Zorba's Rant on Gender Roles
We claim to celebrate diversity, but when faced with diversity we complain. We try to teach our children to think "out of the box", but when faced with someone who actually does, we criticize. We should be glad that we live in a country that allows "Freedom of Expression".
Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
You'll be absolutely free only if you want to be.
-Frank Zappa, 1968
You have two choices in life:
You can dissolve into the mainstream, or you can be distinct.
To be distinct, you must be different.
To be different, you must strive to be what no one else but you can be.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
Genius can be recreated - Stupidity is irreplaceable -Anon
Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of crackpot than the stigma of conformity. On issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
-Thomas Watson, Founder of IBM. Ironically, one of the most conformist organizations in the world.
This is a favorite topic of mine, and as it has a direct bearing on males Belly Dancing, I have included it here. Most of it is, I hope, well thought out and well presented; however near the end I do rant and rave a little - if a fellow can't rant on his own website, where can he?
A good deal of this page relates to appearance - this is what other people see, and unfortunately, what we are often judged on.
In the 60s, women began to assert their rights to dress how they pleased, to wear pants like men, etc. Today, in the 21st century, this right isn't even thought about by most people, although there are the occasional throwbacks who think women should only wear skirts. I recollect in the early 70's, my local elementary school board passed a "no pants for girls" rule, that lasted exactly 3 weeks until the next board meeting - I don't have to tell you what happened there! And rightfully so.
So fine, women have the right to define their own femininity. And I'm all for it. Women can pretty much wear what they want, anywhere they want.
What about the men? Men are still rigidly constrained to a pre-defined masculinity, with little room for variance. Drab suit, equally drab shirt, maybe a colorful necktie - or - "workman's clothes": jeans and a T-shirt. Or maybe jeans with a polo or button down shirt in a colorful style (but never in a "formal" environment). That's about it.
God/dess help the man who dares to wear something a little flamboyant, especially to a "formal" function. God/dess help the man who dares to refuse to wear the bane of western civilization, the necktie! God/dess help the man who dares to wear a skirt, or earrings, or even long hair. You thought the long hair battle was over in the 60s? Think again! And most definitely God/dess help the man who wants to dance and be graceful!
Why are men so rigidly constrained? Who's doing the constraining? It may come as a surprise, but unlike the women's battle of the 60s, this isn't a "war of the sexes" issue. Indeed, the "enemy" is the exact same one that the women had issue with - that "enemy" is US!! Yes, we've met the enemy and it is us men!
My Own Style
So, to illustrate this point, I will start with myself - I am a 40-something year old, happily married heterosexual male.
First, and most important, I reserve the right to define myself, my own masculinity. While I do incorporate many fashion/appearance cues the cultural absolutists would decry as feminine (as if "feminine" is something bad, or to be ashamed of!); those who know world history and world culture will know better. I do not at all seek to look like a woman, nor to be one; as I am not, yet at the same time I do seek to be beautiful and graceful. In a masculine way. To deny any human being, male or female, the right to define their own being is one of the worst breaches of morality possible.
I am a dancer. I am a Greek folk dancer and a Belly Dancer. It is incredible how downright uncomfortable men get when it comes to dance - of any kind. I have talked to men who have been all over the world, done impossible jobs under impossible conditions - real testosterone-filled men whom I really respect. Yet, mention dance to them, or worse, suggest that they might like to try a simple dance or two - a look of stark terror is the result!
Males in general - and American redneck pseudo-culture in particular have real problems with graceful movements. So I'm supposed to deny myself the joy of the dance? I think not!!!. Male dancers of any type are generally considered, by other men, to be wimps, sissies, gay, or otherwise less than a "real man". Oh, and tell "the guys" that you're a (male) Belly Dancer! Whooo-boy! The reactions I've gotten! Is this logical? Is this morally right?
I wear my hair long as have many men, maybe even the majority of men, throughout history. Fortunately, I work for an employer who encourages diversity, so it is no problem. However, for many men, it is very much a problem. Women generally have no problem wearing their hair long, but many men cannot. Is this logical? Is this morally right?
I wear earrings, one in each ear, just like 99% of the women. This too has both historical, and cultural precedence for men. I like earrings, I have 95 pairs in my ever-growing collection. Earrings on men, especially the more traditional one-ear look, are seemingly more acceptable than long hair. But not totally. The employment issue with earrings isn't as "big a deal" as earrings can be removed for work (unlike hair) - but again, women generally have no problem wearing earrings anywhere, yet men often do. Is this logical? Is this morally right?
