Men Wearing Dresses to Feel Whole



All I want to do is to be able to be myself every day.

That’s from “Vivienne,” a man who cross-dresses in part to get in touch with his feminine side and feel whole.

Wearing a dress helps in the same way that actors use costume to get into a part.

But it’s unsatisfactory, he says. 

Maybe because the costume isn’t real enough. Or because there’s a trade-off: First one side expresses itself and then the other. And the timing can be off.

Sometimes I feel quite manly, and sometimes quite womanly, yet I am “expected” to be the same person all the time. Opportunities for cross-dressing are quite few, and they don’t always coincide with the times when I feel most womanly. Then when an opportunity does arise, I think: Well, better not waste this chance; who knows when the next one will be? So sometimes it feels a bit forced.

And surely the stigma diminishes satisfaction.

But cross-dressing isn’t the only route to making men whole, as famed artist and self-proclaimed “tranny,” Grayson Perry notes:

I’m not saying that men should wear dresses, it’s just that symbolically (we’re) saying: there’s something up with being a man… I always think it’s a crude way of dealing with something that I think could be dealt with more graciously or almost gracefully in my everyday life.

There are other ways to unify our masculine and feminine sides. But straight men might not find them easily accessible. (And most cross-dressers are straight men!)

Women routinely express their so-called masculine side, whether they are being rational, assertive, athletic, leaders or breadwinners, etc. But since masculinity is more valued than femininity, guys can feel demeaned when they are emotional, vulnerable, needy, nurturing, or flamboyant…

Or, gays may feel supported in expressing their “feminine side.” But straight men? Not so much.

Grayson Perry dressed as a little girl

Grayson Perry dressed as a little girl

Perry mentions a dying breed of straight British dandies who dress with style and flair. At least one said the style released him from the coarseness of masculine life:

I want life to be as Cashmere soft and as velvety smooth as I can… I thought there was enough there in men’s clothes to actually be getting along with.

A British youth sub-culture also sports “young men wearing lipstick and eyeshadow and nail varnish, with plucked eyebrows and long hair and ribbons,” says Perry.

Cosplay — “costume play” — is another outlet, he adds.

In the U.S. (and maybe elsewhere) metrosexual straight guys do go ahead and enjoy fashion. And even some “regular guys” may buy fancy watches, socks, ties or flowered Hawaiian shirts to bring out their frivolity, fun and sense of style.

Something that men need seems to be lacking as so many seek ways to find expression.

For more on this topic go to Vivienne’s BluestockingBlue, blog and particularly her series on the documentary,  “Why men wear frocks.”

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 1, 2014, in feminism, gender, LGBTQ+, men, psychology, sexism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. I am not particularly opposed to men cross-dressing if that’s something they enjoy. I am a man and I buy women’s clothing for myself on occasion, but it’s never to dress ‘as a woman.’ Sometime’s garments that are designed for women catch my eye and I purchase them. So I do, to an extent, understand wanting to wear women’s clothing and going against societal norms around fashion as it relates to gender expression.
    I don’t think it can be ignored that much of the cross-dressing community is sexual in nature and a large majority of those who engage in cross-dressing are engaging in it as a fetish. I can ignore the misogynistic aspects of that and appreciate the freedom these men have to choose to engage in cross-dressing. What I cannot appreciate, however, is grown men dressing like children. I do not see any reason for a man to dress like a little girl. Even if it’s not meant to be sexual (even though it most certainly is in the majority of cases), it is still incredibly creepy and disturbing. I can see absolutely no reason for a man to dress as a little girl and I am very uncomfortable with the normalization of men wearing feminine clothing to involve the normalization of men sexualizing young girls.

    • I don’t consider cross-dressing to be misogynistic. The reason some men like to dress as little girls is because they are trying to experience a part of themselves that society has said is off-limits to them. Things like vulnerability, dependence, and the like. These are human traits which we don’t allow men to admit to feeling. It can be easier to experience those traits if you put on the costume. I have heard actors say that they couldn’t get into a role until they put on the costume. So something like that.

