The Man Repeller: Not About Men

Hyped fashion blog The Man Repeller has almost nothing to do with men—except, possibly, to remind you that women don’t necessarily care what you think about their fashion choices.

I don’t know that a formal survey’s been done, but I think it’s safe to say that in the eyes of most straight men in America, turbans on a women’s head aren’t hot. Neither are ostrich-feather miniskirts, utility pants, or capes. To many guys, tight, form-fitting, and revealing fashions constitute “sexy.” And isn’t that what fashion is supposed to be all about? Getting us to look at one woman rather than another?

According to Leandra Medine, young designer and creator of The Man Repeller, the answer is no. Her site (which has been the subject of worldwide buzz) celebrates fashion that “proudly obstructs the male gaze” (The New York Times) and acts (in her own words) as “sartorial contraceptives.” (Think creative use of bow ties and harem pants, and you’re just getting started.) The fashion press has embraced Medine’s “man-repelling” aesthetic. Judging from the comments on sites that cover the beauty and clothing industries, The Man Repeller is a hit with many women.

Men, meanwhile, are confused, a bewilderment satirized at Jezebel in an April Fool’s post (“The Shocking Stupidity Of Women Who Hate Men.”) from fictional columnist Marjorie St. John-Blyth:

I simply loathe women who hate men. Websites like ManRepeller turn ostracizing men into a game, which is not only disrespectful but an act of self-hatred! Every woman must admit that she is on this planet thanks to a man. Women wish they had the qualities men have. Men are strong! Men are wise! Men built this country, and all of Western Civilization! For a woman, it is impossible to live without a man. Oh, one can survive. But to truly enjoy the lavish party life offers, a woman must have a male chaperone.

St. John-Blyth’s satirical piece sounds painfully close to the commentary that comes in painful seriousness from anti-feminist men and women who plead for a return to traditional gender roles. It spotlights the real power behind the “man-repelling” phenomenon that Leandra Medine has harnessed. Many women do want to wear things that block the ubiquitous, penetrating male gaze. And a lot of the time, women want to wear clothes that are about their own sense of what is fun or stylish—and not about what catches male attention.

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The Man Repeller offers a great challenge to men. First of all, it’s a good reminder that women don’t just dress to impress us. I grew up being told that women care about clothing for two reasons: one, they want to attract men; two, they want to defeat other women in that cutthroat, all-important competition to prove their allure. Women, the story goes, had to care about beauty in the past because it was a tool for survival, a weapon in the fight for scarce “good men.” That might have once been true, but it certainly isn’t true today, which is one of the reasons Medine’s site is getting so much attention.

The Man Repeller asks us guys to think differently about how we look at women. Growing up in American adolescent male culture, I was given a narrow definition of what was “hot.” Boobs were hot; legs were hot; butts were hot. I remember that in seventh grade, I had a serious discussion with my friends Bill and Troy about whether we were “ass men” or “boob men.” I don’t remember which one of them brought up those terms, but it did shape how I talked about—and how I thought about the female body for years.

Though I didn’t need to be taught to be sexually attracted to women, my desire was shaped and directed by porn, by peers, and by how everyone around me seemed to interpret fashion. It took a long time to let go of that poisonous lesson that women were, in Troy’s words, “all prudes or sluts or teases.” It took even longer to realize that women weren’t necessarily dressing for me or for anyone else but rather for pleasure of fashion for fashion’s sake. For those who haven’t yet learned that lesson, The Man Repeller is a good reminder.

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There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see a woman’s skin. There’s nothing wrong with being turned on by butts, or boobs, or legs. But there is something wrong with the single-minded focus that so many men have on those body parts alone. Almost every woman has had the experience of having a man talk to her chest, unwilling to tear his eyes from her breasts. It’s not that women don’t ever want men to notice cleavage, it’s that when a conversation is happening, they’d like our gaze eventually to move to their faces—and our attention to move to the person behind the body. It’s the difference between “looking at” someone and “seeing someone.” Unless we’re blind, we all start by doing the first. But we need to move on to the second, making the effort to see what lies beneath the immediate visual appeal.

Despite the name, The Man Repeller isn’t really about men. From a fashion standpoint, it seems aimed at encouraging women to follow their own aesthetic, absent the constant calculating about what’s hot or not. There’s something undeniably liberating about realizing that it’s OK to take a break, however brief or extended, from focusing on being desirable.

Still, guys do well to think about some of the other reasons why women are drawn to the fashions Medine promotes. Street harassment is still a worldwide problem, and while it can happen to women of any age no matter what they’re wearing, many men feel that they have permission to ogle or whistle at a woman in revealing clothing. To the degree that the “man-repelling” phenomenon is about protecting women from predatory male behavior, it ‘s a reminder to guys that we have a long way to go in terms of making public spaces safe for women. (And yeah, calling out male harassers is part of a good man’s job.)

The Man Repeller isn’t about hating men. It’s about the simple idea that women’s bodies don’t exist only for our pleasure, and that women’s fashion isn’t only about attracting and holding our attention.

Or maybe it’s just about celebrating ostrich feathers and harem pants.

—Image via The Man Repeller

About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website

Comments

  1. Rayan Khayat says:

    will this just lead to burkas?

    • Pallus Pallafox says:

      As long as men don’t start beating and murdering women for not wearing burqas or niqabs, things should be fine.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Thaddeus.
    “political correct” means something else entirely.
    For example, a prof at UNLV was almost fired for making the observation that gays typically have shorter planning horizons than straights, probably due to not having families. It may or may not be true, seems it could be empirically investigated, but it is one of those things you Must Not Say.
    Blacks commit disproportionately more violent crime than whites. But you must not say that. You know about James Byrd, but not the Knoxville or Wichita horrors.
    You know about Matthew Sheperd but not about Jesse Dirkhising. For the latter, see Andrew Sullivan scorching the media on that.
    You know about the Duke lax hoax but not about Katie Rouse, also a Dukie, raped at a Duke frat house. Some things are true but it is not politically correct to mention them.
    The Duke/Frank Lombard incident would be headlines except there are at least half a dozen competing master narratives and so nobody knows what to say about that, except that anything you can think of is likely not politically correct, and even if you wish the poor kid well, that means something happened to him which leads to the other competing narratives which means you ought to just shut up.
    Pedophiles are straight and gay so there should be no particular accusation toward gays in the Catholic church scandal. Except that wasn’t pedophilia. It was ephebephilia, exclusively gay. But you must not say that.
    No, it’s the accusation of “racist” that means you’re out of your league.

  3. I have two articles of clothing that I always thought were ‘man-repelling;’ a boxy winter coat and a hoodie about 3X the size of any other hoodie I own. The purpose of this clothing is purely because of the cold winter here, nothing to do with men one way or the other. I feel lumpy/shapeless/boxy in this clothing, and I always thought it put me in the irrelevant to unattractive range. The first time my boyfriend told me I looked sexy in the hoodie, I thought he was joking and laughed it off. I thought I could maybe look ‘cute’ at best, but definitely not ‘sexy.’ But he has since said the same thing at different times when I was wearing either or both hoodie and winter coat, and I think he actually means sexy.

    I can’t say I completely understand how he could find me attractive in the figure-hiding clothing, but maybe it’s similar to the fact that I prefer when a man looks real. I don’t like fake tan, too much gel, too much muscle, too preened and perfect (the steroids look). My boyfriend looks sexy; hair done or not, clean-shaven or not, collared shirt or t-shirt and jeans, and he can lift me up and carry me around but doesn’t look it. At times he has expressed concern about not being muscular-looking enough, or having bad hair or boring clothes, but he looks so sexually compelling to me, and I wouldn’t like it if he tried to look like something in a magazine.

    Both sexes dress for a range of reasons, from practical, to fitting in with your gender group, to impressing co-workers, to attracting sexual partners. But both sexes have some wrong ideas about what is/isn’t attractive, and more genuine discussions and reflections of what is really attractive is needed. I think it’s common knowledge that even the people in magazines don’t look perfect in reality, but somehow us real imperfect people still manage to find other imperfect people attractive and get together. If you don’t think the fashion or ‘men’s health’ magazines reflect what is really attractive, don’t buy them. Talk to the person you’re dating or married to, or with friends about what’s really attractive. I don’t feel like I’m buying into the fashion industry’s idea of beauty, but the answer I got still surprised me.

  4. Can we get a little consistency here? I mean if women “dressing not to please men” or whatever is all empowering, then too the so called “slacker” movement i.e men not getting high-powered jobs to please women must also be empowering… is it not?

    Where is the article about how Judd Apatow is a revolutionary combatting female expectations of male success?

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    oldfemninist.
    Almost right. The women in The Movement weren’t dressing independently to please themselves. They were hewing to a strict code imposed on them by others. Or, to put it another way, they couldn’t otherwise sit at the Cool Kids’ table.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    Thaddeus
    Difference is, with the actual burqua, it’s the guys who beat up the women who aren’t wearing it, or whose ankles show.
    With the man-repeller, it’s other women–figuratively, sort of, speaking.
    And the latter is voluntary–figuratively, sort of, speaking.

  7. Redpine says:

    I encourage you all to actually look at the manrepeller.com website. It is hilarious. So much money spent on fashion and it is almost uniformly ugly. The site is a brilliant parody of the Sarah Jessica Parker fashion nonsense.

    The Man Repeller points to how subversive Madison Avenue has become in convincing people to shell out good money to buy what is, in sexual function, essentially a burqa, the Old Order Mennonite costumes, or Christian religious order habit. Somehow they are making dowdy and bizarre clothing into a statement of personal independence and conspicuous affluence. Quite the marketing trick. I’m in awe.

    My hat is off to the manrepeller blogger. Well done.

    • oldfeminist says:

      Just as if I ordered it! An example of equating fashion that does not please the penis with ugly. Right there in black and white, “shell out good money to buy what is, in sexual function, essentially a burqa….Somehow they are making dowdy and bizarre clothing into a statement of personal independence.”

      I don’t see how being independent of the male sexual gaze isn’t independence. Apparently it is not the right kind of independence.

      • Old Feminist, with all due respect, isn’t this EXACTLY the same argument certain Muslims make re: the burqa?

        • oldfeminist says:

          Gregette, as Richard pointed out, this is not being forced on women because men supposedly can’t control themselves. It’s not women’s sexuality being controlled by others, saved for their rightful owners.

          It’s women deciding they will dress independently of what men want. They aren’t “hiding” their sexuality any more than your talking about your experiences in Brazil isn’t “hiding” your experience with trigonometry.

          It’s making fashion statements that are orthogonal to sexuality.

          If I want to dress as triangularly as possible even if that means my waist-hip ratio doesn’t please your penis, and I’m doing it because I personally like triangles, how is that even remotely related to men keeping women from being sexy to men who don’t own them?

          Not doing it for you. Not doing it against you. Doing it for me, to make myself happy.

          I can choose to make my body or face look a way I like whether it is sexy to you or not.

          • Old Feminist, did you notice my comment above that the difference between American and Afghani fashion is choice?

            My point is that women in the U.S. and Brazil, in general, “dress independently of what men want”. Your fashion choices are hardly dictated to you by men. Fashion, in general, is “orthogonal” to what most men want in sexuality. That’s probably a good thing, given that so many men have absolutely vulgar tastes when it comes to sexuality.