A strictly male issue is facial hair. Our creator, in whatever form you choose, made men with facial hair. Why is this "God/dess-given right" denied to us in so many places? Is this logical? Is this morally right?
I wear "skirts", Utilikilts mostly, but a kilt is nothing more than a certain type of skirt. Throughout history, the vast majority of men have worn skirt-like garments and continue to do so in may parts of the world today. Needless to say, I raise a lot of eyebrows, mostly from men - women love it for the most part. I project a masculine image at all times, but it is my masculinity, not someone else's.
If I'm going "out to dinner", I'll wear either black (heaven forbid I wear colors!) slacks, or one of my skirts, a "Greek shirt", a cotton shirt with large lace-trimmed sleeves, a pair of earrings (possibly studs, probably dangles) with a matching necklace. My hair is neat and clean, usually done in a "half ponytail" style. The outfit is good looking, and just as important, comfortable to be in. I'm a big believer in masculine beauty, and this is the image I want to project! I like to feel beautiful, yet masculine (And be comfortable doing it!).
My wife and myself onboard the "Titanic".
Doesn't this look better than a suit and tie?
Sure is more comfortable too!
The women almost all love it - I've had some almost drool. The men? A few admire my daring (even though they themselves wouldn't be caught dead...), most are either threatened in someway, or are jealous of my freedom. Jealous of the freedom they are too scared and insecure to take for themselves!
I don't like looking like a slob. I don't like wearing jeans and a T-shirt except when I'm working - that's what jeans and a T-shirt are made for! Not for going out to dinner, or shopping, or whatever. I also find jeans to be frightfully uncomfortable.
Everyone's seen the stereotypical, slovenly looking long haired male. Yea, his hair is long, but ratty looking. If he has a beard, it is scraggly and unkempt; if not he looks like he needs a shave. He's probably dirty, dressed in ratty jeans, a disreputable shirt, and a pair of sandals. I avoid at all costs looking like this stereotype - I'm always clean and neat when appearing in public. Yes, it takes effort, something males generally don't expend on themselves. It takes me longer to get ready to "go out" than it does my short haired wife!
Another male issue, one that fortunately has received at least some attention in recent decades, is male emotions, particularly crying. I think I don't need to say much more on this issue, others have said it for me. To expect anyone to bottle their emotions needlessly is neither logical, nor morally right.
I'm going to keep my remarks about religious objections to men's appearance to a bare minimum as I: A) Really don't want to offend anyone - only make them think; and B) Could really go off on a tangental rant - not my desire here!
To keep it succinct, I don't like absolutism (as you can probably tell) in anything. People need to look at the world through a clearer glass than the situation they find local to them, or in their particular time period. People also need to have a "live and let live" attitude. And lastly, people need to ask themselves if they're really worshiping their God(s); or are they, as SO many do today, really worshiping a BOOK?
It seems to me that monotheists are generally the most rigid (possibly because most brands of monotheism are strongly BOOK based), but that would be the subject of yet another tangental rant...
Suit and tie
What I won't wear under any circumstances is a suit-and-tie. Dreadfully uncomfortable and looks silly too.
Before proceeding farther, a couple of generalizations - in general, men prefer a cooler environment, women a warmer one. Not every man/woman, but most. In fact, I'm one of the exceptions, I prefer a warmer environment myself, low to mid 80's is just fine, and nothing south of 72, please!
So picture this - some kind of formal affair, the women, who like things warmer, are wearing off the shoulder gowns of one sort or another, while the men, who like things cooler, are wearing their shirts buttoned all the way up to the neck, a constricting necktie of one sort or another added to that, and then - to top it all off: A wool jacket (God/dess forbid it be anything but wool!)! The room temperature is probably cranked up so the women won't freeze, so the men slowly bake. What's wrong with this picture? Is this at all logical? Is this morally right?
There have been studies done indicating that the corporate world could save a bundle if men's clothing "got real" - allowing reduced air-conditioning bills. So now we're wasting resources to support this idiotic male dress code. Is this logical? Is this morally right?
UPDATE: This article came to my attention. It states that neckties can cause and/or exacerbate glaucoma. This new finding, coupled with previous knowledge that ties can cause stroke and heart attacks, is chilling. So its even worse now, wearing a necktie can kill you. Anyone forcing any human being to wear one of these diabolic devices is guilty of a basic human rights violation. Is this logical? Is this moral?
ANOTHER UPDATE: This guy is saying pretty much the same thing I am...
