Oh No! A Boy in a Dress!

Why do people get so shocked when parents allow their boys to wear dresses or do girly things and their girls to have short hair and do boyish things?  Granted "girly" and "boyish" are debatable terms in themselves but you know what I mean.
Why would people act that way I don't understand!

Answers

  • I think it's considered inherently shameful and embarrassing to be feminine in any way, really. Whether it's because someone is blatant about their prejudice against women, or someone has internalized misogyny because they've been basically trained to believe femininity is lesser. 
    I even think a girl being boyish is more accepted (hence the innocent term "tomboy"), whereas a boy being girlish is just downright frowned upon entirely (hence the fact that there is not innocent term for a boy who dresses/acts feminine). 
    So basically the reason is misogyny. 
  • cazortcazort Jenkintown, PAPosts: 194 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2014
    I've often thought about this.  I remember, as a boy, wanting to have the flexibility and choice to wear skirts and dresses, as well as whatever colors and patterns (flowers, polka dots come to mind as being more taboo for guys) I wanted.  I also remember being puzzled not only at how women were allowed to cross many traditionally male boundaries (wearing pants, having short hair, even a girl played on my mostly-male soccer team) but when boys or men crossed these boundaries it was more frowned upon.  I also was frustrated when, when I brought these concerns up around my parents or other adults, they were ignored or dismissed.  I saw it as a sign of a double standard, of something being wrong.

    I am not 100% sure how much of the feminist explanations I agree with.  Some of the things @penicilliumpusher points out, sound plausible to me  Like, in much of Western society, historically, "femininity" has a connotation of weakness or inferiority in many contexts.

    I'm not convinced though that it can all be attributed directly to misogyny.  Like...it seems a little unintuitive to take an aspect of life in which women are given more choice than men, and men face much stronger negative stigmas than women when they cross gender boundaries...and then to say "This is caused by misogyny."  I'm not sure it's this simple.  Maybe it's historical accident shaped or guided by misogyny or patriarchy?

    For example, because our society had all these overt ways in which women were discriminated against, and the forms of discrimination were much more extreme (not being able to vote, not having legal rights, not being allowed into certain professions, having the culture of sexuality built around men, not being taken seriously), it makes sense that our society would first develop an organized movement (Feminism) to address women's issues, and that this movement would focus most of its energy on oppression of women.  So...because many of the forms of discrimination against men are more subtle, it could just be that common sense led to women's issues being addressed first because they were more important.  (I.e. what does it matter what you can and can't wear without social stigma, if you can't vote or if you lack basic legal rights?)

    I also was thinking...if you go back in history, it was seen as just as scandalous and controversial, when women started wearing men's clothing.  Wikipedia has an article on the history of cross-dressing: here it said one factor used as justification for the execution of Joan of Arc was her wearing of male clothing.  This seems to suggest that if anything, the negativity and stigma on cross-dressing may have been worse for women than for men.

    So maybe in both of these explantion misogyny is the "reason" on some deeper or ultimate level...but I think the reason is more specific.  It's not exactly that misogyny directly caused the norms in the first place...it's that Western society had very strict gender norms across the board, and because the society was so awful to women in particular (misogyny or patriarchy), women were the first to organize and protest against the norms, and break them down...so the gender norms on clothing got broken down first for women.  If this makes sense?
    by cazort
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  • TeajTeaj The Kingdom of CanadaPosts: 19,071 ✭✭✭✭
    Hence the fact that there is not innocent term for a boy who dresses/acts feminine
    Sure there is! It's a person. Who likes things. I think the term tomboy is stupid. Why do girls that like robots need a label? Why does this label that says 'this girl likes action movies' have to exclude her from liking romances? Why can't we just drop the labels?

    Remembering the fact that a kilt is not a skirt, why do so many guys, when wearing skirts and liking it, refer to something that is not a kilt a kilt?

    People need to stop with the labels, not add more. Labels, titles, they're restrictive. I could tell people "I am a tomboy, but I like chick flicks and My little Pony. I am also a Nerd, and a Geek. And CLEARLY there's a difference that matters, and I'm also this that and the other thing" or I can be like "yeah I like these things, and these things." And with the first they would make a whole bunch of preconceived assumptions about me. Sure, maybe they'll stick labels on me with the second, but at oeast it will be harder.

    People resist guys wearing skirts because it's 'not normal' I say to heck with that! Pink used to be a masculine colour, now it's a feminine one. Why can't it just be a colour?
  • NeiroAtOpelCcNeiroAtOpelCc Denmark (Als)Posts: 4,970 ✭✭✭

    @Teaj I get what you mean, but I see a need for labels, so long as people remember to look past them.

    I don't think the human brain has the capacity to put each of the many thousand people they meet into individual boxes, so it's very handy to have labels in order to do preliminary sorting, and then creating individual boxes for those you want to interact with on a more regular basis.

    I work at collages in the region, and if I'd have to have a box for every individual, it just wouldn't be possible. So to do some intial sorting using labels isn't a problem from my point of view.

    The problem is being introduced when you use labels while you have more accurate information available. Once you find out that this 'mechanic' person isn't actually interested in cars, but in tractors or scooters or whatever, you can put that person in a specially tailored box, but until then it's handy to assume mechanics are interested in cars. It's generalization, and I strongly believe it is nessecary.

    Note: I'm not saying it's right to judge someone on the label or belittle them for not conforming to your idea of what the label is. I believe everyone has a right to be who they want to be instead of who they're supposed to be. In the real world that just isn't universally possible sadly. I'd immidiately get called in for a chat with my superiors boss if my blue and purple hair from this summer was still on my head when I came back to work. It's not fair, but my ideals aren't universally appreaciated, and I think that is the same problem with gender expectations and other generalizations.


  • Haley.Is_The.QueenHaley.Is_The.Queen Western NYPosts: 1
    Unfortunately our world is dominated by gender stereotypes. It's sad and truthfully hindering to us as a species. We all have to work on getting past them and changing the way we raise the next generation.  
    Be kind to one another. 
  • MsSonyfanMsSonyfan IndiaPosts: 540 ✭✭
    edited April 2015
    I see so many of my female friends making fun of boys when they do something 'girly' or look 'girly', even in the slightest way. The thing that is most irritating is that they themselves are girls ! Secondly they think they have the right to tell others what to do and if you don't fit in their small boxes, you're gonna be taunted. God, I don't even understand what goes on inside their brains.
    That is, of course, if they have brains.
    by MsSonyfan
  • NeiroAtOpelCcNeiroAtOpelCc Denmark (Als)Posts: 4,970 ✭✭✭
    I'm guessing most either don't know better, or don't dare do better in case they'd become the targets

  • MsSonyfanMsSonyfan IndiaPosts: 540 ✭✭
    Yeah... The girl who does it the most aggressively and frequently, I'm not on talking terms with her. (Not because of this issue, though) I'll try telling the others in a light way, like, "So what if he did that ? Why does it bother you ?"
  • ThoughtVlogs13ThoughtVlogs13 Minnesota Posts: 9
    When your a boy and you know you just have so much less in fashion because of social taboos lol. Really all it would take for it to be okay for a male to wear girlish clothing would be for every male to just wear skirts and dresses. On a sidenote, we should really bring back the toga. Also, by bring back the toga, I mean like actual togas, not bedsheets.
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