      • @oldfeminist “I don’t see how being independent of the male sexual gaze isn’t independence. Apparently it is not the right kind of independence.”

        Ideological consistency is not needed here. Manrepeller’s parody targets a certain segment of fashion industry which purports to be “attractive”, but is not.

        There are plenty of women’s clothing designed for purposes other than to please men or to show off to women. Much clothing is designed to be practical. Take the standard winter coat used here in the upper Midwest. Staying warm trumps all. Nothing sexy about down parkas. With extraordinarily rare exception, the women I work with do practical fashion. In a given work week I will see no woman (or man) in these “attractive” fashions.

        I suspect many will laugh at Manrepeller’s parody and agree with some of the points you made, too. I do, except when you go all sexist and chauvinistic on us (i.e. “so many men have absolutely vulgar tastes when it comes to sexuality”).

        • Oops, I mis-attributed a quote to oldfeminist that should have been attributed to Blanchette. It makes my last paragraph wrong and my general agreement with oldfeminist greater.

          My apologies.

      • Anonymous Male says:

        “An example of equating fashion that does not please the penis with ugly.”

        Now that is completely unfair. I am deeply offended by this ignorant stereotype. I actually think and evaluate fashion using my testicles, not my penis. Hrumph.

      • AlekNovy says:

        Just as if I ordered it! An example of equating fashion that does not please the penis with ugly.

        Correlation is not causation. Yes, most of it doesn’t excite the penis – true… But that’s just a correlation.

        Most of it also happens to be OBJECTIVELY ugly. Like if I saw those pieces on a shelf they would look ugly. Most men-repellant fashion is ugly, because its ugly. Its inherently ugly, not just due to lack of sex-appeal.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    I’ve heard for years that women dress to slay other women. Most women I know have other things to do with their time and energy, so I don’t see much of what might be that going on.
    High fashion is frequently grotesque on anorexic models. Why the designers think they’re going to sell to anyone other than those whose desire is to seem in/with it/current is beyond me. Perhaps that’s a commercially sufficient market.
    My father remarked decades ago that, when in Manhattan on business in the winter, he’d seen a bunch of models getting out of a shuttle near an ad agency. They had on long coats. He said he was immediately reminded of the folks they’d liberated from some of the camps; gaunt, hollow-eyed and dress in the long GI overcoats whose previous owners needed them no longer. To think this is a vision of lush feminity is absurd.
    In the Sixties, what was variously known as The Movement and The Counterculture had a version of man-repelling. It was thought that a woman who paid attention to her looks was unserious, frivolous, superficial, bourgeois, and unaware of WHAT WAS REALLY GOING ON.
    From which thinking a non-trivial number of women really stopped worrying. Good for them. An old sweatshirt and jeans was fine for class.
    But a select few, I am certain, went out of their way–iow spent time and energy at it–to look homely/frumpy. Those were outliers, but the thing about outliers is that the further out they lie the further out the inliers can lie without being outliers.
    There were some interesting visions around campus. Now, in the northern climes, about half the school year made such things, except for hair, irrelevant.
    Unfortunately for the women, the men in the Movement or the Counterculture still looked at, dreamed of, the women who looked good, even those who put some effort into it.
    Sort of a practical joke.
    The women who were completely careless about their looks as their part of society decreed could not have been said to be manipulated by the patriarchy. They weren’t dressing to attract men and if they were trying to one-up each other in the Department of Dowdy, that wasn’t our idea, either.
    From which I deduce that the idea that straight men are the reason women dress as they do, however that is, is nonsense.

  9. oldfeminist says:

    The most common reaction to fashion that isn’t sexy is “ugh,” as if the only reason for women to look and dress a certain way, in fact the only reason they should exist, is to be sexually attractive. If they can’t manage that, at least they can strive to not be sexually unattractive.

    We’re constantly counseled on how to “correct” our droopy breasts, fat, hair where it’s not “supposed” to be, wrinkles. A dress that makes your ass look big or makeup that makes your eyebrows invisible is automatically assumed to be a mistake, because WHO WOULD WANT TO FUCK THAT.

    As if that’s the bottom line question everyone should be asking about every woman who is visible, ever.

    She presents herself mockingly as hostile because a woman stating “I don’t care if you think I’m not sexy” is often reinterpreted to mean “I hate men.” That we don’t want to be your visual fuck toy, that we don’t want to be granted worth only on our sexual attractiveness, is a challenge to the male gaze.

    No one spends much time critiquing men for not wearing sexy clothing or not hiding their “figure faults.” The most stringent it usually gets is “wear clothing that actually covers your gut and your ass crack.”

    Yes, it’s odd to think that women critique other women, but that doesn’t mean it’s not sexual. Women are very often complicit in sexism; they compete on that basis for male attention if they feel that’s the best game for them to play, or the only one available. But that doesn’t mean it’s not men-centered.

    By the way, if you think men don’t notice when women dress up or do their hair or wear makeup, be a woman and try it both ways. They don’t have to say something about it, or even realize they’re doing it, but they sure as hell do notice.

    And the wide variety of “types” some men find attractive really doesn’t say anything about the collective pressure on most women to conform to a beauty standard.

    • We’re constantly counseled on how to “correct” our droopy breasts, fat, hair where it’s not “supposed” to be, wrinkles.

      Who does that counseling, Old Feminist? Not men: other women do it.

      As for the “who would want to fuck that” reaction for “a dress that makes your ass look too big”, at the risk of starting a huge flame war, let me quote known misomnithropist, Jim Goad: “ladies, they’ll fuck you as you are.”

      Has anyone here – male, female, or other – EVER heard a het man say “Oh, hell no! I won’t fuck her! That dress makes her ass look way too big!”

      Old Feminist, once again, you are confusing female and male concerns regarding fashion.

      No one spends much time critiquing men for not wearing sexy clothing or not hiding their “figure faults.”

      You obviously haven’t spent much time around gay men. Either that, or you’re really not reflecting upon what you’re saying.

      • Jameseq says:

        Great reply. Plus ive observed that it is usually feminine gay men and not masculine gay men that behave in the manner youve described.

        Perhaps this has something do to with the instincts of femininity, whether in a male or female body

        • Perhaps it has to do with people who are trained to notice fashion? A boy who’s not interested in constantly exuding masculinity (or seeming like he does) can use that energy for different things. I preume that fashion is as interesting as football, so why WOULDN’T a boy be interested in it, unless he was mortally afraid of being called a sissy?

          • Jameseq says:

            It’s more than being trained to notice. Even when european men were very fashion conscious in the late18th c. The macaroni, a feminine gay man was noted for his excessive preoccupation and dedication to fashion

            • Sure, I’ll buy gay men are more likely to be interested in fashion. But given that fashion – even in the late 18th century – is socially constructed as a women’s preserve and given that society generally says there are only two sex roles to play – male or female – it’s no surprise to me that many gay men end up attracted to feminine things.

              What I disagree with is the idea that fashion is ESSENTIALLY feminine, outside of a given cultural tradition.

              That ain’t the case in most Amazonian native communities, for example.

              • Er, not precisely, hook. There are literally thousands of different body decoration patterns used for different things in the hundreds of different groups in the Amazon. They cannot be reduced – even “mostly” – to one or two things, as you are doing here.

                • Tatoos, piercings, scarification, ornamentation and – crucially – body painting. As for this relating to “identification, family, status, hunting prowess… superstition etc.”, much the same thing could be said for fashion in general, anywhere, including the fashion inductry. Most of the clothes and ornamentation humans use have nothing to do with their physical needs, Hook.

    • By the way, if you think men don’t notice when women dress up or do their hair or wear makeup, be a woman and try it both ways. They don’t have to say something about it, or even realize they’re doing it, but they sure as hell do notice.

      How would you know?

      Old Fem, Brazilian women notoriously wear much less make-up than North American women. Notoriously.

      So do you think that the typical response of the North American man who comes down here is “My God! These women are so ugly compared to the ones back home?”

      Not.

      • oldfeminist says:

        Wow, ThadGre, way to pick exactly one item from my list and suggest it invalidates the whole message. Dress up, do their hair, well that’s just unimportant compared to how much makeup Brazilian women wear. There couldn’t be a REASON for that, could there?

        Oh wait.

        http://www.maria-brazil.org/business_in_brazil.htm

        “Even though it’s said that Brazilian women wear more makeup than American women, most of my friends in Rio, Salvador, Recife, etc., usually go for a light powdering of the nose and a bright-colored lipstick. The reason is obvious: with that humidity, how long do you think they could keep eye-shadows, mascaras, etc. from running down their faces? The other reason is: they have a permanent tan…so who needs makeup during the day? In Rio, young women actually don’t wear makeup at all in daytime.”

        Why do American men think Brazilian women are attractive? Because they are still calibrating their appearance for the patriarchy. Just because they don’t wear as much makeup as women in the US doesn’t mean they’re not trying to match an appearance that is pleasing to men.

        http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_br.htm
        “Brazilian women dress “sexy” in all situations, whether business, formal or casual. Foreign women who want to blend in should avoid wearing overly formal, conservative attire.”

        “Brazilian women can be very aggressive romantically and forward to the point of harassment. Don’t be surprised if you are in a restaurant or nightclub and a woman sends you a note asking for your phone number — even if you are with your wife or girlfriend.”

        So, no, not wearing as much makeup as US women doesn’t mean they’re not “sexy.”

        And your question admits the main premiss while thinking you are dismissing a minor one. You are admitting that Brazilian women make themselves attractive to men.

        • Old Feminist, with all due respect for “Maria”, I study gringo-Brazilian interactions for a living. I did my masters on gringos. And even Maria admits that the idea that Brazilian women use more make-up is a gringo conceit, not supported by her own experience.

          Regarding hair and clothes, you’ll notice “Maria’s” advice is for BOTH sexes.

          So your point is…?

          Why do American men think Brazilian women are attractive? Because they are still calibrating their appearance for the patriarchy.

          How is using LESS make-up than American women “calibrating their appearance for the patriarchy”, exactly?

          As for the point that “‘Brazilian women dress “sexy” in all situations, whether business, formal or casual. Foreign women who want to blend in should avoid wearing overly formal, conservative attire,'”, this is actually something I’ve studied extensively.

          You need to ask what you consider to be “sexy” and why. I’ve interviewed literally hundreds of Americans living in or visiting Brazil on this point and their views that Brazilians dress “sexier” are based largely on two salient observations: Brazilians wear less clothing and Brazilians wear lighter clothing. So-called Westerners have been remarking on this phenomenon since 1500. Do you know why it exists?

          Not because Brazil is more “patriarchical”: it is because we are a TROPICAL country. MEN also wear “sexier” clothing in that they wear lesser and lighter clothing than you North Americans.

          The problem is, you people see “lesser and lighter” and you automatically think “sexier”. American stereotypes re: Brazilian sexuality are legion. My wife is writing a book about them right now for the University of São Paulo. So PLEASE don’t quote me some gringo website about how Brazilians supposedly “dress sexier”, OK?

          Brazilian women can be very aggressive romantically and forward to the point of harassment.

          Ah, yes. And this is, of course, patriarchical because “free” women demurely sit in a corner and wait for men to come to them. Preferably wearing burqas as well, right?