I love diversity. I love ethnic clothing. Why has a fashion suitable for England and other cold, damp climates taken over the world? Why has a long-dead French king's fascination with the Bosnian Cravat been inflicted on everyone? Worldwide, beautiful ethnic clothing, suitable for local conditions, is being forsaken in a mindless rush to be "like the Americans". Many Japanese men cannot wait to get home to lose their suit-and-tie in order to put on a Kimono - a beautiful and comfortable garment. The Greeks have stopped wearing the foustanella (male skirt), far more comfortable and far better looking than the suit they've adopted (in the Greek heat). Not to mention a good number of the Arabs - fortunately some of them have the sense to hold out with their traditional dress, far more suited to their climate. I never see an Israeli on TV in anything but a suit - in 120 degree heat! Is this logical? Is this expectation morally right?
In fact, I'm starting to equate the whole suit-and-tie "thing", most especially the necktie as being the male equivalent of a Burqa. Like the Burqa, the necktie is a senseless, oppressive, hot, uncomfortable, much loathed, personality supressing, and sometimes dangerous garment that is "required" culturally and even religiously. You don't see many western religious figures without one, do you? Catholic priests and some others don't wear them, but they do have tight collars, which are just as bad.
Granted, men haven't been beaten, maimed, disfigured, or killed over their refusal to wear the 'male Burqa'. Or have they? Very often, if a man refuses to wear a male Burqa, he can lose his job, or his court case, or whatever. This can be a figurative 'beating' if he can't earn a living (And don't tell me he can merely change jobs, this often isn't an option - especially in today's economy). Under the wrong circumstances, he might even end up dead - a court case might go against him because of his appearance. Far fetched? Yes. Impossible? No. Certainly, the necktie is as stupid and ultimately as immoral as the Burqa.
Men should refuse the 'male Burqa' just like women refuse the real thing. All things considered, I'd personally rather wear a real Burqa than a necktie!
So-called "Male Stuff"
Then there are the "male" things that I don't do - a male can be ostracized for not being addicted to sports, not drinking beer, etc.
I've never really been a sports fan - sports are for people who can't dance! I'll watch, and enjoy the occasional football game, but if there's a dance going somewhere, or I feel like working on the car, or whatever, I'd sooner do that. Baseball, Basketball, Hockey? A total waste of time - I'd rather play Chess.
I don't drink alcohol. Period. I just don't see the purpose of pointless ingestion of poisons. This too can get you ostracized, regardless of gender. Fortunately, with the emphasis on "designated drivers", this isn't the problem it used to be.
While I'm ranting, why is it virtually all men (and a few women) when first meeting a person, want to know what their occupation is? I love my job. But my job doesn't define me. I'm not an electronics technician, I'm a dancer, a father, a husband, my wife's lover and many other things before I'm my job.
Tell me about your passions, tell me about your home, your pets, your family, where you've been. Only then tell me about your job.
If you search the internet, you will find all kinds of fascinating articles on these, and similar issues. Men didn't wear stupid, drab, uncomfortable clothing, even in northern climes, until 200 or 300 years ago. Men generally had long hair - the mark of a warrior. Earrings, in one or both ears have been "in" and "out" at various times - Shakespeare wore a pair! Skirted garments on males were the rule, not the exception. Men knew how to dance - and danced frequently as they enjoyed it! Men could show affection to other men.
So What Happened?
Some say it was the American revolution (led by long haired men), others say the industrial revolution. Certainly, in the U.S. the inherent Puritanism; which had it's echoes in the 1880s Victorian age and yet again in the 1950s (and are we heading for yet another repeat now?); has had an influence. And unfortunately, the rest of the planet has, lemming like, followed suit (no pun intended).
Not all these changes were bad ones - I detest formality for formality's sake, and we've lost a good deal of formality over the last several centuries, especially the latter half of the 20th, and good riddance. Formality is about barriers between human beings, something I loathe.
Enough Of This Silliness!
Ok, here is where the rant comes in (I warned you!):
I say it is time to put this silliness and immorality to an end! We men are entitled to wear/do what we will, and not be told that it is wrong, mostly by OTHER MEN!
Yes, I've used the word "immoral" frequently, as far as I'm concerned this issue boils down to morality. With all the carping about morality we're hearing these days, it's high time that people realize that it is immoral to expect people to be uncomfortable or apply different standards according to gender.
DECRY THE TIE! Burn the necktie and the oppression it represents!
Whew, that really felt good to get off my chest!
Seriously folks, the next time you feel that a male is dressed "inappropriately", think again. Is he neat and clean? That's what counts. If you have problems with alternative dress, perhaps the problem is inside yourself.
Think about it, that's all I ask.
P.S. And no, I do not own, nor intend to ever again own, a single necktie!