  2. I never considered calling people by what they were deemed as, transvestite or transgender. I just saw them as people. It doesn’t matter to me what they think they are, in the sense that i still believe they are still humans with human emotions and human rights to do whatever they want and I am no one to judge what they do or what they say. Thinking about it more clearly, I have come across a transgender at work. I was convinced that she was a woman, although after listening to other coworkers speculate “what she was”, I found myself questioning it as well. And I came to realize, what did it matter, and why did I care?

    My best friend who had me believe for a majority of our friendship that he was straight with an interesting fascination of good looking men also wore dresses multiple times. To add to his dress wearing, he would compliment himself with wigs, make-up, and high heels. His character and personality allowed for him to do ridiculous things without any one second guessing he was a man because “that’s just Markell, being Markell”. However later on in college years he finally opened up and admitted he was bisexual.

  3. What a great read!
    Personally, I don’t know any men that cross dress. The most interesting thing about this article is that men that cross dress are actually straight. I’ve always assumed that they were usually gay men but this article distinguishes those differences. Even though I find this topic fascinating, I’m pretty sure my mother would highly disapprove. She grew up in an extremely conservative household, having a black and white picture of what is right and wrong. The idea of men cross dressing would be wrong in her eyes. Although I consider myself to be very accepting and open minded about this situation, I know my mother would not like this one bit.

  4. I can’t really recall knowing any transvestite person. however after lecture today in class i wouldn’t be surprise if i had met one. My over all thoughts about Vivian and transvestite in general is that it makes me feel uncomfortable mainly because i know that these people are straight. i am also perplex by this mainly because i always believed, well before today’s lectures that only gay people would cross dress (with the exception of actors playing a role, and guys simply playing a pranks). No matter how i see it, i still have a hard time somewhat accepting perfectly straight men dressing up like women. even with this Vivian post, i guess i’m just ignorant in that sense. All in all i just consider transvestite just another fetish for straight people and some gay people.

    • Well, I’m glad you were listening in class today. These things can be hard to understand when you haven’t heard much about it before. But I’m glad you checked out the post.

  5. When I was little, I had long blond curly hair, a round, pale face, and bright rosy cheeks (still have the cheeks, actually). I looked so much like a girl that people would come up to my sister and and my mom and them how cute their sister or daughters were. Of course I don’t really remember any of this because I was too little; what I do remember is when my sister outgrew some of her old dresses and started dressing me in them when her friends would come over. It wasn’t like they pinned me down and forced me into a dress, it was more like if I wanted to drink the tea and cookies provided at their tea parties, I had to wear the proper attire. I didn’t feel forced or even uncomfortable in the dresses, I just felt like I was fitting in with my sister and her friends.

    I stopped wearing dresses on such a regular basis when I outgrew the girls sizes and started doing things more expected of my gender like baseball and swimming. My feminine side wasn’t completely gone though, because the dresses were replaced with things like baking and nice (mens) clothes.

    To this day, I love baking and I love clothes. I love pastel colored button downs and shorts that don’t go past my knees; I love the leave-in conditioner I use in my hair and I love the Egyptian cotton sheets I sleep in at night. If I listed all those things – along with my recipe for chocolate chip cookies – and omitted my gender, I think many people would assume I was a woman. Truthfully; I never really thought of anything I liked as manly or womanly, I just like to look nice, be clean, be comfortable, and occasionally binge eat baked goods.

    So even though it’s not a literal dress I put on to feel like myself, I do believe these “feminine” things I love are a part of me and if for some reason I couldn’t bake or wear the clothes I wanted to, I wouldn’t feel like myself.

  6. When my mom had to be the disciplinarian she never portrayed herself as a man to discipline us or to get into touch with her “tougher” side. I don’t understand then the need to dress as a woman to get in touch with your feminine side. Why can’t a man display emotions and in a suit? We are so caught up in how society defines us that we feel that we are forced to create a way to express ourselves, when in actuality, there is nothing wrong with a man crying because is mourning the loss of a love one or because he’s sad. If I’m sad or want to talk about something my husband simply understands my need as a women to talk it out so then he becomes more warm and with an approving smile or touch when I say, babe and I need to talk about it or need your advice or something. So are we creating a way to express ourselves when there is already a way made but we are allowing society to dictate to us what is deemed as appropriate based on gender roles. It happens in the beginning when parents tell their little boy who just fell and hurt himself to get up, you’re okay but if it’s a girl we cuddle them and hold and let them know it’s okay to cry and tend to their wounds. So boys grow up into men having mastered to suppress those feelings to spend the next half of their life trying to unsuppressed them so they can now relate to the wife or girlfriend.

