Lars Maxfield: Masculine Stereotypes are a Drag
This was a weird week for me, a little scary and very different. Some of you have noticed why, but for the rest of you I'll explain. I wore dresses this week. You may remember the brown scarf and five o'clock shadow. I wanted to see exactly how our Oregon State University community reacted to cross-dressing. How accepting is this campus to 'queer' behavior?
While we are here, opening our minds and opening doors, some of us are also opening closets. The idea came to me after the experiences I had this Halloween. I was dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl, and it was a lot of fun. People kept commenting on how disturbing I looked, however. I looked like a woman (a pretty, sexy woman too, apparently), yet it was as if someone had performed a bizarre transplant and switched out the original cuter head for a smarter yet uglier mug shot.
Not quite being able to see myself from the outside, I never got the full effect. I did notice all the reactions though. The sly 'I'm checking you out' look followed by a bugging out of the eyes when it's me smiling at them not the real deal, and then the quick glance away.
So this week I'm putting myself on display and asking you to ask yourself why a man in a dress disturbs you.
I'm challenging the perception that a man has to wear pants to be a man.
Talking about my experience, I started thinking, were woman treated the same way before wearing pants became okay? Did they walk down the street and no one made eye contact? (It's an unsettling experience, let me tell you.)
The clothing you wear is a statement of who you are and the woman's liberation movement wanted equality in all arenas -- work, play and clothes. Bra burning was a huge to-do because it rejected the pressing confinement an uncomfortable bra has on a woman. (No I don't know first-hand -- I knew you were wondering.)
Women have increased their enjoyment of life hundred-fold by fighting for their right to wear pants to school because it gives them the choice to be girly or not.
Yet there has been no such advancement for men. We are expected to be masculine 24/7 without pause for our entire lives.
That's a lot of stress. Men are constantly being criticized and critiqued for how manly they are. You can't judge someone that much, that strongly, without it affecting them deeply.
I've felt the walls of the male gender role from an early age. I've had long hair since I was in 3rd grade. This caused a lot of problems with my peers when I moved to Philomath in 5th grade because I didn't conform to their idea of what it is to be manly. I naively expected them to accept me for who I was: a nerdy greasy long haired guy.
Instead, I was labeled as wanting to be a woman and a lover of men. They didn't know that the majority of cross dressers, transvestites and transgendered are heterosexual.
I wasn't playing the game the same way they were and they threw their biggest hard balls my way. They hurt, but the bruises have healed and I'm a stronger man for it. Strong enough that I can wear a dress now without succumbing to the judgements you may have.
With that in mind, next Wednesday is Transgender Remembrance Day and the Rainbow Coalition has organized several events at the MU. If you want to learn more about the T in LGBT, then I encourage you to attend- in whatever clothes you feel comfortable wearing.