years ago when I was doing the laundry. This is, with a top, the way that I go about town.
So far this is all very confirming though. I will update again after having the conversation if there were links to any problematic behaviours or inappropriate settings involved.
I hope this is all within askmetaquette guidelines, and thanks again!
posted by burntbook at 9:39 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

These are my legs from a few years ago when I was doing the laundry. This is, with a top, the way that I go about town.

In my more conservative neck of the woods, this would be considered inappropriately exhibitionist for both men and women. Your social world may be different and that's probably the social world I'd prefer, but in my environment that would be wildly inappropriate in public.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:11 PM on August 26, 2014 [16 favorites]

Thanks for the update.

If it's just that your friend thinks your miniskirts are appropriative because you're a cis male and you're wearing a type of garment that is often considered exclusive to women...I don't think that's a thing you need to worry about.

If it's that he thinks your miniskirts are inappropriate because they're too revealing, that's something you might want to consider. Do other people (male or female) dress as revealingly as you around where you are? If not, then you might be making people uncomfortable. Again, how much you care is up to you.

Because yes, they are damn short shorts (and very good legs).
posted by Salamander at 10:39 PM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

There is a slight difference with bulges to consider here. Breasts and dicks tend to protrude from the body, and depending on the cling of the fabric and the cut, the same short and clingy miniskirt on a woman and a man could come across entirely differently, so your friend might be saying basically "hey, I can clearly see your genitals through that skirt", which is fine if that's what you're intending but not in social circumstances where a woman would be expected not to have her nipples clearly visible through clothing either, as a rough comparison. And I think men quite often do get more social buffer for having their genitals visible - men scratch at their crotches, wear tight pants and leggings and it's less criticised than a woman doing the equivalent. Maybe she feels that you're enjoying some double standard for wearing riskier clothing than she could. The solution is not for you to change your clothes, but rather for you to support and encourage her and others, IMO.

Great legs!
posted by viggorlijah at 11:06 PM on August 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your fashion instincts are awesomely fierce, and you should continue to act upon them.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:16 AM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

You do have fabulous legs. I was offered a job recently and took it mostly because I needed the job. But also, this place allows me to be myself. The European CEO did not seem to mind that as a volunteer I wore miss-matched socks, shorts that revealed my hairy legs, and T-shirts through which my nipples were sometimes visible because I don't need to wear a bra so I don't.

I am a cis woman in my late-50s. I don't care to wear make up or shave my body, so I don't. Often I am forced to present more mainstream and I do that by covering up. That somebody actually hired me for my skills and smarts and completely accepted how I dressed was a miracle.

Dress the way you want for as long as you can. When you stop being a student and start looking for a job, it's unlikely that you will have the good fortune to be able to wear great, body-hugging garments while on the clock. Enjoy!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:51 AM on August 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

No. Wear what you want.

Also, I have to say, I think this is an example of something I've noticed with the whole "appropriation" phenomenon, namely, members of the majority deciding on minorities' behalf that something is appropriation, mostly because it makes said members of the majority uncomfortable.

If there was a huge trend of men wearing ultra-feminine styles in a reductive, ironic, or mocking way, I would agree, that could potentially be appropriation. But men wearing skirts of any kind is an incredibly transgressive act. And to the extent that I see men wearing skirts, they tend not to be doing so in a way that is equivalent to other clearly appropriative styles of dressing, for example the classic Native American headdress worn by a white woman as club wear. I'm more likely to see a utilikilt or sort of more unisex sarong-like style rather than anything that even reads feminine, let alone mocking of female culture.

I think we could have a conversation about whether drag culture is appropriation, but if you wanna wear a non-bifurcated garment on a hot summer day, who am I to gripe about it?
posted by Sara C. at 1:21 AM on August 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

The legs are fabulous but I agree that visible genitalia is not generally acceptable for either men or women, and that penises in skirts often protrude if the skirt is tight. Good underwear could minimize this problem, but I have a friend who dresses in skirts, and he is adamant that a little fullness in a skirt is a good thing.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:27 AM on August 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

I've never considered this

This is the weirdest part of this question to me. Really? Literally the only place I can imagine it really not crossing your mind that some people might find this weird is SF, and even then, only one or two places in SF. And only if you have no background of living elsewhere in the country, say, Buffalo.