          But again, BOTH sexes are more “romantically aggressive” in Brazil, at least from an anglo-american standpoint. Culturally, we make Pepe LePew look subtle. The question is why this is somehow “patriarchical” in your book?

          You are admitting that Brazilian women make themselves attractive to men.

          The het ones, yes. What they DON’T do is make fashion choices based on that. Fashion choices are based on something much mores serious: “What will other women think?” If a man thinks it’s attractive and a woman thinks it’s ugly, you’ll find very few women using it, doing it, or wearing it.

          • oldfeminist says:

            I’m also kind of curious. You say you study Brazilian-gringo interactions for a living. They you say you study punters for a living. And that you spend a lot of time watching the interaction between punters and sex workers. That you don’t see the hand of patriarchy among the people you watch, I wonder if you could ever see it anywhere at all.

            And aside from calling non-Latins”gringos” do you use other ethnic slurs? I’m not sure I would take much of the rest of your categorizations seriously. Your “you people” is pretty funny in that context. Funny not meaning I’m laughing either.

            • Old Feminist, “gringo” is hardly an ethnic slur. In Brazil, we have maintained it’s original Iberian meaning of “foreigner with an accent”. It has exactly no necessary ethnic connotations. U.S. Americans are gringos down here, but then again, so are Argentineans, Mexicans and even Mozambiqueans. You can see an article I wrote on this point over a decade ago here: http://blogs.eserver.org/issues/2002/60/blanchette.html

              As for “you people”, hey I admit it’s a generalization. A pretty damned good one, however. For my masters, I did in-depth interviews with a series of anglophone residents regarding their reactions to Brazil when they arrived and I followed that up with another series of interviews with itinerant anglophone toursists. All told, there were some 150 interviews in this series, backed up by extensive in-field participant observation.

              One of the things that most informants reported reacting to upon arrival in Brazil was women’s fashion. Anglophone women were almost universally VERY categoric in their descriptiosn of it. The typical response was “When I first arrived here, I thought all Brazilian women looked like whores”. This reaction is confirmed in travellers’ jornals regarding Brazil going back at least to the early 19th century and it was even pretty much the first reaction of the Portuguese when they landed here in1500. The native womens’ state of undress, at any rate, figures prominently in Cabral’s letters back to Portugal.

              When asked what, precisely, they thought was so “whorish” about Brazilian women’s clothes, most commonly female informants noted halter tops, short, shorts, tight and thin pants, lots of skin showing, etc. The historical informants also noted similar things, adjusted for fashion and the times (In the 1820s, for example, Maria Graham, for example, was shocked to often go to a house of the local nobility, unannounced, and find the lady of the manse lolling about with her tits hanging out of her skimpy nightgown, attended by topless African slaves).

              So seeing so many gringos – now and in the past – describe Brazilian clothing as “sexy” and then, when pushed to describe what exactly caught their eye, mention abreviated and thin clothing has made me doubt gringos ability to properly descry the symbology of Brazilian fashion, unless appropriately culturally acclimatized first.

              A large number of my female gringo informants who’d lived in Brazil for longer than six months laughed at their old prejudices when they recounted them and – without any prompting at all on my part – would then say things like “Now I see that it’s just the heat that causes many Brazilians to dress that way and to be fair the men dress that way too”. Or, better yet, “Now I realize that Brazilians are not so ashamed of their bodies as we are and so thus don’t see displaying them to be necessarily a sign of sexual availability”.

              So yeah, Old Fem, when I say “you people”, I’m making a generalization which might not personally apply to you. I feel quite comfortable, however, given the evidence, in saying that it does apply to unacculturated anlgophone gringos in mass. You people (given that you are indeed an anglophone and would be a gringo if you came here) repeatedly and notoriously mistake non-sexual Brazilian sartorial displays for “sexy”. Our number one pop feminist magazine recently had an article about this, by the way, so I can also say I’m certainly not alone in this perception.

              Poet and songwriter Caetano Veloso put it best, I think: “Like the indigenous peoples who met Cabral, our sex is innocently displayed to the world but the western world’s shame transforms it into a mark of our supposedly depraved nature.”

            • Regarding prostitution, it’s funny that you think I should see “the hand of the patriarchy” at work there.

              When I began studying prostitution, I was pretty much a card-carrying feminist regarding its causes and effects. It was only after spending much time in brothels, strip clubs and interviewing pros and punters that I realized something which should have been obvious from the start: much of feminist musing regarding prostitution is done by men and women who’ve never seen the sex trade close up and who certainly haven’t bothered to talk to its practicioners.

              Yes indeed, there are deep gender, class, age and race-based inequalities on display in the Zona. The proper question to ask is, are they worse there than anywhere else in society? With close to a decade under my belt of direct observation, I’d have to tentatively say, no. In fact, many women I know became prostitutes because the job gives them more choices and more freedom than anything else on their horizon of possibilities.

              So I’d have to disagree with your assessment that patriarchy is more in evidence in prostitution than elsewhere in society. To the degree that it exists, patriarchy is fundamentally sustained by society’s number one gendered institution: marriage. As Emma Goldman pointed out more than a century ago, if you got rid of marriage and the false dual morality behind sex, the vast majority of prostittuion would disappear over night. Get rid of prostitution, however, and you won’t change a singler damned thing about patriarchy or women’s inequality.

              • oldfeminist says:

                “I’d have to disagree with your assessment that patriarchy is more in evidence in prostitution than elsewhere in society.”

                Really? I never said that prostitution must be more sexist than any other part of society, did I? I just said I thought you would see it there (as opposed to maybe in the stock exchange). Why do you think that’s the “proper” question to ask?

                I asked if you saw the hand of patriarchy in prostitution. You kind of say yes here. Elsewhere you embrace the idea that women who want to be sexy and nothing else would dress as prostitutes dress (while yet elsewhere you talk about prostitutes in their fifties dressed conservatively as if this proves women don’t dress sexy for men).

                Of course most women who aren’t prostitutes don’t dress like prostitutes do (or the way they think prostitutes do). It would be unsafe or at least annoying to have to tell men constantly that, no, you’re not for sale. This was part of the dichotomy of what women tell each other. Look good, look appropriately sexy, but not like a whore.

                You seem unable to stick to any one narrative, so eager are you to talk about Brazil and your personal and academic experiences there.

                Women don’t try to dress sexy they try to follow fashion. Women do try to dress sexy in Brazil because they’re brilliantly not embarrassed by their bodies. Women in Brazil aren’t trying to look sexy because they don’t wear as much makeup as women in the US. Women tell each other how to dress and what men think of them has no part in it. Only women and gay men care about fashion and straight men are slobs (there are several straight men I’d be glad to refer you to on this one).

                It’s hard to know what you are defending, aside from BRAZIL. And this article isn’t about Brazil; no one brought it up until you did, to tell us how “you people” unfairly malign Brazil and Brazilians.

                • I think it’s a good question to ask, OF, because western society (and certainly most women who claim to be feminists) considers the prostitute to be more exploited by men than the wife.

                  As for prostitutes and the way they dress, the vast majority of them go far beyond what’s considered normal in female fashion. Their fashion is not set by the industry because it attracts the male eye: by definition it attracts the male eye because it violates what the fashion idustry has set as a standard.

                  Ana and I once saw a great example of this at Banda de Ipanema one year. 4 go-go boys dressed up like Afghani transvestite prostitutes in hot pink, electric blue and lime green sequinned burquas.

                  If Leandra’s clothes were to become the fashion norm, tomorrow prostitutes would start sewing little sequinned lips on the back pockets of those overalls. What is sexy to the male eye, then (at leats according to these professional attractors of it), is not established by fashion but in direct opposition to its limitations. This is why prostitute fashion appears to be kitchy, vulgar or outrageous so often.

                  There are, however, many different kinds of prostitutes. There’s a whole segment of the sex trade that’s dedicated to providing appropriate dinner/nightlife partners to rish businessmen. Those prostitutes don’t go for cootch fashion but for haute couture. Why? Not because they are supposed to “attract the male gaze”, though that’s always a plus, but because they are supposed to blend in with the non-prostitute women around them and fool those women’s gaze. It’s not sexual markers that they are good at manipulating here, but CLASS markers. And they get paid extra for that ability.

                  Why you see my mention of the existence of these two kinds of prostitutes (one who attracts the male eye to get paid and the other who is paid to be proper company in poroper company and, in fact, attract the female eye) as contradictory or not part of the same narrative is a bit confusing to me. These two main types have been around in the West since at least ancient Greece.

                  You seem unable to stick to any one narrative, so eager are you to talk about Brazil and your personal and academic experiences there.

                  I’m an anthro, OF. I approach theory from the ground up: grounded theory based in observations, not editing my observations to fit my theories. So if I’m concentrating on describing what I see as opposed to, say, philosophical theories of domination and patriarchy, that is why.

                  Women don’t try to dress sexy they try to follow fashion. Women do try to dress sexy in Brazil because they’re brilliantly not embarrassed by their bodies. Women in Brazil aren’t trying to look sexy because they don’t wear as much makeup as women in the US. Women tell each other how to dress and what men think of them has no part in it. Only women and gay men care about fashion and straight men are slobs (there are several straight men I’d be glad to refer you to on this one).

                  I did not say “Women try to dress sexy in Brazil”. What I said was that sexy is judged differently in Brazil. Extra skin and thin clothes is not necessarily “sexy”. I also said that my gringa informants think that people are less embarassed about their bodies in Brazil.

                  Furthermore, I didn’t say “Women in Brazil aren’t trying to look sexy because they don’t wear as much makeup as women in the US.” I DID say, in response to your comment that wearing make-up is what women do to please men, is the following: “Old Fem, Brazilian women notoriously wear much less make-up than North American women. Notoriously. So do you think that the typical response of the North American man who comes down here is “My God! These women are so ugly compared to the ones back home?”

                  It’s really easy to accuse someone of being contradictory and “not keeping to a single narrative” when you warp their words first, Old Feminist. I think you’d do better simply trying to address my main point, instead of mutating it and attacking your mutation. Here it is again, in case you’ve lost the thread of it:

                  Women, by and large, do not make fashion choices thinking about men, but about themselves or other women. The fact that prostitutes who want to attract the male gaze need to go far beyond the dictates of fashion is proof of this. The fact that prostitutes hired as social companions dress conservatively in order to not alarm the women around them is also proof of this. Finally, the fact that western burqha fashion didn’t catch on aside from a small minority in the 1970s and probably won’t catch on now is proof of this: the women who pay money for clothes are generally not interested in looking like the women shown above.

                  (I, personally, however, find such women to be very attractive, so apparently the fashion isn’t repelling all men’s gazes, equally.)

                  It is the FEMALE eye which is setting the fashion standard, Old Feminist, not the male.

                  As for defending Brazil, friend, I brought the country up as a good example that your opinions as to what men want are apparently not transcultural. You then decided to give me a lesson in Brazilian realities by quoting from some blog you scared up. furthermore, I do not think gringos “unfairly malign Brazil”. I DO think – as I’ve stated above – that they generally don’t understand the symbology of Brazilian fashion until they become culturally acclimated. Nor do Brazilians understand the symbology of U.S.American fashion. There’s nothing “maligning” about it: there is quite a bit of misunderstanding.