    • Women have nearly a full range of emotional expression. Depending on the one, many cover up their anger, though, or may refrain from acting as tough as they would like.

      Among men, things are different. Since they’re strongly socialize to not express many feelings like vulnerability, dependence, and “Don’t cry” For instance, A lot of men can feel like they can’t access those feelings without a costume.

      So yeah, the whole gender socialization can really get in the way.

  7. Great post … Men wearing dresses what a title. I particularly liked when you highlighted the difference between what does it mean for a (straight) woman to be masculine and what does it mean for a (straight) man.
    “Women routinely express their so-called masculine side, whether they are being rational, assertive, athletic, leaders or breadwinners, etc. But since masculinity is more valued than femininity, guys can feel demeaned when they are emotional, vulnerable, needy, nurturing, or flamboyant”…
    As I read through those lines I noticed that women being masculine would be something positive at the end … I mean the words linked to that feature are positive attributes…
    For a straight man it would be all about becoming or showing him as weak somehow.
    Don’t you feel that there is an implicit derogatory way of normalising women’s characteristics. The words passive and eloquent being related to women are eloquent in this sense.
    Best wishes to you!, Aquileana 😛

    • “Don’t you feel that there is an implicit derogatory way of normalising women’s characteristics?”

      Yes I do.

      I don’t think we should separate traits into negative and positive and then assign the positive traits to men and the negative traits to women.

      And, those negatively defined traits are part of our humanity. It’s hard to be the leader all the time. Sometimes people need to follow, or get a break by sitting back and being passive. Sometimes we need to be vulnerable. And fashion can be fun.

  8. This has me thinking that we all as humans have masculine and feminine sides. Perhaps this is the only way these men can connect with their feminine side. When they look and dress male, they are expected to act as such. Maybe they feel more free to express their feminine traits if they were a dress.

    I might be rambling here, but I just spoke with a friend who doesn’t think that men are born meant to wear dresses – something I might I agree with him on – because fashion is more cultural than biological. I’m just thinking, we live in a society that still wants to separate the sexes when we all have a mix of masculine and feminine traits. May this idea of cross dressing is born out of a need to connect with those feminine characteristics society says they shouldn’t have.

    Random question, why is it ‘cross dressing’ when a man dresses as a woman but not when a woman dresses as a man. I feel like men get the short end of the stick in this one. Woman can wear whatever, but a man wearing a dress is somehow outlandish.

    • There’s nothing biological about wearing a dress. Men who wear them: Popes and ministers, judges, graduates, Jesus, Romans (both short skirts and long robes), and Scottish kilts.

      But clothing holds symbolic meaning. We’re willing to put little girls in boys Keds, baseball caps, etc., and think it’s cute. But putting ruffles or dresses on a boy feels like we’re demeaning them.

      Similarly, when women take on so-called masculine traits — leader, dominant, assertive, rational — they’re raising their status, if anything. But when men take on so-called feminine traits, being vulnerable, passive, submissive, crying, caring about fashion, showing emotion… They feel like they’re demeaning themselves. Because they’re taking on the traits of lower status people.

      Yet these are all human traits, and we need to value all of them… See how we need to be in touch with all of them.

      • Personally, I can’t understand why society demeans feminine traits such as being nurturing, showing emotions, caring about fashion, etc. Aren’t these the things that make life worth living? In contrast to aloof male traits that exhibit indifference and power?

        Since society is about 51% female, I would think that women at the very least would hold their own values in high esteem, even if men didn’t… If so, by definition the majority of society would value feminine norms.

        Why don’t feminists focus of promoting feminine values and traits within society at large? And encourage feminine oriented traits within their families and friends?

      • There are three major branches of feminism:
        . Liberal focus is on equal opportunity (Think hiring and pay). They work through Congress and the courts
        . Radical is concerned that even if you have equal opportunity and pay, you still don’t have equality if Women are stuck doing a second shift housework, and you can’t get adequate childcare. They want to get at the root of the problem and change things more radically, meaning encouraging men to do equal parenting and encouraging workplaces to be family-friendly (So that both women and men can both work and parent adequately)
        . Cultural is focused on what you are asking about: calling for men and women to both value the traits that have historically been assigned to women. And so I am acting out the cultural feminist in this piece.