Understand I'm not saying wearing skirts, mini or other, is inappropriate. Wear what you want no matter where you live - walk around in a gorilla suit if suits you - but this seems disingenuous to me.

The shorts that you posted are revealing and to middle-aged me a bit embarrassing, like if I were to suddenly go into work with a couple inches of cleavage showing, but that's up to you. Apparently your friends think it's embarrassing too, although I'm still not totally clear if it's because you're wearing skirts or because they're *revealing* skirts.

I don't know who can give you permission but as a data point, as a woman, men wearing women's clothes doesn't offend me or get me any more worked up than me wearing my husband's boxers around the house (comfy!). I do not see wearing women's clothes to be cultural appropriation in the way that wandering around wearing a veil because "it's pretty" would. It is also okay to dress revealingly in a way that others find inappropriate or embarrassing. You can hum Harper Valley PTA under your breath.

"Appropriate" is kind of a lousy word, because it's got such a finger waggling tone. The only time I use that word is in a professional sounding, as in "the tone used in this email is inappropriate." Your friends may be using "inappropriate" as a substitute for "embarrassing", but in any case it's up to you to determine the cultural and personal expectations that matter to you versus those you chose to discard.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:55 AM on August 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

Incidentally, because I am old, I can tell you that in the late-80's/early-90's I had male friends in Buffalo who would occasionally wear skirts because they really are quite comfy and pleasant in the summer, but I don't think any of them would have made an assertion that it wasn't typically a done thing in Buffalo, a city awash in dullsville navy blue.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:00 AM on August 27, 2014

Well, I was going to say that if I had legs like yours, I'd probably wear miniskirts or hell, even skirts, but after your update I must say that if I had your body I'd probably just run around naked most of the time.

Anyway, wear a skirt. Take inspiration from women who started wearing pants generations ago with a fuck'em attitude towards everyone who said it was inappropriate.
posted by mibo at 4:39 AM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

You have nice legs. However there is too much bulge showing in your photograph - okay for the beach or the pool but not ok for a cafe or shopping. Sort this out and your skirts will be ... not dodgy.

I knew a bloke who used to appropriate the dresses and miniskirts of his partner's 16-year-old daughter. He thought he was a cutting-edge, gender-bending pioneer (this was in the 70's.) That was definitely appropriative and she did not appreciate having his great hairy balls sullying her girly cute delicate clothing. Also, seeing guys in kilts sitting with their knees spread and underwear on full display is just nasty similarly unsettling.

Girls are taught to sit and stand without giving innocent passers-by too much of an eyeful so if you're going to become naturalised into the skirt-wearing ecology you need to take on board some of the reticence women have been trained into. Otherwise it's just bad manners.
posted by glasseyes at 4:48 AM on August 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

Clothing is seen as "inappropriate" when other people feel that the clothing is giving too much of a "sexy sex?" message, when sexy sex is not the primary focus of the venue.

These messages are so incredibly culture-dependent and location-dependent and weather-dependent that it's extremely hard to work it all out even when you are a cis lady in a traditional cis lady outfit.

A bikini is probably fine in the swimming baths but not at the office, a top is "appropriate" when worn by one lady but not by another lady whose big boobs mean that the top shows a lot of cleavage. Many gyms ask men not to go topless, although that would probably be appropriate if the same man was in his own back garden.

I submit that since a man in a mini-skirt or short-shorts is an unusual sight, people find it more than usually difficult to decode whether the message is "sexy sex?". Furthermore, with a man, they have to decode the difference between "sexy sex?" and "sex! sex! sex!" as conveyed (for example) by a raincoat with nothing underneath, and for ladies it's safety-critical to detect the "sex! sex! sex!" message for what I hope are obvious reasons.

In short: It's complicated. Ladies who live in your area and attend the same venues as you may have a pretty good handle on what is and isn't considered appropriate feminine clothing, so maybe listen to what they say about it.
posted by emilyw at 5:16 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was a college student, there were all sorts of things going on, fashion-wise, as people experimented with different things and adopted various affectations. There was "always wears tie-dye and shorts guy", there was "never cuts his hair guy" and of course there was "wears a skirt guy." The 90s didn't have the same vernacular of post-colonial theory appropriation on every undergrad's lips as it does now, so the thought wouldn't have come up. Men's suits were much more ill-fitting and conservative back then, and I remember a very thin guy in a 90s band saying, "if they fit you, wear women's clothes-- they are so much more stylish!"

