Pants and Gender

I was going to start this entry by apologising to you, my (hypothetical?) reader(s) for disappearing. But I changed my mind. Instead I’m going to restate that my primary reason for doing this is for me. I hope this helps someone or gives someone something to think about, and I think I may have done that already, which makes this wonderful. I think part of accepting my body is accepting that I can do things for me and not feel guilty about it. I know this next sentence is going to take some of that power away. But, I do hope you don’t mind the lack of apology.

Today, I went pants shopping. It was more clothes shopping in general, but I have a lot of shirts I like, more skirts than I wear (since I generally don’t) and just don’t wear dresses. I am getting older, as people do, and I somehow got it into my head that in order to step toward being a proper adult, I have to start dressing like one. To an extent, this is true. At least if I plan on interviewing in person for white collar jobs and then actually working said job. Dressing like an adult, to me at least, means dressing in something socially acceptable. Something that at the very least doesn’t “highlight” the flaws society says my body has and something that conforms to my gender identity. It also seems to require muting one’s personality. At least, that’s how I see it. Perhaps if my personality were something that conformed more to standards of “acceptable” I wouldn’t think this, but they don’t and that’s okay. If they did, that’s okay too, though I hope that goes without saying.

My current wardrobe can conform. But I don’t wear those pieces together very often. However, I still have some time while my real occupation is student and so I can exist outside of the dress code What Not to Wear tells me about. Now, I’m not saying anything against WNtW; they’re certainly on to something. When I watch I generally do think the “after” looks better than the “before”. But as I’m reading more from the areas of the internet where FA and feminism hangs out, I’m starting to think that seeing these (generally) women the way I see them is problematic. I haven’t been able to look past the “Wow, she looks so much better!” but I see the uniformity all too clearly. Today I was watching the Style network (I think? Cable has too many channels) and it has a similar show. I don’t remember the title, but one of the hosts was reading a letter from the makeover candidate’s daughter that said something like “Mom, if you wear more dresses, I will want to too” as if this were heart breaking and a reason to change the makeover candidate’s wardrobe. I found this hugely problematic.

I won’t lie. This is partially because I have a good relationship with the “wrong” clothes and a pretty bad relationship with the “right” ones. Wrong being clothes intended for men, right being clothes intended for women. Clothes marketed to women don’t fit my body. I am biologically female and I identify as such. However, up until this (fairly) recent trend of longer shirts, shirts to fit women would turn into crop tops on me because they didn’t account for breasts my size. If they made a larger size it was often too boxy and still unflattering (in the traditional sense). Pants designed for women often seem to shout LOOK AT MY THIGHS, and more often than not manage to give me a muffin top even if they’re falling off my body. I (understandably, I hope) hate this. I mentioned my clothes a bit in Two Setbacks, a previous post on here. The pants I talked about being a setback were designed for women (but I didn’t hate them), the shorts I loved are designed for men. When I was 14 or 15 I finally asked my mother if I could try some men’s cargo shorts. I consider that one of the best sartorial decisions I ever made. I haven’t gone back to shorts designed for women. I think I may own a pair and I think they may fit, but I can’t remember wearing then. Pants have been more problematic. As I’ve mentioned in Two Setbacks, pants have to fit more of the body and therefore more can go wrong, so it is harder to find men’s pants that look good on me than it is to find shorts. Men’s and women’s pants are often more similar than men’s and women’s shorts are. And if the only difference is that women’s pants are cut for my body and men’s pants aren’t, then it would make sense for me to gravitate toward women’s pants (even if another difference is that pockets are just more useful on men’s pants).

So, today I went shopping for pants with a healthy FA influenced attitude. I think I did a pretty good job at “ignoring” the numbers. I chose the size I think I would fit best in and my second guess to try on, rather than the size I wanted/hoped I was. I tried on the larger size first. The trauma I saved was noticeable. It’s much easier to go down a size than go up one. Not because of the numbers, per se, but because I didn’t have to see my body in something that squished it into something it wasn’t supposed to look like. Also, pants that are too small are uncomfortable. Pants that are too big are not. I think this new approach saved me. I tried on a lot of pants. Even the ones that were falling off made me hate what I was seeing. I almost pouted my way to jewellery and shoes several times. But I was able to see that it wasn’t my body. It really was the pants. My body wearing shorts “I look good!”; My body wearing pants “I want to cry!”. But I saw that yes, my body is in both those statements so it could not be the cause of the wanting to cry. Thanks FA!

I finally gave up and walked over to the guys’ section. As I was doing so I felt a lot of relief. I also saw a hipster boy in skinny jeans walking over to the juniors’ (teen girls’) section to look at pants. Take that society! The first pair of jeans I picked out and tried on fit better and looked better than any of the pants I had tried on yet that day and quite a few of the pants I own. I also bought a really cute t-shirt from the same section because that’s how I roll.

I feel like there should be a lesson here. But there isn’t. This is just my experience. I am lucky that I’m both willing, wanting and able to shop outside of what’s expected of me because shopping sucks.

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August 15, 2010. Tags: , , , . Current.

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