        (The three divisions are a bit of a fiction. Many of us, including me, do all three.)

        You would think that since society mostly female that we would stand up for ourselves. Non-feminists don’t because they have internalized the society. Let me explain:

        While women are the majority of the population, They don’t have a majority of the power, So they are actually a minority group in that way.

        Our ideas are mostly controlled by people who are white, male, straight, and wealthy, because they have historically have more control over media, literature, government, religion, Business. And in patriarchal societies men tend be value more than women.

        How does internalization work?

        The basic idea is that babies baby’s are born not knowing anything. and the world has a lot of information which is very confusing. You have to make sense of the world to get by. Your mind unconsciously notices patterns that are out in the world. And you don’t have the sophistication to critique them. If you grow up hearing a particular thing your entire life, everyone seems to see you a world that way, and you haven’t heard alternate views, it seems natural and normal to you.

        I’ve done a little bit more discussion of how women internalize ideas that hurt them here:

        Women against feminism? The epitome of patriarchy
        Why Would Women Grumble and Tumble Over Feminism?

        Why Do Women Fight Their Own Interests?
        Feminist Click Moment: You’re Against Battered Women’s Shelters?!
        Are Women Brainwashed Into Polygamy?
        The Burqa and Individual Rights: It’s Complicated

      • “You would think that since society mostly female that we would stand up for ourselves. Non-feminists don’t because they have internalized the society.”

        “While women are the majority of the population, They don’t have a majority of the power, So they are actually a minority group in that way.”

        Power grows from economic status. Usually wealth translates into power (economic and political). I would agree that women simply are not there yet.

        I was reading some data on political elections over the last 30 years. In 1980, women were evenly divided in their voting patterns in national elections between both political parties. In 2010, the shift was significantly Democrat.

        If you look behind the numbers, what is very evident is that white, college educated women vote overwhelmingly Democrat. Also, I once saw a Heritage Foundation study which showed single women often shifted to voting Republican from Democrat once they got married and started a family. However, no longer is this the case for white college educated women. Not only do they keep their maiden name but their political party as well!

        So, if these trends continue I think there is ground for optimism. What is really sad in America is that nations such as Israel, Philippines, Argentina, UK, Denmark, Brazil,….have all had women elected as their President. But, here we are in 2014 and that is still very remote.

        On a cultural level, what I see as rather troubling is women seem hell bent on acting as much like men as possible. Whether it is in the use of foul language, alcohol consumption, sexual behavior, dress…..etc. Women have very unique insights and gifts. One trait I see is: there is a greater spirit of cooperation for the greater good.

        I love libraries. I visit my public library 2-3 times a week. It is so fascinating to observe a table of high school or middle school girls doing homework. Teamwork rules!!! I observe no one single girl trying to be the “alpha” girl. There is an emphasis on cooperation instead of competition. This in contrast with the boys. Of course, the girls outnumber the boys in the library by 2:1 and are far more focused. That IS a problem.

        So, if 50%+ of our Congress were women, I truly think our country would be better off. But, in this zeal to be like men, it would seem that so many women are seeing these invaluable, special, unique, and God given qualities as less desirable. No? .

      • Thanks. I agree. Although I don’t know that women have unique traits. I’m sure that men have the possibility of accessing the same wonderful traits that women can. But I agree that it’s problematic when women take on negative male traits — probably in an effort to raise their status. Even though if you think about it, those behaviors shouldn’t raise anyone’s status.

  9. Very interesting. I didn’t realize that most cross-dressing men were straight. And some really great insights about how there are a lot of men looking for different ways to balance the expression of their masculine and feminine sides- unfortunately, society still needs to be coming more accepting of this need but hopefully with ongoing discourse that will happen.

  10. In fact, my popularity seems almost entirely a masculine phenomenon.
    ~Marilyn Monroe

    Interesting topic if I may say so. I once knew a friend who loved cross dressing. In fact, sometimes when his girlfriend and I, would go to night clubs. He would have a lot of guys flirting with him. His girlfriend never said anything about it. But my point here is that it’s interesting to see some men today cross dressing and expressing themselves through the use of fashion and creativity.