So this is just another sort of fashion quirk. For all the reasons Frowner outlines, the language of post-colonial theory doesn't apply here. As for whether it's "appropriate"? People flaunt themselves in public wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops, and this isn't worse than that.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 5:28 AM on August 27, 2014

(Just as a side-note: even the conversations I've heard about "is drag appropriative" have been about [mostly] white gay cis men appropriating specific fashions and language either from trans women or from black gay men or black trans women - that is, the act of appropriation is more than just wearing a skirt. "Drag culture" isn't just about wearing skirts and make-up and so on.)
posted by Frowner at 6:01 AM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

(And one more quick comment - when I was a mere slip of a queer person, I found femme bisexual women really irritating and blamed it on their femme bisexuality when what I should have been objecting to was the culture which valued femme women and found femme women's bisexuality cute/transgressive but non-threatening. It was legitimately frustrating and unpleasant that I was subjected to all kinds of homophobic bullshit as a butch-appearing queer AFAB person, and it was legitimately frustrating to watch all these young women who got to be both queer and popular swan around campus, but my reasoning was not correct. Similarly, you may well have lots of body and gender privilege that are frustrating for your friend, and it may even be that you could smarten up about how you behave, but your friend is not correct in blaming this on your choice to wear women's clothes.)
posted by Frowner at 6:04 AM on August 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Credentials: I'm a queer woman.

I don't think a cisman wearing skirts is appropriative, in fact, I wish more cismen would wear skirts and in doing so start removing the label of "woman's clothing" from skirts. Much like what happened to pants, it would be rather lovely if skirts and other feminine coded clothes ended up gender neutral.

The question is appropriateness. I would personally be uncomfortable if I saw you walking around wearing those shorts in a non-beach, non-club, non-explicitly sexual environment. Skirts or shorts is irrelevant, the tightness and length are not exactly day time wear. I would feel the same if you were a woman, but the fact that you are a man would provoke an extra twinge of fear, given that I have no way of knowing if you're getting off on essentially putting your junk on display and what that means for my potential safety. Schroedinger's rapist and all that.

The fact that you say you had no idea that whatever underwear you used to wear was inappropriate strikes me as... odd. Almost tone deaf. You seem so focused on presenting an image that you're ignoring social norms around what is essentially sexualized clothing for either gender.
posted by lydhre at 6:19 AM on August 27, 2014 [15 favorites]

My first thought when I read this question was, "Is his dick showing?" and then I saw the picture and yes, your dick is showing. If I were your friend, and you were going out to brunch with me in those shorts or a similar skirt, I would... not be going out to brunch with you.

It's not really an appropriation thing, but (as a cis woman) it does really bother me the way men's nudity (or in your case nude-adjacent-dressing) is treated differently than women's. The way a man in revealing clothes *means* something completely different than what it means to be a woman in revealing clothes. This isn't your fault, but I think it's a good thing to be aware of.
posted by mskyle at 6:36 AM on August 27, 2014 [14 favorites]

Gender is socially and politically constructed. There is nothing to 'appropriate.' No one 'owns' or 'possesses' or 'lends' the accoutrements of gender, or bestows approval about the way others perform it. That's the whole damn point and the whole damn problem. Wear what you like. Clothing items don't suddenly magically automatically 'challenge' women or transmen or anything. Gender is constructed through historical oppressions and categorizing, so don't give into it. There is no such thing as things women can do, as opposed to things men can do, as opposed to things transmen can do, as opposed to things transwomen can do as far as performing their gender. Otherwise, how on earth is that not completely sexist? Upon what bases would these decisions and judgements be made? Those of traditional historical gender divisions and patriarchal judegments and categorizations? Do what you want, dress how you want.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:49 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I saw the shorts you were wearing in the pic and thought "surely this is his bathing suit?" but no, you clarify that you walk around town this way. These shorts are inappropriate: your upper thighs are exposed, your dick is showing, and you're making the people around you experience your exhibition. It is definitely not appropriate, and if you wear miniskirts that display this much of your body out in public, that's not appropriate either. It's not a gender politics issue (or if it is I don't understand it, I went to college back in the 90s) - it's a decency issue.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:49 AM on August 27, 2014 [13 favorites]

These are my legs from a few years ago when I was doing the laundry. This is, with a top, the way that I go about town

I used to live in that same town. Trust me, if you're walking around like that you're going to get a reputation as The Guy Who Walks Around in a Speedo. Maybe you like that reputation, maybe you don't, but you should be aware of it. People are going to think you want them to look at your bulge.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:52 AM on August 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think the shorts you are wearing in the photo are certainly more revealing than your AVERAGE outfit that's not being worn at a beach/club, view is that as long as you're legally covering up anything that needs to be legally covered, it's your business what you want to wear. (Obviously your boss may also have a say, so I would not expect to be able to wear this into an office, but I'm talking about your own, non-work time here.)

