by Allison Yaffe, Intern
|Allison in NYC.|
The concept of what constitutes 'real' masculinity is so prevalent today, it permeates every fiber of our social experience. We regard physical size, strength, independence, subordination of women, and liking the color blue, among other things, as proscribed necessities. That's not to say this ubiquity isn't true for femininity as well, especially since they exist in tandem with one another--substantiating meaning through their oppositions, according to the male/female gender binary in which they're situated.
Before I attended Masculinity Distinguished, I felt that I already had a great understanding of masculinity--being the well-read women's studies major that I am. What this course provided me was the possibility of a world where each of us could express oursevles authentically to our hearts content. Unfortunately, the reality in which we find ourselves is all people, especially those wishing to express themselves as masculine, must constantly worry about how they will be perceived, sometimes with life or death consequences.
After completing the course, I began to really notice the amount of times people assume I'm a lesbian because I have really short hair and sometimes wear "boyish" clothing, so I'm told. Why should men get to hold all the bow-tie rights? Why does having short hair mean that I'm either a boy or a lesbian? And what really really frustrates me is everyone's immediate need to have me label my sexual orientation. It's like, hello, we're meeting for the first time, so before we have a conversation and get to know one another, I am commanded to identify the direction of my attraction?! I just don't understand how that's even remotely relevant.
This past weekend I went on a hash run–which is pretty much like a pub crawl, but for runners. This specific one was the "red dress hash", where everyone runs in a red dress, women and men alike. About 130 of us, all decked out in our red skirts, ran through the streets of South Beach on Saturday night. People around us stopped dead in their tracks, yelling things like, "You disgusting cross dressers," "Look at all these tranny freaks," and spewing other obscenities that I won't reiterate. When we arrived at the pubs and got a chance to chat with people, they would ask if we were part of "some gay organization" before they inquired about why a hundred people were running in red dresses. Some of the people from the hash run spoke about how their friends wouldn't come out of fear for running into anyone they knew while in a dress.
|Red dress hash run, February 2012.|
The next day, I told my mother about my evening's adventures. She was dumfounded that "men, actual men, wore red dresses in public," immediately followed by, "Well, were they gay?" None of this was expressed in a negative or judgmental way, my mom was simply going along our cultural notions that she never sees men wearing dresses, and that men in dresses must be feminine and therefore gay.
We are still a long way from seeing liberated men in dresses, however. This month in Atlanta, a group of males targeted a 20-year old shouting, "No faggots in Jack City," followed by brutal physical attacks. The YouTube video went viral, which set off a local community movement calling for hate crimes protection in Georgia. I really wish the attackers could come and experience the Masculinity Distinguished course, so they themselves can be more freed up around masculinity, no longer feeling the need to target other defenseless males in order to prove their illusory 'manliness'.