  11. I don’t consider myself a crossdresser, although I tend to prefer feminine things. And, I have found some ways to express and accept my femininity. One such way is through fragrances. I love the variety and range of fragrances that are available, and I really prefer feminine fragrances over masculine scents. So now I always buys feminine fragrances or unisex ones. Usually the salesperson assumes it is a gift for a woman, and ask whether I want it gift wrapped. Often times I will confess that the perfume is for myself, and then the salesperson is usually very happy to offer samples of other feminine fragrances for me to try.

    One of my favorites is Clarins ‘Eau des Jardins’, and it is somewhat unisex. But every fragrance smells different on different people because everyone’s skin and chemistry is slightly different. What I have found is that no one ever asks me if I’m wearing a woman’s perfume, although I often get compliments on the fragrance (especially from women), and am asked what fragrance it is.

    If you take away the marketing, 95% of people would not know whether a man is wearing a perfume or a cologne, just that the fragrance smells good.

    Just one of my ways of accepting and expressing femininity without upsetting the patriarchal apple cart…

    • Good tips.

      I know a lot of men who are obsessed with watches. I suspect it’s because that’s pretty much the only sort of jewelry they are allowed.

      • Talk about jewelry… I have a gold enamel ring by Freywille that I wear daily. It’s a woman’s ring but no one seems to notice

      • Cool. Good for you, stepping outside of the gendered walls that try to hold us in.

      • A few other non-crossdressing/non-threatening ways for men to express and embrace femininity:

        monthly pedicure (with or without polish)
        daily beauty rituals (including toner, serum, moisturizer, body lotion)
        wearing pastel shades of clothing (why not white jeans with a lavender polo shirt instead of khakis with a drab olive shirt)
        watching more Lifetime and HGTV and less ESPN and Fox news
        Reading home decor and better living magazines (such as Martha Stewart LIving, Real Simple, Bon Apetit)
        Decorating your home with soft pastel colors, fresh flowers, warm fabrics, etc. and demolishing the ‘man cave’
        Visiting art museums, gallery openings, antique stores, etc.
        taking up more feminine pursuits such as cooking and drawing
        instead of pumping iron at the gym, take up yoga and pilates
        etc., etc.

        The list could go on and on.

        I guess my point is that although there is nothing wrong with cross dressing, there are plenty of other ways to embrace the feminine in our everyday lives as men.

        I’m curious what other suggestions you and your readers might have…

      • Thanks for your thoughts!

  12. “masculinity is more valued than femininity”—-what specifically do you have in mind? Is that a conditional or unconditional statement?

    • The answer is partially included in the post in this paragraph of the text:

      “Women routinely express their so-called masculine side, whether they are being rational, assertive, athletic, leaders or breadwinners, etc. But since masculinity is more valued than femininity, guys can feel demeaned when they are emotional, vulnerable, needy, nurturing, or flamboyant…”

      Just the fact that women are more esteemed when they take on masculine traits, But men feel demeaned when they take unfeminine traits, is another example.

      Even something as neutral as wearing a dress or wearing pants. Historically men were associated with pants, but women did not feel demeaned when they began wearing them. And they don’t feel demeaned doing pretty much anything masculine. But men can feel put down by wearing dresses or acting in feminine ways. There’s a stigma to it.

      As a culture, we value all of those listed traits that are considered masculine, But we don’t value the traits I listed above as feminine.

      In my classes I have my students make a list of traits that are considered masculine and traits that are considered feminine — which we generally understand in terms of polarities: men are assertive and women are passive, men are rational and women are emotional…. And then we look at that list and rank how valued the words on each side are. Almost always the masculine traits are valued over the feminine traits. One exception is that women are considered nicer than men. And that is thought to be a very important trait that helps to trump a lot of the negativity assigned to women, and leaves most people liking women more than men, as a gender class.

      At the same time, because we typically value masculine over feminine traits, and give men higher status than women, so guys constantly have to prove they deserve that higher status. They constantly have to prove their manhood. Women never have to prove their womanhood. (Why would anyone want to prove they belong to a class that is less valued?)