My personal perspective on this is as a woman with large breasts. I end up showing a lot of cleavage for this reason (often wearing shirts that would not be a cleavage issue for women with smaller breasts), and you know what -- if people have a problem with that, it's their issue. I also wear short skirts from time to time, especially in the summer, because you know what? It is what I am most comfortable in. I wear what I wear because I like it, my fiance likes it, and I want to wear it. Period. It's not for strangers on the street to have a vocal opinion on it, either positive or negative -- I equally think catcalls or telling me I'm dressed "inappropriately" are, well, inappropriate. I have actually never gotten a "that's inappropriate" comment, because short skirts and cleavage are "okay" for women, where maybe an equally revealing piece of clothing on a man is less social acceptable -- on which I call bullshit.

Look -- your outfits might end up causing some people to feel a little uncomfortable. You probably know that. It is your choice whether you want to do that or not, but my personal opinion is that a person's "feelings" about the fashion choices of other are THEIR business to deal with. There are plenty of people who feel "uncomfortable" seeing a Muslim woman who wears a hijab or a trans person who isn't passing very well or a fat woman wearing a bikini or a woman jogging in a sports bra, or WHATEVER. Well...get over it, other people are not dressing for YOUR benefit, but for their own. I say: wear what makes you feel comfortable and awesome and happy. You will never make everyone in the world happy (really, no matter what you do), so you may as well make yourself happy!
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:04 AM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just popping back to re-state: my acquaintance was appropriating the young girl's clothes because he was, actually, borrowing her own personal clothes with uneasy consent i.e. if she hadn't felt she had to be open minded about it because gender fluidity, she'd have been all Hell no, buy your own clothes, fool.

So it depends on circumstances but if your actual friends are telling you they're uneasy with what you're wearing, maybe try to understand why. You could look marvellous in a skirt; but if your junk's hanging out that is boorish.
posted by glasseyes at 8:19 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Caveat to my previous comment: Gender-wise, wear whatever you want. But if your true intention is rather to involve the random (unwilling, non-consenting) public in your kinks, this is 1000% NOT okay, by any measure of okay-ness.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:28 AM on August 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

Wear whatever you like, unless you are planning on going into a big patch of brambles, in which case jeans have the edge.
posted by liliillliil at 9:39 AM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

This (based on that picture) is wildly inappropriate for anything other than the beach or a nightclub.

It's your right and you can wear what you want, okay. But it is extremely revealing and violates social norms and is going to make most people uncomfortable. I think you might be trying to involve other people in your kink without their consent.

A skirt is not a miniskirt, and your freedom to do as you please within the confines of the law does not excuse your failure to be considerate to others.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:13 AM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's your right and you can wear what you want, okay. But it is extremely revealing and violates social norms and is going to make most people uncomfortable.

I think this depends A LOT on where the poster lives, and is probably controlling a lot of responses here. Having just moved from the Bay Area, I would regularly see people out and around, on public transit, etc. wearing:

Thin shirts, no bra, very visible nipple show-through
Only their underwear on the bottom
Full latex body suits and other bondage-type gear

I'm sure it made some people uncomfortable, but it was also well within the "norm" in the sense that plenty of people did it. I definitely do not think it made "most" people uncomfortable. Personally, I loved the diversity and awesomeness of people's outfits even if they weren't all strictly in good taste.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:51 AM on August 27, 2014

A miniskirt that's tight enough to show bulges and short enough to flash people is probably not a good idea, as others have said. I love wearing miniskirts to show off my legs, too (as a lady) but almost always wear tights to keep things decent (though I live in the Bay Area, which rarely gets hot...and yes, it's also a place where people can generally wear whatever they want, so tights probably aren't totally necessary).