                  • oldfeminist says:

                    “I think it’s a good question to ask, OF, because western society (and certainly most women who claim to be feminists) considers the prostitute to be more exploited by men than the wife. ”

                    NO THEY DON”T.

                    It’s the patriarchy that elevates the wife above the sex worker. Feminists have been saying for literally decades that prostitutes and wives are treated much the same, just with different titles.

                    “I’m an anthro, OF. I approach theory from the ground up: grounded theory based in observations, not editing my observations to fit my theories. So if I’m concentrating on describing what I see as opposed to, say, philosophical theories of domination and patriarchy, that is why.”

                    I’m a feminist since I was a teen. I don’t ground what I say in highfalutin theories; I have lived as a woman, and see first hand what’s going on. Feminism works because women have that “aha” moment, or a series of them, where they realize that what is happening to them isn’t just some guy being a jerk, it’s the result of a systematic powerlessness imposed by the patriarchy. The personal is the political. We don’t observe it. We live it.

                    “Women, by and large, do not make fashion choices thinking about men, but about themselves or other women. The fact that prostitutes who want to attract the male gaze need to go far beyond the dictates of fashion is proof of this. The fact that prostitutes hired as social companions dress conservatively in order to not alarm the women around them is also proof of this. Finally, the fact that western burqha fashion didn’t catch on aside from a small minority in the 1970s and probably won’t catch on now is proof of this: the women who pay money for clothes are generally not interested in looking like the women shown above.”

                    Why would women not want to dress in a manner orthogonal from sexiness? Why do they calibrate their sexiness somewhere between Madonna and Whore?

                    Sexiness in dress and makeup and attitude is a continuum that women must walk at peril of going too far to either extreme. You’re DESCRIBING it right there.

                    There are reasons for women to participate in controlling other women’s sexuality. They get brownie points with men for being “moral.” They can protect the ones they like from rape and exploitation and being treated “like a whore.” They can use it in competition by not being out-sexied by someone who may be angling for a man you want. Most men seem to think it’s mostly the latter (she’s just jealous the dried up old hag), but I think it’s more often a combination of the average human to be a follower and the protective instinct, because they cannot imagine a world where women are free to express their sexuality without punishment.

                    “As for defending Brazil, friend, I brought the country up as a good example that your opinions as to what men want are apparently not transcultural.”

                    Because of the one point about makeup that you suggested should make Brazilian women hideous to American men. And ignoring the fact that, while beauty standards are not “standard,” they do exist, and are linked to sexuality.

                    Otherwise fashion orthogonal to sexuality would be just as likely to be favored as sexual fashion. You admit that it is not. You don’t seem to wonder why.

                  • oldfeminist says:

                    “Their fashion is not set by the industry because it attracts the male eye: by definition it attracts the male eye because it violates what the fashion idustry has set as a standard. ”

                    Maybe you’re confusing Haute Couture with fashion in general.

                    The fashion industry in general has not set as a standard clothing that: minimizes the waist-hip ratio; makes one’s breasts look droopy; makes one look old, fat, or “out of shape,” covers too much skin, makes you look too different from other women.

                    Most women’s fashion is sexy but not too sexy. It is calibrated differently in different cultures, but there’s always a line you don’t want to cross — not because it’s too pretty, but because you will get raped.

                    Does rape not mean anything to you? You have skimmed over it in previous comments I’ve made. You don’t think dressing too sexy for your environment can get you raped?

                    • NO THEY DON”T.

                      Yes, most of them do.

                      You may not. Some feminsists do not. Unfortunately, right now, most feminists seem to do, as judged by the organized voices of feminism and their political actions. Would you like an alphabetized or itemized list of feminist organizations, world wide, which are publically in favor of the elimination and repression of prostitution but have not taken anything like a similar stance with regards to marriage? What’s say, NOW’s position with regards to marriage and prostitution? Or that of ANY mainstream feminist organization you’d care to name?

                      I realize this might be an uncomfortable reality to look upon, but it’s true, nevertheless. Emma Goldman remarked on it in 1911 and it’s still true today.

                      Most feminists are happy to see prostitution illegalized. The most feminist-oriented country in the world is also the most anti-prostitution (Sweden). And before you claim “But Sweden only made Johns illegal!”, think about it: does it make any difference at all to the prostitute when she’s run in and jailed? I guess it’s some cold comfort that she won’t be charged, later – unless she’s an irregular immigrant, that is, in which case Swedish immigration takes over.

                      I’m a feminist since I was a teen. I don’t ground what I say in highfalutin theories; I have lived as a woman, and see first hand what’s going on.

                      Which is why you think feminists have been just as poilitically active against marriage as they have been against prostitution…?

                      No matter how much you’ve lived and what you’ve done, OF, having two X chromosomes doesn’t give you some sort of deep, global understanding of women’s experiences, the world over. Being an anthro, of course, doesn’t give me a priviledged view, either. But then again, I’m not the one who’s trying to support some sort of global megatheory like “patriarchy” as the basis of human existence. I’m just pointing out where that theory has holes.

                      The personal may indeed be political, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right. And while feminism may be based on people having “Ah hah!” moments which make them suddenly Understand Everything, all religions and political movements are likewise endowed. So if your only claim to correctness is “I know because it came a s a personal relavation to me”, what makes you any different from any other ideologue, religious or otherwise? Hell, MRAs make the same exact “personal-is-political-my-word-is-gospel-because-I-lived it” rhetorical move. (What amuses me is that neither group seems to see how deeply this sort of thing is based on protestant religious rhetoric of personal salvation, but that’s another story).

                      Why would women not want to dress in a manner orthogonal from sexiness? Why do they calibrate their sexiness somewhere between Madonna and Whore?

                      They do want and they do dress and the fashion industry reflects that. The fashion industry ISN’T (as was claimed up above) some dedicated arm of The Patriarchy, geared to keeping women sexy and submissive.

                      Sexiness in dress and makeup and attitude is a continuum that women must walk at peril of going too far to either extreme. You’re DESCRIBING it right there.

                      Prostitutes meet violence, OF, not because they “dress sexy’ but because they are a stigmatized social category. And women are just as complicit as men in maintaining them in that category. So no, “dressing sexy” isn’t dangerous: being classified as a whore is dangerous. And THAT happens – as feminists are the first to point out – independent of dress. The “she dressed for it so asked for it” argument is always raised post facto in order to justify the violence and it doesn’t matter WHAT the woman wears, it will be raised.

                      As for women gaining points doing this, yes, of course they do. Which is why patriarchy alone is not enough to explain the social injustices you’re talking about.

                      Because of the one point about makeup that you suggested should make Brazilian women hideous to American men. And ignoring the fact that, while beauty standards are not “standard,” they do exist, and are linked to sexuality.

                      Not a small point, OF: your claim is that women use makeup to be pretty for men. If that were so, men should naturally be repulsed by women who don’t use it, correct? And yet when men from one of the most make-up using societies in the world (the U.S.) come to Brazil where women use very little make up, we don’t hear them saying how ugly the ladies are compared to the ones back home.

                      I also think you’re confusing “expresses sexuality” with “is geared to make women into sexual objects”. Like it or not, ALL fashion expresses sexuality, including the stuff Leandra does.

                      You don’t think dressing too sexy for your environment can get you raped?

                      No, I don’t. But you and a certain Toronto cop obviously seem to think it can.

                      OF, if there’s one thing feminism has taught us is that women are raped REGARDLESS of what they wear.

                    • oldfeminist says:

                      “You don’t think dressing too sexy for your environment can get you raped?

                      No, I don’t. But you and a certain Toronto cop obviously seem to think it can. ”

                      Nice try. Noticing sexism isn’t the same as being a sexist.

                      Blaming women for rape because of what they wear is wrong. But that doesn’t mean they don’t get raped because of it.

                      And women who are raped are discounted way more often if they supposedly “asked for it” by wearing sexy clothing. So that’s why women tell each other not to dress that way. It’s not right, but the patriarchy demands this sorting of women into good (controlled sexuality) and bad (uncontrolled, or given to the “wrong” people).

                      “Like it or not, ALL fashion expresses sexuality, including the stuff Leandra does.”

                      Only if everything women’s bodies do is sexual. Making women the sex class is one feature of patriarchy.

                    • Nice try. Noticing sexism isn’t the same as being a sexist.

                      First of all, OF, I don’t think it has anything to do with sexism: it has to do with a sort of naive determinism which feminism should have schooled you away from on the subject of rape. A woman’s clothes do not make her more likely to be a rape victim, period. That’s a post facto rationalization used by rapists and it will be used no matter what clothes the woman wears.

                      So I don’t think you’re being sexist: I think you’re simply wrong.

                      I have NEVER seen a reasonable, methodologically solid study which shows that women get raped more often if they wear one sort of clothes or another. Can you point me to one?

                      In fact, the entire concept of “sexy clothing” is so contextual and culturally fluid, that it would be difficult to come up with some sort of way to objectively measure it in the first place.

                      Only if everything women’s bodies do is sexual. Making women the sex class is one feature of patriarchy.

                      First of all, this isn’t specific to women but to all people in general. One’s sex/gender is a marker that is always accessible and, while one can cover it up or move it this way or that, one can’t get rid of it. A person wearing any kind of clothing – or no clothing at all, even – will inevitably give off some sort of sexual message. It’s not so much that everything our bodies do is sexual: it’s that it’s impossible to live in a body without giving some sort of sexual message. And note: sexual messages are a lot of things, not solely “come and get it”. They can also be “don’t even think about it”. It’s still a sexual message.

    • AlekNovy says:

      The most common reaction to fashion that isn’t sexy is “ugh,” as if the only reason for women to look and dress a certain way, in fact the only reason they should exist, is to be sexually attractive. If they can’t manage that, at least they can strive to not be sexually unattractive.

      Complete hogwash. The most common reaction? THE MOST COMMON REACTION!?!?!?!??!

      That’s just a blatant lie on your part. If what you say is true, men in big cities would be walking down the street and going “ugh” every 4 seconds, like they’d literally have to pause every 4 seconds and go “ugh”

      So you obviously lied. The true most common reaction is that of LACK of reaction. A woman who’s walking down the street not dressed in sexy attire will draw no more attention than the grandma, dog, cat, little children, random dudes etc.

      In other words, she will be treated just like another person.

  10. Anonymous Male says:

    (I hope there’s no limit to the number of posts I can put up….)

    I was thinking of this analogy:

    Blaming men for the evils of women’s fashion is sort of like blaming women for the rampant use of steroids in professional sports. You know, men are always trying to impress women, and women like muscles, and men basically compete with each other because of women, and steroids screw up men’s bodies in pursuit of an elusive ideal, and whatever hurts men must be good for women, so the conclusion is clear. Shame on women for making men inject steroids.

    Is it just a coincidence that steroids shrink your testicles? I think not. Sounds like a bit of hostility towards men if you ask me.

    Ridiculous, right?

    (Reminds me of the argument that women are the main reason that men go off to war. Huh?)

    • AlekNovy says:

      Anonymous male, your analogy is perfect because its also borne out of science.