      • 1) Femininity is not valued at all
        2) Femininity is not valued in men

        Women never have to prove their womanhood? Women have default value in conventional sexual complimentarian logic because they’re perceived reproducers and nurturers of the next generation by virtue of biology. Men have to prove themselves partially because they are redundant. There’s nothing they do that a woman can’t, but women can do things they can’t. Their default value in terms of societal contribution is lower. There are varieties of collectivist objectification. Men as hard laborers/warriors and women as beauty objects/ornaments are locked into a different kind of box.

      • Who says femininity isn’t valued it all?

        But while so-called “masculinity” is often valued in women: being occupationally successful, a leader, assertive, athletic, rational, mathematical (with some men feeling threatened by this), so-called “femininity” is nearly universally devalued in men. Women are seen as raising their status in all of the above examples. Men are seen as demeaning themselves.

        One way to insult a male is to say, “You’re a girl!” One way to compliment a female is to say, “You the man!”

        Women are not valued simply because they have children. If they are so valued, why are they stoned to death in Middle Eastern countries for being raped? Or for being seen with a man she is not related to? Wouldn’t you want to preserve women so that they can have children?

        In cultures that do value women because they bear children, a double penalty is assigned to a woman’s death.

        The first culture I’m describing is patriarchal, and values men over women. The second is egalitarian.

        Mother nature and egalitarian cultures do value women very much because they can give birth. And try to keep women alive. Not so in patriarchal cultures.

        Maybe men who feel the way you do — that men are redundant — decided to work hard to devalue women in hopes of raising male self-esteem.

      • “Women are considered nicer than men.”

        You’re talking to a black man here.

        “men are assertive and women are passive, ”

        You’re talking to a black man here—you know that’s not true in our community. Many black women are trying to break into the passive/sweet aesthetic, so a black princess in a Disney movie was seen as progress. Black women were never not working hard alongside black men, and that has had certain implications in terms of tropes and stereotypes.

        Unless my experiential self-descriptions or theoretical speculations line up with what your feminist framework would lead you to expect, I don’t think you’re open to hearing it–I really don’t-I hope I’m wrong.

        It’s extremely clear to me that the Biblical authors believed it was important that human reproduction be interpreted in a way that justified female social-political subordination. Ordinarily and in everyday life, we see people come out of women’s bodies, but in the Old and New Testaments they take pains to emphasize that woman’s body was made from ADAM’s flesh and this men as men participate in his fatherhood, Eve’s motherhood and the women who vicariously share in it are not socially and politically self-determining, just as the first Eve was not. I believe we can infer from this that many men then and perhaps now discern something significant about their lack of an immediate role in the reproductive process and seek various means of symbolic compensation. I speculate that androcentric interpretations of human origin and reproduction are at least partially rooted in a kind of womb envy, an existential-symbolic inferiority complex.

        Imagine women creating a religion where the social-political domination of women was justified on the basis of the first woman screwing the first man in the ass with a strap on—would we not speculate that some “penis envy” was involved? Women have the most immediate-obvious role in the reproductive process but most Westerners believe that the FATHER and THE SON made everything ALL BY THEMSELVES. No symbolic or metaphysical ovaries or feminine principles involved in the creation of anything. It is extremely that psychoanalytically “something is up.” That is all I am saying.

        Enough for now.

      • Your point both distracts from the main point, and leads right back to confirming it.

        It distracts in that if you take a list of human traits, we almost always value the “masculine” over “feminine.” So sure, on the question of “active versus passive” Black women are an exception in that they are not seen as passive. 

        Yet more often than not black women fit the rest of the list. 

        And black men are not thought of as being more passive than black women, so it’s not like there’s an actual switch.

        But regardless, the stereotypes we have — and most people don’t think to recognize the exception of black women — act two justify the status quo for most men and women. Women should fall on the “lesser” side of the equation: compared with black men, black women “should be” less dominant, less likely to be leaders, more emotional… Justifying the status quo.

        Yet black women’s exceptionalism leads right back to the point, confirming it:

        The reason black women are in exception to the other races comes from two sources 1) racism has been harder on black Americans then any other ethnic group, And 2) we value men over women.