I also actually like seeing guys with great legs in short shorts. But I personally don't really want to see an obvious bulge while I'm walking down the street in everyday life. It somehow reminds me a little of times that I've been flashed--I would be uncomfortable because I might feel like you want me to look to get a reaction, even though that's probably not your intention.
posted by three_red_balloons at 11:04 AM on August 27, 2014

I figured out what's bugging me. You say you want to show off your great legs. But the shorts you're wearing aren't just short, they're tight. That implies you want to show off something other than your legs. You could dress like Björn Borg, if all you wanted was to have people admire your legs.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:22 PM on August 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

What lydhre said, exactly. I'd love to see skirts eventually become gender neutral. But nothing that short and tight and bulge-revealing is appropriate for going-about-town during the day.
posted by desuetude at 1:04 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

To further clarify: This is about the miniskirt. It is no more revealing than short shorts are. There was no issue with the short shorts. They've seen me in both. That is why I was a bit confused.

The bulge is a great point, and I do work to minimize that with a dance strap or very tight underwear underneath all of my layers. That picture is without the dance strap. I generally wear a top as well. I am very much not trying to reveal my bits to people who are not consenting. It is not a kink as far as I know.

I am asking this because of a single contrary comment about a miniskirt in a sea of otherwise positive comments from a myriad of other individuals who, aside from their general whiteness, radical liberalism, and middle classness, have varying knowledges on gender, sexuality, class, and oppression (not to generalize out the others who are not within those parameters, that is just a my general cohort).

I used to be clueless and tonedeaf about a lot of issues. I was raised conservative Christian on a farm in the midwest, and engaged more in misogynist, sexist, racist, and other oppressive styles of behavior. I am gradually socializing myself in other ways and have been relatively successful.

This is not OK there and I would feel very uncomfortable doing this there, people would think it was a joke like when men in frats dress in drag like over exaggerated caricatures in hat feels like blackface to me. It would be attention getting in ways I'm not comfortable with. I'm aware of that level of discomfort that it causes.

I live in Olympia WA and go to Evergreen, I am reasonably sure that what I am doing is within the bounds of socially acceptable. I am aware of the space I hold and am aware of the effect I have on people around me and it deeply effects me. I have many friends who I've checked in with, who have checked me on many other things and I have checked myself on an even larger number of other things, then taken steps to change them. I am pretty sure I would be called out on this if it was unconscionable.

Yes, people talk about this, and it is generally very lighthearted when I was around. It's a small city.

You all bring up some great points about how appropriate this is in a general social setting, and I think that I live in a very, very rarified place where I and others are allowed to wear things outside the normal realm of the acceptable and I am aware of this and act accordingly.
posted by burntbook at 1:43 PM on August 27, 2014

I firmly believe that people should wear whatever the hell they want. After your pic update though, if you are truly wearing that everywhere then I am also in the camp that a miniskirt version would make me uncomfortable in your presence because I'd be concerned that, in the words of Gunther, your mouse would leave the house. You know what, it probably has without you even knowing. A mini skirt, particularly one that tight, is just not good at um, securing things.
posted by like_neon at 1:48 PM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can't imagine a miniskirt that is "equally revealing" as a pair of short shorts, unless it is actually a pair of skorts that has built-in underwear. I really would try to confirm that this is a political issue for your friend, not an issue of, say, flashing your perineum when you stand up, before tying yourself up in knots trying to justify your choice of clothing.

If it is a political issue, well, it's a pretty idiosyncratic one, but Evergreen is an extremely idiosyncratic place, so I don't think polling the general public, even a more liberal public like Metafilter, can be of help here.
posted by muddgirl at 1:54 PM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think that if you're mostly talking about being around Evergreen, there's a lot more latitude about how you dress in any case.

I'm also not entirely comfortable with the "no one must wear anything that reveals [body part] because it might make others uncomfortable" argument. Seriously, there are lots of junk-revealing clothes that I see dudes in all the time - mainly bike and jogging gear, sometimes some of the more exaggerated styles adopted by the [gay] kids today. I am not always entirely comfortable with this, but I also feel that it's not really their job to make sure that I am at ease with their tiny jogging shorts/Summer-2014-booty-shorts/etc. If they're acting all weird or pushing themselves into my line of sight, that's a legit concern, yes, but if it's just "my eyes may stray across someone's body"....well, seriously, I do volunteer work with young women who sometimes wear exceedingly revealing summer casual clothes, and I would never expect them to cover up just because a queer person who is attracted to women might accidentally notice that whoa, they are wearing tiny shorts. It's my job to behave appropriately so that they can be at home in their bodies.

