We are each walking billboards for the fashion of our choosing, influenced by societal standards and norms and sometimes in opposition to them. They may have us raising our eyebrows or applauding wildly. It begins even before birth with the standard (said in a snarky, sarcastic voice here) “pink is for girls, blue is for boys.” Where did that come from anyway? When I buy baby clothes for gifts, I often get gender-neutral colors of green, white, yellow or purple, unless they have an empowering message on them, as I did last week for my grandchild who is due in January. I couldn’t resist choosing something in the ‘traditional’ color (gender not revealed to the world at this writing) for the little being who will enter the world, to the delight of our family and will look adorable in the outfits. My daughter-in-law’s parents already picked out a tie-dye onesie for their first grandchild. They, like me, are gracefully aging hippies.
This leads us to the conversation around the ‘man bun’ which came into prominence here in the past few decades or so, although it has been around for eons. Long hair, pulled into a top knot, with a kinda messy, bed head look to it. Hipsters to hippies wear them proudly. Jared Leto, Orlando Bloom, and David Beckham rocked the style, others questionably so, as evidenced by the ridicule hurled at the daring ‘do.
Whether or not you choose to carry that fashion statement or consider it a faux pas, I wonder why it is called a ‘man bun,’ as it would not be called a ‘woman bun’ if I wore my hair that way. I did, back in my 20s when my neck and shoulders needed a break from waist-length tresses. No one looked at me askance. Why should they cast a sideways glance at the male of the species whose tousled tresses gather atop his head?
Remember how Billy Porter stepped out onto the Red Carpet at the 2019 Oscars decked out in a gorgeous tux-gown designed by Christian Siriano. Trim at the top flared at the bottom, he made a statement that men can create fashion trends that fly in the face of gender norms. I applauded wildly when I saw it. Remember that men in other cultures rock skirts, kilts, and caftans and eyebrows are not raised.
A recent ad for the outdoor clothing company of Lands End made waves when it featured a team of girls who were pulling on one end of a rope, with boys on the other end, playing tug of war. All good-natured fun on the surface, but at closer examination, the viewer will take note that the colors for the girls were vibrant pinks, teals, and purples while for the boys they were darker green, blue and red, with blue camo thrown in for good measure. We are already setting kids up to believe that they are limited in choice and if they step out of line, they will face criticism or bullying. Girls have more latitude than boys in terms of clothing choices. I was able to wear fancy, frilly outfits with black patent leather shoes (remember, it was the 1960s) and jeans and sneakers, and no one gave it a second thought. One exception was that in elementary school the rule was that girls couldn’t wear pants to class, only skirts. The outspoken mother of one of my friends insisted that on cold days, her daughter had to wear pants. The accommodation that the district made was that we could wear pants under skirts, but had to take them off once we got to class. Soon after, even that changed and we were free to dress comfortably without that limitation.
A further linguistic inquiry comes into play with pondering why men in the nursing field are called ‘male nurses,’ and not simply ‘nurses’. Why are women in leadership roles in companies called ‘ lady boss,’ and not just ‘boss’?
Some fear that by gender-neutralizing fashion and language, we will lose our uniqueness. I argue that we will choose the best of all possible worlds, in which we are (in the words of Marlo Thomas) Free To Be You and Me in all our color and creativity.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
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