      There are studies that showed men and women do the EXACT same mistake. Women look at female mags to figure out what’s attractive to men, and get the idea that they need to be super-skinny and then starve themselves. The studies show however that the women OVER-ESTIMATE how skinny guys like.

      The same sets of studies show that men look at men’s magazines and figure out that being super-muscular (steroid level big) is attractive to women, specifically, men on average over-estimate how much muscle is attractive to women by 20-30 pounds! So they go and shoot themselves with all kinds of dangerous drugs to impress women.

      Let’s be real, steroid use is a LOT MORE rampant than annorexia… Yet do we blame steroid use on women?

  11. In fact, watching men with prostitutes is a GREAT way to understand just how enormously flexible men’s collective sense of the “sexually attractive” is. Here in Rio, one of the most sought after prostitutes is dwarf, for example. And the number of flabby, out-of-shape and older women who come out each night on the strip to compete with the younger, in shape women and who still always manage to attract clients has to be seen to be believed.

    There’s a whole 35+ prostitution scene, for example, that caters to men in their later 40s, ’50s and ’60s who DON’T WANT younger partners. There are also prostitutes (very well paid) who cater to men who specifically don’t want to have a woman in hootch-clothes on their arm at a dinner fucntion or corporate ball.

    There are many, many different varieties of clothes and body types that men find sexually attractive, Even if it were true that there are “laws” to this sort of thing (i.e. more skin is more attracting than less skin, younger is better than older), the margins of types and behaviors bwhich don’t fit this mold are HUGE.

    How else can you explain the 55 year old, soberly dressed prostitute who has no trouble at all landing well-paying clients?

  12. The first post on the blog features this dress. If that’s man-repelling, I have no words.

    • I don’t think most men would notice that dress one way or the other, Amanda. The typical male comment regarding it would be “She’s wearing a black and white dress”. If the duy was really sensitive, he might say “..a black and white STRIPED dress”.

      The fact that you seem to think that the piece is notable in any way, shape, or form bears out my theory that women have a much more discerning eye when it comes to this sort of thing than men.

    • Anonymous says:

      She looks cute to me. Is it wrong that I would date her just for the balcony?

  13. So does this mean that the title is pretty much baiting people into arguing about it?

  14. Anonymous says:

    What tripped me up (and confused some other people, too) is that the article and the “Men Repeller” joke seems to conflate two different things. There’s a difference between doing something to discourage X and doing something because you don’t care about X. (Or maybe I should say ‘XY’….) Dressing in order to discourage men from looking and dressing because you don’t care if they look are similar to each other but not quite the same thing.

    Also, there are some people who seem to imply that “not especially attractive” is the same as “totally unattractive.” But, there are more than just two options, not just “beautiful” and “ugly,” not to mention the differences among “beautiful” and “cute” and “sexy.” (Not to mention all the different kinds of aesthetics there are.) The joke behind the website title seems to play up the idea that if a man does not find something sexy, he finds it ugly. What I (and some other men’s responses) say is: Give me some credit – I am perfectly capable of being indifferent, apathetic, and clueless about what women do!

    Maybe that’s the source of some disagreement, maybe that’s the big question: if there’s something that men do not find attractive, does that mean men find it repulsive? I think most men would say no, it could be neutral.

    I hope it’s understandable how I could be confused about whether or not the “Men Repellent” site is about me. Calling my attention to something that ignores me sounds a lot like trying to get my attention. I realize that I am not the audience for the website and it’s a men’s issues blog that is calling my attention to it, I get that. But, both the website and the article seem to be calling my attention to the fact that some people don’t care about my attention. Huh?

    I don’t think the world is all about me, so it seems odd to let me know that the world is not all about me. It seems odd to get my attention in order to tell me to mind my own business.

    I think the site’s title is funny, and I think the website is cute. I get the joke (I think!). I’m not offended. But, since this blog tends to analyze the fun out of every possible gendered phenomenon, and since this blog tends to spot the slightest possible offensiveness of any form of gendered humor, in all fairness nothing should escape this analysis. If we can sap the enjoyment out of looking at women, we can bloody well sap the enjoyment out of joking about it….

  15. Fernanda Ouragan says:

    In comparison to women, men tend to have a healthier image of the female body.

    • I disagree. Women’s in lad mags are really just the same stick thin models who’ve gotten plastic surgery boob implants.

      Sometimes not even that. Sometime they come right off the runway… wash off the ghostlike make up… put some bronzer on and make a different sexy pose in the seafoam.

      Same women, different lighting.

      • All of the Victoria Secret models… were at one time runways models.

      • How do men know what is ‘natural’ beauty?

        If one is adept enough at wearing make-up… the point is to look like one is not wearing it.

        The rate of eating disorders in this country show that many svelte figures come with the price of fingers down throats or obsessive calorie counting.

        • Hehehehehhehee read about Romans doing the same so they could eat more!!!! LOL.ROFL!!!
          And all the obese people? 66% overweight or obese? the fact that the BMI is one size fits all. Hmmm methinks much left out Hmmmm.

      • I’m not sure what kind of men’s mags you’re reading… but if you look at the (utterly repellant) likes of Nuts and Zoo in the UK, the models are definietly hyper-edited with all kinds of photoshop trickery – even if the end goal isn’t to make them stick-thin. I wouldn’t say “natural” is the right word at all.

      • AlekNovy says:

        I disagree. Women’s in lad mags are really just the same stick thin models who’ve gotten plastic surgery boob implants.

        Woah… Not 🙂

        The lad’s mags girls are on average 4-5 inches shorter, have more feminine WHRs and probably weigh 10-20 pounds more.

        There were several studies done on this. Both men and women make this mistake. Men over-estimate the range of muscle that is attractive to women by 20-30 pounds! That means most men think that women are attract to guys like in the bodybuilding mags.

        Wherein women are really attracted to the kinds of guys who are in the cosmopolitan centerfolds (30-40 pounds less muscular and a lot less ripped)

        –> women commit the same mistake

        Women watch FEMALE media and get this idea that this is what men like, and this study showed that women also over-estimate attributes that men like due female-mags – such as over-estimating thin-ness etc…

        I’m sorry but you’re just utterly wrong on the lad’s mags women. They are a completely different body-type, body-shape, body-height and fat-percentage than fashion models.

    • I’d say 95% of people who have offered criticisms of my body (which has fluctuated from a size 4 to 8 ) have been men.

      • I know feminists have a bizarre fascination with “95%” (you literally use it for everything), but you do realize how improbable it is that you have tracked every single comment someone makes about your body and can create credible statistics from that data, right?

      • Oh, c’mon Amanda. I think you’re REALLY editing your experience. The only way thast could be true is if by “criticisms” you mean “openly negative comments”. Women critique their and their friends’ bodies all the time. You NEVER had a friend ask you (or asked a friend) “Do these jeans make my ass look too big?” You’ve never complained about your diet or how you needed to diet or how you broke your diet or had a friend do the same?

        As a man, it’s amazing to me how women police themselves and each other regarding their bodies. It’s definitely not something men do with anything like the same frequency or level of detail. And listen: I watch punters for a living. If there is one group of men who loudly and openly critique women’s bodies it’s prostitutes’ clients. And even then, there is far less of this than you would suspect. As a matter of fact, my co-researcher and partner, Ana Paula da Silva, was initially very surprised at how relatively little men oggle women’s bodies or comment about them in brothels and strip joints.

        What we typically hear from the guys we study – when they say anything at all – is stuff like “Yeah, she’s got great tits” or “She’s got no ass at all!” Ocassionally, you’ll hear one of these guys call a woman “fat”. In almost every case, the woman is obese and CERTAINLY hears that comment far more from the females around her than the men.

        • I find that the comments from men tend to come in really uninvited situations, unlike the more constructive comments from my female peers—like when I have turned a guy down at a bar and he will get all sour grapes and tell me I’m ugly anyways, or when I am debating a guy in class and his trump card to a debate about gender or feminism is that I am fat/ugly and that is why I feel that way, or being called a dyke on the street by men who don’t like the way I dress. The funny thing is: I am 5’6, size 6, pretty, petite, athletic, and blonde, and these things happen pretty often.

          Have you ever seen this: http://fatuglyorslutty.com/?

          This is pretty much the arena where these sorts of behaviours are magnified because the men feel they have anonymity, but it is a microcosm of the big picture wherein I can confidently say that I am either insulted or harassed by a man at least once every two days (I get groped on the metro a lot by men over 40). This behaviour perplexes and frustrates me–and I think that these actions feed into my moments of insecurity. Sometimes it is a battle just to go out walking in the city as a young woman.

          • I’ll buy that, Switchin. The point being that it’s not that men’s comments are necessarily negative or whatnot but that they are totally unsolicited. Still, my main point remains: women are kept in line, in terms of fashion and body image, BY OTHER WOMEN, not by guys. I very much doubt women, in general, take anything men say about their bodies or fashion seriously – at least in terms of absorbing it as a justified critique to which they must bend their behavior. Men’s comments are thus not at all part of the policing aspect of society when it comes to women’s fashion.

            And yeah, I agree that men make piggish comments about women and engage in piggish behavior. But to claim, as Amanda does, that women don’t “criticize” other women’s physical presentation is absolutely ludicrous. Again, I don’t see many women suffering from low self-esteem because of what the football team says about them: more typically, it’s what the cheerleaders have to say that really hits home.

            The upshot of it all is this: do men groping you and calling you a dyke translate into social pressure for you to dress up in skimpy halter tops and short shorts? Because that’s what the “fashion is geared to make women sex toys for men” position seems to be claiming.

      • Anonymous Male says:

        “I’d say 95% of people who have offered criticisms of my body (which has fluctuated from a size 4 to 8 ) have been men.”

        I won’t dispute those numbers right now, but I would point out that men and women may comment on a woman’s appearance very differently, not just in terms of frequency but in terms of how direct they are. I get the impression (okay, maybe a sexist stereotype) that women are more likely to be indirect in their critique of other women. It could even be couched as something complimentary, like “you are so brave to wear something like that. I would be too afraid to wear that.” One could take that as a compliment, or take it as an insult.

        There’s also the matter of interpretation. What women take as a piggish criticism might be from the man’s perspective a compliment. “Built like a brick shithouse” is not something that warms the heart or boosts the self-esteem, but in an awkward way it is from a position of appreciation. I’m not saying that justifies a man’s comments, just that the effect of the comment may be different from the intent of the comment.

  16. Bravo. I am in love with this project.

    On the subject of street sexual harassment, where do you think the solution lies? A typical day out in a typical Indian city translates into at least two incidents of harassment. And it doesn’t stop at ogling.

    • “Western” and “Third World” are not antonyms.

      I just thought I’d point this out.

      • Hooray for Western Purdah!

        I’m encouraged that women in the west are now being invited to be as liberated as their sisters-in-struggle in Afganistan, who have long known how to shield themselves from the sexualizing male gaze.

        No, seriously, this initiative has three major weak points as far as I can see…

        First of all, women generally don’t dress according to what men find sexy, but according to what women think is appropriately sexy. Women spend tons of time and effort on hair, clothes and make-up that, frankly, most men simply don’t notice. Western purdah has been tried before (in the early 1970s) and it failed, not because men oppressed said women, but because other women tended to assume that women who dressed in this fashion were lesbians. Women’s homophobia is what ends up making initiatives like this fail.