In a formal setting or a place where I can't Not Look, that's not cool. But otherwise, it's on me to accept that humans have bodies.

I think it might be worth unpacking why your friend feels that it is appropriative for you to wear skirts. Having been a college ultra-leftist myself, I surmise that there's more going on with this person's reasoning, and that maybe their immediate choice of words doesn't really get at what they mean. It's difficult, as I wrote upthread, to see how this is "appropriative" in any meaningful sense, but your friend might have some other concerns. Maybe you take up way too much space with your transgressive outfits - like, maybe you just make a big deal of yourself in groups and the outfits are an aspect of that. Maybe your friend has their own body issues (shame, envy, desire, unacceptable desire, self-hate, wishing that they could wear tiny shorts) and the way you dress brings those to the fore for them. Maybe they are just a person who derives a lot of pleasure, identity or sense of safety from critiquing others on political lines.

Just because someone is radical-er than you about appropriation or gender or whatever does not mean that they are correct. IME, it can be really hard to keep your emotional balance if you're trying to change the behaviors that you grew up with - it can be very difficult to remember that other people have their own issues, and that just because someone criticizes you doesn't mean that they are correct.

I kind of like the idea that you're out there wearing skirts, actually, assuming that they are basically the kind of skirts that any other arty college person might be wearing. I myself used to wear very short cut-off shorts and thigh-highs and a short-sleeved button-down and a buzz cut and really aggro men's glasses and a snarl, and I had a high old time.
posted by Frowner at 2:02 PM on August 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

ahhh. olympia + dance belt (and i hope an additional pair of underwear, because, yeah, perineum flashing) - yes, i think you're totally fine. it also makes sense that a friend would have a politically charged odd-seeming reaction. i think you both can learn things about each other, and maybe yourselves, if you go ahead and have a longer conversation with her about it.
posted by nadawi at 2:04 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You mentioned someone saying your underwear is inappropriate... if your underwear is showing when you wear a miniskirt then yeah, that's a little more that most folks want to see. (And if you're NOT wearing underwear with the miniskirt, maybe your friend is trying to tell you that, um, you're showing more than just your awesome legs?
posted by sarcasticah at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I went to a similar college and we had basically four kinds of guys in skirts. There were hippies in sort of kilt-things, usually handmade and sometimes out of scraps of leather. There were rugby guys in actual kilts (this was pre-Utilikilt, I'm sure those guys would be wearing Utilikilts now). There were a few totally genderqueer people, some of whom went on to transition later, for whom experimenting with clothes and overall presentation was a big deal.

And then there was always a couple of guys for whom it was really about the exhibitionism. Going to a party in a skirt was a prelude to dirty dancing and certain disrobing later; ditto anything else they wore.

The first three types were great and are an integral part of going to Hippy College. The fourth kind took advantage of the social space created by/for the other guys in skirts to do their exhibitionist thing and in retrospect that was really gross.

Fun fact: according to the alumni magazine, every one of the gross guys is now a lawyer.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:30 PM on August 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm also not entirely comfortable with the "no one must wear anything that reveals [body part] because it might make others uncomfortable" argument.
Yeah, this. If we're going to agitate for a woman's right to wear whatever the hell she wants without being harassed/shamed, including and especially if she has a large chest that makes it difficult to find clothing that is appropriately "conservative"* without looking like a grocery sack, then we have to extend the same right to men.

I understand that there is a fundamental power differential here, and I am in no way protecting flashers and subway masturbators and men who stick their junk in other people's faces without being asked. But if you're just hanging out, going to the grocery store, and not being creepy or gross or forcing people to look at you? Be aware of social norms and sensitive to your relative privilege and the gender politics around clothing (i.e. that you can wear this stuff without being expected to perform traditional femininity), but...wear whatever you want and fuck the haters.

* or "professional" or "appropriate" or "ladylike" or any other such term
posted by Ragini at 11:05 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm realizing as I reread my last sentence that I didn't include the fact that wearing a skirt as a cisman is an incredibly transgressive act, and one that can still unfortunately and tragically lead to violence in many parts of the United States (to say nothing of the rest of the world). So, I temper my "relative privilege" statement, because things are not so black and white. All that to say (again): wear what you want, and fuck the haters.
posted by Ragini at 11:34 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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