Category Archives: fashion

No Excuse

I read a blog post which told a story about a non-American man’s friends telling him which clothing suggests homosexuality in America. He quit wearing the clothing in question because he didn’t want to be mistaken for gay. His now-wife wrote the blog post and expressed anger over her husband being made to feel embarrassed about his clothing preferences and went on a very long rant about how people should be free to dress however they wish and love whomever they desire.

I get defending my husband. I get not judging people based on what they wear. Once upon a time, having tattoos was indicative of a criminal lifestyle; in America, that’s no longer the case (though in Japan, it’s still true). However, there’s a reason why certain types of clothing are associated with straight men, some with gay men, and some with women in the same way that wearing a ring on your left ring finger is associated with being married. If a majority of gay men wear a certain type of clothing, that type of clothing becomes associated with gay men, and people may, for very good reason, assume a men wearing that clothing is gay. If a man doesn’t want to be mistaken for gay, he shouldn’t wear that clothing. If he insists on wearing clothing commonly associated with gay men, he shouldn’t get angry at people for assuming he’s gay. In the same way, a woman who insists on wearing a promise ring on her left ring finger (which I used to do) shouldn’t get angry at men for assuming she’s married and not approaching her. In either case, romantic relationships may be inhibited and such people have only themselves to blame (myself included, as in the case of the promise ring). Similarly, I’ve known women who, for various reasons, were unable to wear their wedding rings and so wore them around their necks, but as a result, people often assumed they were unmarried. Any of the above individuals (including myself) have no excuse for being angry at people who draw the wrong conclusion. Furthermore, if I were to move to a foreign culture and wore clothing that suggested something I don’t want people to assume about me (such as my being a slut, a single woman, a drug addict, or a lesbian), I would appreciate my friends warning me about how others would view my clothing preferences, even if I was briefly embarrassed by the news.

A similar issue is people who choose not to cut their boys’ hair. I get being mad at people for trying to control your parenting, regardless of what your choices are, including anger at people for telling you how to cut your son’s hair or how to dress your child. Having a girl and hating the color pink, I feel for you. But there are also certain cases where you have no excuse for your anger. For example, in a day when girls often dress like boys, sometimes the only way to tell gender is the hair. You certainly have license to be mad at nosy people for telling you how you should or should not do your son’s hair, but you have no excuse for getting mad at people who mistake your longhaired son for a girl. It’s a legitimate assumption in a society where boys traditionally have short hair, girls traditionally have longer hair, little girls or little boys who vary from that norm are in the minority, and it’s rude to refer to someone as an “it” when you can’t tell the gender (therefore, you have to make a guess and God help you if you guess incorrectly).

The same is true of flat-chested girls who cut their hair short, don’t wear makeup, and dress gender-neutrally. I feel for you. I was a flat-chested girl who didn’t wear makeup and wore jeans and shapeless t-shirts as a teen. And you can’t control being flat-chested. But if, being flat-chested, you choose to cut your hair short and dress gender-neutrally, you have no excuse for your anger at people who mistake you for a guy. I feel worse for guys with slender frames because people may assume he’s a neutrally-dressed, short-haired, flat-chested girl, and there’s nothing he can do about it. On the other hand, if a slender-framed guy grows his hair long, regardless of how he dresses, he has no excuse for anger at people who assume he’s a flat-chested girl.

Cultural differences may make it difficult to know what’s considered feminine or masculine or homosexual. In Japan, pink clothing and skinny jeans may be worn by men or women, but both are generally feminine or “gay” in America. A man wearing either in America has little or no excuse for anger at people who mistake him for gay. If I were to move to a foreign culture and I had a habit of wearing something typically associated with lesbians, and I had no desire to be mistaken for a lesbian, I would be embarrassed but grateful to my friends for telling me the truth.

At any rate, my point is that if you don’t mind yourself or your child being mistaken for the wrong gender or for the wrong sexual orientation, go ahead and break the cultural norms. However, if you do break the cultural norms and people assume the wrong gender or the wrong sexual orientation, you have no excuse to be mad at them for doing so.