        Secondly, men’s tastes differ radically, in spite of what bio-determinist MRAs might think. Frankly, I personally find women who dress like the photos above to be hot as hell. My eye would be DRAWN to such women, not repulsed.

        But finally, many people have brought up the point that fashion rarely caters to straight men. This should be obvious if one were to look at the fashions which do indeed cater to straight men: those used by prostitutes on public display. In order to get men to notice them, these women need to exaggerate the sexual signs displayed by “normal” female clothing to beyond eleven – to a degree FAR beyond what a non-pro woman would generally feel comfortable with.

        This is the ultimate reason why Leandra’s fashion initiative doesn’t work: sexual signs which attract mens’ eyes are in relation to normal female attire, they are not an absolute set. If we all walked around naked every day and that were normalized, prostitutes would be putting flashing lights on their nipples and asses. And likewise, if western purdah were “normalized”, certain women would STILL feel the pressure of the male gaze and be advocating for dressing in shapeless sack-cloth and ashes.

        Thus, from a pure “sociology of desire” viewpoint, it makes as much sense for Leandra to advocate for full public nudity as for non-revealing clothes. In a nudist society, the woman in shorts and a tank top is considered to be a prude and suffers less male “eye pressure”. But then again, a nudist society wouldn’t have much use for clothing designers, would it?

        So tell me Hugo: when is Leandra going to come out with a line of burquas? 😀

        Why is the West more liberated than Afganistan when it comes to fashion? CHOICE.

        Women who want to walk around in purdah might be looked at strangely, but they’re generally tolerated. And women who want to do everything up to full nudity are also tolerated.

        • By making all about your desire or lackthereof… you missed the whole point of the article.

          It’s not about ‘repelling’ or ‘attracting’… it’s about not giving a damn.

          She doesn’t give a ___ if you think her boyfriend jeans are ugly or cute or whatever.

          She is wearing them because she likes them.

          • Fernanda Ouragan says:

            Women wear to impress other women and compete with them. We don’t care about our boyfriends or husbands’ opinions.

          • wellokaythen says:

            “By making all about your desire or lackthereof… you missed the whole point of the article. It’s not about ‘repelling’ or ‘attracting’… it’s about not giving a damn.”

            I guess I’m confused, then. The language in the article suggested that these clothes were designed to be unattractive to men on purpose. If something is designed to “repel” something else, then the thing being repelled is the big reason. If I wear insect repellent because I don’t want to be bitten by mosquitoes, then it’s mosquitoes’ desire that is central to my decision. (Hmm, now I’m imagining a new line of foul-smelling perfume to repel male attention as well….)

            I agree that women should dress the way THEY want and not based on male desire, either to attract or repel, but that’s not the point of these clothes. If the article is suggesting that the Man Repeller approach is misguided, I agree.

            • The title of the blog is a joke. It’s really sarcastic.

              In the mid nineties a lot of fashion for women was deemed ‘not sexy enough’ (ie. the prairie dress and combat boots trend… or the flannel grunge trend… etc.)

              In fact, lot of the fashion was called ‘man repellent’… hence… the author of this blog turns that into her personal catchphrase….

              I will proudly wear whatever strikes my fancy despite what ‘the forces that be’ think. Man repellent thus is a very ironic joke.

          • Sara, as Fernanda and I have both pointed out, the people who women “give a damn” about when they dress are other women, not men.

            So no, I’m not missing the point of the article, which is that Leandra’s clothing supposedly “proudly blocks the eyes of men”. The point is that “normal” fashion is somehow not female-centric and Leandra’s is when, in fact, it is almost entirely so. I’d hazard a guess that 90% of the fashion dollar in the world is spent by women.

            And no, women do not give a flying fornication about what men think when they dress. In fact, if men were to have a collective opinion about women’s fashion, it probably wouldn’t be “hubba hubba, ding ding, baby! Show me soime skin!”: it would most likely be “Tell me once again why you think you need forty pairs of uncomfortable shoes.”

            I lay you dollars to donuts that in five years we won’t be hearing word one about Ms. Medine’s fashion initiative – almost certainly because the female market will reject it.

            • As a woman I can tell you… we don’t wear heels for our health.

              I’d burn every last one in the universe if it were up to me. Seriously.

              If you look at clothing that is mass produced… more of it falls in line with what you think men want to see.

              Haute couture… which is what her blog mostly deals with… is something very few people engage with and no one on a daily basis.

              • And as a man, I can tell you: vanishingly few women get turned down by a man for love, sex, friendship, or respect because of shoes. Most men couldn’t even tell you what shoes their girlfriends, wives, or colleagues wore after being with them all day.

                Seriously, Sara: if you’re wearing high heels, it’s not because the Patriarchy Police will order you socially shunned by men if you don’t.

                Who notices women’s shoes, Sara? Ask yourself that qeustion and respond to it honestly: it isn’t the vast majority of men, it’s women.

                And no, women do not buy clothes based on what they think men want to see. Give me a break, Sara! I go shopping with women ALL THE TIME and have been doing so since I was a young lad being raised by a single parent mother and her female friends. Men are so notoriously opaque to women’s fashion choices that it’s become a comedy trope all over the west.

                I’m sorry, Sara, but you’re going to have to pin women’s sartorial choices on someone other than men. We don’t make them and frankly could care less about them. The kind of “sexy” the patriarchical male notices is way beyond the comfort level for any woman who’s not openly selling sex.

                • As an aside, girls play with dolls all over the west and are sociallized to be incredibly sensitive regarding said dolls’ wardrobe. Typically, the female eye has been conditioned from birth to note the most minute differences in tone, color, style shape, texture and what-not of the most outré fashion items imaginable.

                  And you’re telling me that all of this is because men care deeply about women’s fashion, Sara? Men – most of whom, on a good day, can barely get their heads around the fact that they shouldn’t combine solids and patterns – are the Secret Masters of Women’s Fashion.

                  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight….

                  And women secretly drive the military-industrial complex, Sara.

                • Anonymous says:

                  “And as a man, I can tell you: vanishingly few women get turned down by a man for love, sex, friendship, or respect because of shoes. Most men couldn’t even tell you what shoes their girlfriends, wives, or colleagues wore after being with them all day.”

                  I agree, though I think shoes may not be the best example. (All those foot fetishists and everything.) An even better example would be purses. If a woman blows an entire paycheck on a designer handbag, it is most definitely NOT in order to attract a man.

                • Give me a break, Thaddeus! I *am* a woman. I go shopping ALL THE TIME. And omigosh… can you believe it? I know some men too!!!

                  Men are not opaque to women’s fashion choices in the least. They observe them much more than they let on. They tally and rank. They praise and chide. Gay and straight. When I ‘glam up’ the comments are mostly from men. Usually seek to reward my display of masochism ie. heels with praise.

                  Women do not comment to me about heels. Men do. Men notice the difference from my sneaks one day to heels the next. Comedy tropes =/= reality.

                  • Sara, I’m not making an absolutist argument: I’m making a generalization. A very easily researched and supported generalization. And here you are, taking me ot task because not 100% of men are opaque to women’s fashion.

                    That was never my argument in the first place. The majority of men – I’d say the vast majority – are effectively opaque to all but the most obvious components of women’s fashion. THAT is my ´point.

                    Like I said above, I study prostitute’s clients for a living. Yes, men DO rank women. All the time. But I have NEVER, EVER heard strsaight men rank women based on what they are wearing., They rank them based on the size of their tits, their asses, their general overall demeanor. I have never heard a het man go “Gee, y’know she’d be really sexy, but that ensemble just doesn’t do anythign for her. I give her a 7.”

                    What do they say? “Shit, look at the ass on that babe! She’s an 8, at least.”

                    And yes, fashion does accentuate secondary sexual characteristics. However, even if you dress in order to show off your ass to the guys in the barroom window, I think it’s pretty safe to say most women don’t. In fact, most women get appalled when they hear those sorts of somments.

                    Men comment to you about your heels? I think you work around some very different and unusual men, then. Most men are not looking at a woman’s shoes when they scope her out and, if they’re not scoping her out, most men are usually not even aware of what she’s wearing.

                    Now, you might say this all works on a subconscious level. OK. Perhaps. But then again, if it’s all working subconsciously, how are these all-powerful patriarchs “controlling” women’s fashion?

                    • I wonder if your perceptions would be different if you were speaking to men about women who are not sex professionals. I wonder if the men’s evaluations of the women’s appearances might not be so directly predicated on her sexual assets. For example, if you ask a man about the appearance of Tila Tequila, he will probably focus on her sexualized appearance, because that is the bulk of her presentation. But if you ask a man about the appearance of Sen. Hilary Clinton, do you believe that the size or pleasingness of her ass will still be the immediate focus? Your sample is skewed.

                      Also, high heels were developed because the posture they create in women who wear them–breasts out, butt out, legs elongated, back curved–mimics and enhances sexual positions. I’m not saying it’s not women’s choices to wear heels, but there is a significant social reward (and male attention reward) for doing so, and I would reckon that most women are as ignorant as you are about high heels’ origins and uses. This is why you don’t see strippers in flip-flops, even though that, unfortunately, flies in the face of all your Brazilian academia.

                  • Silly us. Of course you are right. I compliment women on their dress, haircut, and makeup all the time. I learned how in the patriarchy handbook. You know the one they pass out to all born with a Y chromosome at birth, but we never see. Thankfully, it is well read by the women in our lives who gleefully and persistently instruct us to notice and compliment them on their dress, haircut, and makeup. Or else!

        • Well, I should qualify that my remarks are based on what I know about so-called “western” cultures primarily.

          It would be biodeterminism if I said that biology determines what we find to be sexy. What I’m saying is that “sexy” clothing is understood by men as such IN COMPARISON with a given group’s “non-sexy” clothing. That’s a symbolic – or cultural – difference that’s being judged there, not a biological one.

          I guess you could say that people’s ability to manipulate symbols is, ultimately, biologically based. I wouldn’t object to that.

          As for MRAs not being bio-determinist, but bio-social… First of all, a good part of what masquerades out there as “bio-social” is in fact bio-determinism: to with, most of evpsyche. Secondly, while I do agree that there are many types of MRAs, the movement as a whole is notorious for it’s use of concepts like “the alphabetized male” (alpha, beta, gamma males and etc.) which tries to reduce human social dynamic to some sort of instinctive reaction to authority, generally biologically-based.

          • A Hook, “political correctness” is such an abused term that it means precisely jack shit. As far as I can see, people trot it out as something of an ad hominem. It means “I do not have the information necessary to actually engage with your point, so I’m going to claim that the only reason that you’re making it is that you’ve been brain-washed by commies, you dirty hippy, you.”

            The superorganic concept of human culture was developed in the 1920s, mostly by immigrant German social scientists who had little sympathy for radical politics of any sort. So perhaps it would be better to deal with the points people like Kroeber, Boas and Simmel actually made, rather than accusing a shadowy commisariat of perverting science?

            As for “symbols being cultural manifestations of biology”, no one doubts that humanity’s ability to manipulate symbols is, in fact, biologically based, nor does anyone doubt that biology limits us in our symbol-making capacities.

            But to say that the CONTENT of the symbols is biologically determined – that is a radical hypothesis which needs to be backed up by equally astonishing proof: proof which, up to now, has simply not been forcoming, in spite of heroic efforts to find it.

            I consider biodeterminism to be crap because of its long and well-documented history. of spectacular failure and the obvious lack of reflexivity of most of its practicioners. Every generation of physcial scientists so far has come up with a theory that supposedly “proves” that all human behavior is instinctual and biologically driven and all of these theories have fallen flat on their faces. Biodeterminists are rather like the creationists of the behavioral sciences: their faith drives them on, even though generations of “proof” and hypothesis have unravelled beneath their feet.

            As Kroeber pointed out almost a century ago, the biological needs of humanity are actually quite narrow and small: eat, excrete, shelter, reproduction, etc. The VAST variety of ways in which we go about meeting these needs is breath-taking and that variety – while driven by biology – cannot logically be determined by it. I’ll return to the metaphor I’ve used elsewhere: biology makes you want to eat: CULTURE is what makes you choose between grubs and pizza, both of which are perfectly adequate foods for humans.

            • Anonymous says:

              In reply to A Hook:

              “Technological evolution and geographic location is the difference between grubs and pizza.”

              I can see your point about geography and technology changing quite a bit over time and from place to place, but there’s still a role to play for culture. What people consider edible is quite variable from culture to culture, it changes over time within the same culture, and today parts of the world import their favorite foods from thousands of miles away.

              Industrialized societies today could easily mass produce grubs and snails on an industrial scale, if the demand was there. There are people in many parts of the world who find cheese on that pizza just as disgusting as I would find eating slugs. Maybe slugs will come back into fashion some day.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Saying that the fashion industry is totally controlled by straight women and gay men is an overstatement, and it sounds a bit like gay-baiting. But, I think there is something to the fact that there seems to be a relatively high proportion of people in the fashion industry who are deciding what feminine beauty is who are not actually attracted to women. They have just as much right to make those decisions as anybody else, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s not some massive conspiracy, but it’s hard to say they’re lockstep agents of hetero male patriarchy.

    To me, the fashion industry seems really brutal and inhuman to women. It presents a really extreme body ideal. But, it’s a great example of the fact that not all cruelty towards women can be traced to male desire. This is one of those areas where women are largely doing it for themselves and to themselves.

    • PassingThrough says:

      I think it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing at this point. While women/gay men may be the progenitors of the materials, are they the progenitors/enforcers of the attitude? Or are they just continuing to produce what sells? Our society hates “fat people,” and therefore there is a constant voice in everyone’s head that they have to manage their weight. The fashion industry just takes this to extremes, while the TV/movie industry seems to polarize the genders: fat men get women, fat women get skinny (and then maybe get men).

      It’s true that the fashion industry is extreme to the point of insanity, but I think it’s unfair to lay all of this at their feet. I don’t think they started the anti-fat-people campaign; they’re just capitalizing on it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Fair enough. I would agree that it’s not just one group controlling another group; it’s sort of symbiotic or chicken-and-egg. The fashion industry is about selling things, so it does have to capitalize on what consumers already desire. But, designers are also artists pushing the style envelope, and they are trend-setters to some degree, telling people what looks good. There’s a bit of push and pull. Not being attracted to the models one designs for is, I imagine, creatively liberating.

  18. System Fail says:

    Okay, let’s say there’s this thing called patriarchy that is set up to benefit me and my people (men) at the expense of women. It’s set up so that my people get what we want, so our sexual desires are the ones that dominate. Let’s say the women’s clothing and fashion industry is a tool of this patriarchy, that clothes design and fashion marketing is about making all my people’s wishes come true. Let’s say the fashion industry has been using all its tools – guilt, shame, peer pressure, body insecurity, etc. – to pressure women to look the way that I and other straight men want them to look.

    If that’s the case, I and many other men are very dissatisfied with this tool that has been used in our name. This is a seriously malfunctioning, out-of-control instrument. I don’t know who my patriarchal representative is (what Misogyny District do I live in?) but I demand to speak to him at once. If this is where my masculine dues are going, I demand a partial refund.

    I don’t see much evidence that high fashion’s idea of feminine beauty is the same as mine – they clearly aren’t getting their marching orders from me. There must be some mix-up in the instructions sent down from the Central Patriarchal Meme Committee. I don’t remember marking a form that I was attracted to women who look like clothes hangers or stick insects. I never got the questionnaire asking me what I thought about high heels – somehow I’m supposed to find them sexy, but I don’t.

    I don’t see how this new line of clothing is somehow a huge departure from the oh-so-sexy haute couture that gave us a flashing ambulance light for a hat and a doghouse for a dress. (If that ensemble hasn’t been done yet, then I call dibs – it’s my idea!) Somehow all fashion catered to men’s sexual desire before this, and this is a big act of rebellion?

    My people’s very expensive, temperamental instrument is getting blamed for a lot of things that are not my people’s fault. If it did what it was supposed to do, the women on the magazine covers and on the runways would look a lot different. I demand the manufacturer issue a recall and get back to the drawing board, because this thing ain’t working for me.

    • System Fail, I think your heart may be trying to go to the right place, but in effect what you’re saying is that you are dissatisfied with the terms of the Global Covenants Governing the Fair Use of Women. The woman-products displayed on magazine covers, etc., are not to your taste. You would prefer some others of a different type. This is not a radical sentiment. What is radical is right up there in the URL to this page: “the-man-repeller-not-about-men.”

      • System Fail says:

        You’re right, it’s not a very radical statement, and I did make a bit of a “straw person” argument. (See what I did there?) I didn’t really mean it as a radical statement, certainly not a revolutionary smash-the-system kind of statement. I also didn’t mean to suggest there’s no such thing as patriarchy, just to offer yet one more variation of the endless “Not All Men Are Like That” (NAMALT) argument.

        I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt about my heart being in the right place, but I’m afraid I can’t take any credit for noble motives. I actually don’t think anything is wrong with a man being attracted to only rail-thin model body types. I don’t think he is necessarily brainwashed or misogynistically twisted, I just happen to have different preferences. I think he faces a real challenge finding real-life women who look like the magazine covers, even if he lives in Manhattan, but that’s not my call to make for him.

        Basically, if there are photos of women in my visual field when I go shopping, or photos of women in magazines I read at the vet’s office, I would prefer that the photos are of women I am attracted to, if my preference mattered. I admit, hardly radical, hardly feminist, hardly progressive. Maybe I’m just another variant of misogynist, but at least we can agree that women’s fashion doesn’t benefit all men, not even all sexist men.

        There are lots of men like me who are just bewildered at the idea that we are somehow to blame for women starving themselves, ripping their hair out, injecting poison into their foreheads, and twisting their ankles in high heels in order to look good for us. Don’t blame me for that sick stuff. Stop doing it and you may be pleasantly surprised.

        • System Fail says:

          P.S. If you’re shaving your armpits and wearing bras, I will take responsibility for that, if you’re doing that for men. Fair is fair.

    • You mean more like Boobs on Sticks like Sports Illustrated vs. Sticks on Sticks as in Vogue?

      lol

    • PassingThrough says:

      I agree that I’m not really seeing the context that informed this piece, and appreciate your assertions that you don’t subscribe to the Current American Ideals of Sexiness ™.

      That said, plenty of men still do. And plenty of men won’t think about what’s being said in the article, and will take that website as simply hating, or perhaps *thwarting* men. And plenty of men (and women) won’t take the time to objectively realize that disliking a particular outfit is not the same as ridiculing the woman wearing it. So, while your satire is entertaining, I still think this piece has a place.

  19. SecondBeach says:

    Hey everyone:

    The point is that the blog promotes an aesthetic whose goal is not seeking the lust of the traditional male gaze. This means fashion that deviates from the norm of legs, boobs and ass. So MRA’s have nothing to be upset about, because it’s promoting a look different from the one that they perceive is built to exploit the male libido. Everyone wins.

    This article is correct is saying that the blog, which is named to be cutesy and attention grabbing, actually little to do with men.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Speaking for myself, if you want to repel my “male attention,” walk around with a screaming baby in your arms or talk loudly and obnoxiously on your cell phone. I’ll avoid eye contact and walk the other direction.

    Sorry, denim overalls won’t turn me off (easy access, easily removed, farmgirl fantasy, etc.)

  21. Wellokaythen says:

    There are some inaccurate assumptions here about how men look at women on the street. If only it were that simple to just cover up more and dress a certain way and men will not look at you. As if “the straight male gaze” was that simple. I have heard many women say that they have been harassed when they were dressed frumpily, and they were really surprised how little it mattered what they wore.

    Men who habitually look at women (and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing and I’m not saying that’s the same as harassment) will usually find something to be drawn to. In Victorian days, when proper women had floor-length skirts and long sleeves to cover themselves, the smallest hint of a bare ankle or bare wrist was highly erotic for a lot of men. It will take a lot more than bizarre clothing to squash the male imagination. I’m guessing even with full-body birkas women in Taliban Afghanistan still faced some prurient male stares on the street. Lust will win out, you might say.

    In fact, I can see this backfiring in a lot of ways. There is a part of many men’s minds (I can’t be the only one) that may think “she’s purposefully trying to keep me from seeing her as sexually attractive. That’s kind of sexy she thinks about sex that much.” Or, I might start to associate all bizarre fashion with an attempt to block my sexual curiosity. I can imagine a man being somewhat confused by all this and asking a woman who’s wearing something grotesque, “Are you wearing that ugly thing because you don’t want me to ogle you?” So, now even anti-sexy clothing draws attention to sex. Nice work.

  22. catullus says:

    I don’t get it. I’m a man and I don’t find these clothes repellent in the least. Am I missing something? Not the point that women have a right to dress for themselves, I get that. My girlfriend wears real fur in the winter and I’ve learned not to lecture her about about it.

  23. From a fashion standpoint, it seems aimed at encouraging women to follow their own aesthetic, absent the constant calculating about what’s hot or not.

    Is that not what women have been doing all this time? I do not know heterosexual men (or many homosexual men) who are at all concerned about women’s fashion aesthetic. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that scores of men sit around poo-pooing some women’s Target sweater or her audacity to wear last spring’s Prada collection. Far more often that judgment comes from other women, so this sexist notion that men are so obsessed with how women dress that women must now “follow their own aesthetic, absent the constant calculating about what’s hot or not” is just ridiculous. The very assertion that “almost every woman has had the experience of having a man talk to her chest, unwilling to tear his eyes from her breasts” suggests that it is not what women wear that attracts men’s gaze. Do you really think that if hot woman dressed baggy clothes that men would not look at her?

    The Man Repeller isn’t about hating men.

    Of course not, just like The All-American Basketball Alliance and the Former Majority Association for Equality are not at all about hating black and hispanic people. That said, it is rather curious how empowering women so frequently involves scapegoating, insulting, vilifying, and tearing down men.

    • It’s not the type of clothes that women are wearing. It’s tight-fitting clothes or clothes that show skin that this particular fashion is poo-pooing. And men only ever stare at a woman’s breasts when they’re outlined by tight-fitting clothing. I’ve never seen a man look at a woman in a baggy shirt, because no matter how big your breasts are, if you’re wearing baggy clothes, baggy clothes are going to hide the shape of your breasts, and I think most men would agree shapely breasts are more attractive than shapeless breasts.

      If a woman dressed in baggy clothes, a man would be looking at her in a DIFFERENT way than he’d be looking at her in, say, a bikini. The male gaze constitutes more than just looking. The male gaze constitutes lust, and I don’t think there are any men out there that would look at a woman in baggy clothes lustfully like they’d like at a woman in a bikini.

      • People already think that “male gaze” constitutes more than just looking, so how would women dressing in baggy clothes change that?

      • I’ve never seen a man look at a woman in a baggy shirt, because no matter how big your breasts are, if you’re wearing baggy clothes, baggy clothes are going to hide the shape of your breasts, and I think most men would agree shapely breasts are more attractive than shapeless breasts.
        Your mileage must vary from mine. You see the part of the script of being man says that we must want and lust for women all the time.

        I’ll admit I’ve had conversations with guys in the commentary about a woman in sweatpants and sweatshirt was just the same as the commentary about a woman in a halter top and tight jeans. I think its a matter of being lustful and in the event of not being able to immediately see there is fall back to imagining what’s underneath.

  24. Nice piece Hugo.

    This might have something to do with age too.

    I always loved fashion growing up. I was voted best dressed in school. At that time, I dressed for me and what I liked based in fashion trends or not. Some of my guy friends would tease me good naturedly because they didn’t get girls fashion trends. But I didn’t mind. I liked what I wore. When I got into college, I did dress more sexy. It was a more sexually charged environment with more girls around to compete with. And at that stage of life, you’re sexuality is still new and exciting. When I got out of college, I was once again more interested in dressing based on what I liked first. I don’t dress for anyone but me and what I think looks good on me or what just makes me feel good. If I’m seeing a guy that likes a particular dress. I will wear it. But it’s still something from my cloest I like.

    Hugo said:

    “It took even longer to realize that women weren’t necessarily dressing for me or for anyone else but rather for pleasure of fashion for fashion’s sake.

    Exactly! Fashion is just fun.It’s not always about competing with other women or turning men on.

  25. I adore Man Repller– it is a sad commentary on the state of things that “not intended for consumption by the male gaze” is equated with misandry. & sums up neatly a lot of the problems with some of the commenters.

    • Johnny_B says:

      If you’ve got something to say, mordicai, say it. If you’re just going to make snide remarks and oblique comments, the nearest feminist blog might be more your speed.

    • catullus says:

      The gaze isn’t as ubiquitous or relentless as the Women’s Studies Department would have you think it is, Mordicai. You’ll have to speak for yourself on your own proclivities, I’m afraid.

    • Mordicai, are you intentionally misrepresenting the commentary by saying “not intended for consumption by the male gaze” is equated with misandry. ” or are you really just too stupid to understand the conversation that is actually taking place?

  26. Clark Kent says:

    I’m amazed how Hugo constantly makes broad generalizations about how men view and interact with women.

    Anyway, let’s not make this Man Repellent blog more that what it actually is. Which is an attempt for this woman to create shock with the title of this blog, push her own fashion agenda, and to play upon the insecurities of women. In no way am I trying to downplay amount of street harassment that takes place, but seriously sometimes women do dress in a way to garner male attention. And there isn’t anything wrong with that.

    However, had this been a male blogger with the same agenda I’m QUITE CERTAIN that Hugo would take great offense to it. I’m sure he would have spun it in away that blamed this sort of agenda on “Rape Culture” and how this is an attempt to shift responsibility of managing men’s “dangerous and uncontrollable sexual appetite” on the shoulders of women.

    /end rant

  27. The Man Repeller is a hilarious site. Any woman who has to go out on the streets of the city just to get around will tell you they often dress down to avoid any extra unwanted attention (other than being female in public). Now we can do it in fashion!

  28. I’m all for it. Female friend saw this post and said to me, “I’m looking for a date right now, I don’t want to lower my chances.” That’s when I realized that this type of clothing is perfect. Now the women I need to avoid will have on giant signs “not currently looking for attention.”

    • Tom Matlack says:

      The great irony, of course, is that women trying to look repellant to men become all that much more attractive. I tell my wife all the time that I like her most when she isn’t trying to look beautiful. She just is.

      • Conventionally attractive women who are trying not to look beautiful will still be beautiful. Women who are not conventionally attractive dont need to worry. It doesnt matter how they dress. That’s why I find the Man Repeller aesthetic to be rather annoying since it’s aimed at conventionally beautiful women who find it clever to mess with social expectations — like young women dying their hair grey. Just wait a few years and they won’t need to dress to repel men. Aging will take care of it for them. LOL

  29. I don’t agree with the article. Everyone communicates with the way he/she dresses. In youth culture fashion is a key element to distinguish the different sub cultures. A emo girl will repel a guy, who’s into hip hop and vice versa. With the way they both dress they are sending a message about, the music they like, their social circle, their view of the world, etc.

    The same is happening in the example from the article. The ‘Man Repeller’-style is not repelling men. It’s repelling a sub-group or even the majority of men. But I’m sure a artsy-fartsy hipster would love to have a date with Leandra Medine.

    BTW, men do it, too. Guys, who dress like Steve Urkel, rockin’ flood-watch trousers and horn-rimmed glasses, are probably repelling for a lot of women. But nobody would call it ‘woman reppeling’ aesthetic.

    The Man Repeller blog is a variation of the hipster phenomenon, enriched with a pseudo-sophisticated philosophy about the male-gaze.

    • catullus says:

      I’m portly and over 50, so I suppose what I “communicate” with my sartorial choices is, “I might as well be comfortable.”

  30. Johnny_B says:

    “I don’t think this ridiculous clothing line has anything to do with men. And if it does, she probably (and wisely) marketed it that way to gain more notoriety and press for the release of her new line.”

    My thoughts exactly, and it looks like it’s working.

  31. So women want men to pay less attention to their looks, and they hope to accomplish this by making their looks (in this case REALLY ugly clothes) the focal point? Does this confuse anyone else?

    I think women dress up mostly for other women. I don’t think this ridiculous clothing line has anything to do with men. And if it does, she probably (and wisely) marketed it that way to gain more notoriety and press for the release of her new line. And it looks like Hugo has bought into it completely.

    Again, I’m not an MRA. But even I have to admit there’s a lot of “man blaming” going on around these parts. Now men are supposed to feel bad because some women think they have to dress in unattractive clothes? Bullshit. I don’t care how women dress.

    And Hugo, I don’t think men are confused about this. Men don’t care because this is a dumb idea that isn’t even a blip on our radar screen.

    • You missed the point.

      You are the reason for the ‘Man-Repeller’… the name is a joke.

      It’s your sentiment that “I think women dress up mostly for other women” and that these are “ugly clothes” which spurred her to make such a website.

      Example: in the mid-nineties there was a flower dress and combat boot trend which was decried by all media as very ‘unsexy’ and ‘man repelling’ … as if to say, women’s only job was to look good for men.

      Her blog name is a sarcastic joke about people who dismiss fashion that isn’t skin tight and cleavage baring Sports Illustrated or Maxim fare.

  32. Soooo….this woman invents this ‘fashion’ line to free women from conventional stereotypes and expectations of men and society regarding the expectation that we be visually pleasing and sexually arousing…..click on the link to her site and see the sorts of models she uses hahahaha….they’re ALL conventionally beautiful, conventionally thin, and look absolutely ridiculous in these crap-ass clothes that no normal woman would wear.

    Yes, I said normal. Deal with it.

    If this designer was so committed to freeing women from the oppressive gaze of men, from the obvious insidious intent that permeates every look every man everywhere has ever given any woman…then why not use normal sized and average looking women to further prove the point? Isn’t that sort of part and parcel to this fashion revolution? Aren’t average looking women worthy of her “sartorial contraceptives”?
    This chick has done more harm to women and women’s fashion than de la Renta ever dreamed of. Despite the flowery language of Hugo’s article, all this woman has done is told women that their only choice is to hide themselves….I guess if you like your women wide eyed and cowering in potato sacks then ok, right on…but honestly? For real actual live women, this is not a viable option.

    • 1. It’s not a fashion line.

      2. It’s the author, in clothes she owns.

      3. That she likes to wear, even though they are not conventionally “sexy” or tight.

      4. Reading is FUNdamental! You should try reading MORE than you comment. It’s useful!

  33. Johnny_B says:

    That sort of makes sense actually. When you look at most runway models, they don’t exactly have features that would be considered ‘conventionally attractive’ by most men. They’re tall, skinny, sort of emaciated and androgynous-looking. As for what’s considered ‘high fashion’… a lot of that stuff is Man Repeller material already. 😛

    • Men’s magazines might not sell as well if they put a “skinny” model on it’s cover but that doesn’t mean men’s magazines don’t object women for unrealistic expectations in other ways. The girls on men’s magazines aren’t exactly size 12s with imperfections. Where a model might a size Zero, a girl on a man’s magazine might be a size 2 or 4. Not that big of a different. Men’s magazines girls tend to have to be upheld to a higher standard of bigger breasts and butts with skinny little tight bodies. Models tend to be tall, lanky, small breasted and butt girl. Both standards are unrealistic and objectifying. And the fact that awome nget these duel messages about their bodies, where both standards are unrealistic, is a lot for women to struggle with.

      But thanks for bringing in the difference between models and male magazines. It’s a worthy seperation to see how women get messages about what their bodies should look like from both arenas. Men’s magazines aren’t more “kind’ to women then the model industry. It’s just a different set of standards.

      • Johnny_B says:

        The fetishization of youth and certain body types is pretty universal, actually. You might not see ‘average’ women in magazines, but neither do you see bald, beer-bellied guys. Magazines like Cosmo feature ‘hunks’ and ‘hotties’ while men’s magazines have ads and articles, all showing male models with perfect muscular bodies, six-pack abs, perfect hair and so on. But getting back to the original point, the fashion industry is indeed run by mostly women and gay men who don’t represent the ‘average’ person in standards or taste. And a good support of the argument that women dress for each other, not for men, is found in the fact that most regular guys will find a woman just as attractive in jeans and a t-shirt, not fancy big-name fashions.

        As an off-topic comment, may I just add that it’s so nice and refreshing to have a discussion on some of these issues in a place that lets everyone speak and be heard equally. I’ve seen too many feminist blogs and forums where any disagreement is angrily shouted down and bullying/censoring are the order of the day. Keep it up, TGMPM 🙂

  34. Johnny_B says:

    Weird… so this is a fashion line for women who want to be seen as unattractive by men? Wouldn’t normal clothes (i.e., nothing revealing) suffice? If not, I hear the new line of burqas in lovely spring colors just arrived. Besides, wouldn’t dressing strangely get MORE attention? I don’t care either way, but it seems to me some women are seriously overestimating their looks and their effect on men. Guess what, “girlfriend”, I don’t care how you dress. In fact, I probably won’t give you a second look, and neither will most normal guys, except maybe to point out those ridiculous pants.

    • Wow, missed the whole point of the article. Did you even read it or just look at the title and rush to make an inane comment?

  35. Tom Matlack says:

    You did it again Hugo. Thanks for bringing sanity to something that appears insane, but really isn’t.

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