        Black men have faced more discrimination and men of any other ethnic group in our country, making it impossible for them to take a job in the 40s, 50s, and 60s that could support a family. Men are supposed to be the heads of home, and part of that role involves providing for your family. 

        But while white men could get high-paying union jobs — and feel like they were fulfilling their manly duties as household heads — racism excluded black men. Compared with their women, black men were more likely to get depressed and “drop out,” whether though alcohol, or taking out frustrations through violence, like rioting — and getting arrested.  

        Psychologically, it wasn’t as hard on black women because they have lower expectations to live up to. They didn’t feel the same need to prove their status, because women, generally, tend to internalize taking on a secondary role. So the women just kept doing menial jobs that supported their families as best they could. 

        Looking at younger kids, disempowered males of nearly every ethnic group in America have joined gangs. Males are told that they are supposed to be dominant and powerful. But disempowered males are neither. So these guys often join gangs which make them feel powerful as they fight each other and defend their turf — of fictional sense of owning property. And then the guy send a dead or in prison.

        Because men of all colors are perceived as being tougher than women — and often feel pressured to live up to the expectation, creating a social pattern (doing things like joining gangs, criminality), the police also develop a stereotype that black men are more criminal than their black sisters. So black men are more likely to be pulled over for DWB: driving while black. Which leaves the police more likely to find drugs in the cars of black males than black females or white males (regardless of who actually uses more drugs).

        So black men are more likely than black women to end up in jail.

        It all leaves African-American women in a situation of male scarcity. These girls don’t grow up thinking that prince charming is going to rescue them. Their mothers teach them that they are going to have to take care of themselves. And so, compared to other ethnicities, these young women learn to be more likely to learn to be independent, assertive, breadwinners, Etc. All characteristics that we usually associate with masculine over feminine. 

        By the way, your question gave me an idea to turn this into a couple of blog posts, probably for Black History Month, So thanks.

        On your other point, women were greatly valued in early religions because of their ability to create life. It seems that the most ancient peoples didn’t realize men had a role to play. So early religions tend to be about “The Goddess.” As people started to understand the male role, the myths evolved such that the goddess bore a son (an immaculate conception) who would grow up to become her lover and consort. And from there intercourse, world were created.

        After patriarchy arose — I’ll write about that later (preventing inbreeding and agriculture were key in creating patriarchy — not men wanting to hurt women) the myths begin to change and man become the mothers.

        And so we end up with God the Father/(mother) who creates life. And then Adam bears Eve, as you say. Or, Zeus becomes the “mother” of Aphrodite and Athena.

        After a while, women are no longer valued and protected so much for giving birth. So even though early peoples, religions, and Mother Nature (also an original Goddess) see men as more expendable, under patriarchy women begin to be seen as more expendable, and killed for crimes that men remain alive for, like rape, adultery, being unchaperoned.

        As it turns out, the ability to give birth does not automatically give women value in a society.

        This is another topic I’ve planned to blog on for a while, now.

  13. This concept of masculine and feminine has always been immensely confusing to me. They make no sense to me. Perhaps it is my autism that is at play. All I know is that I seem to see this issue from a completely different viewpoint from most of the people around me.

    • Lucky you!

      When I was a little girl I remember my mom encouraging my brother to be masculine and me to be feminine, one day. And I sensed that I had just been insulted. (That wasn’t my mother’s intent, but I had enough sense of our society to know that I was being asked to limit myself, and to take on less valued traits.) I asked my mom to describe what were considered masculine traits, and what were considered feminine. The list confirmed my suspicions. And see my response to William.

      • Oh, my mom and other people have commented on my needing to be more feminine. They have made it clear that my sister is more feminine than I. But, to me, these people are speaking a foreign language. I understand the words that are used, but I do not understand their meaning.

      • Generally, it means things like be (comparatively speaking to how you are): less boisterous, more reserved, more frilly and fashion conscious, more passive and less assertive, more vulnerable and nurturing… Things like that.

      • Hmmm. Again, I understand the definition of feminine and masculine and their many cultural varieties. The words, that is. They just don’t hold any meaning to me.

        I don’t know if this is something that goes for all aspergers. It does go for quite a few. We are lousy at pretending/faking. We do our best to fit in, but there is always something off. I have tried to act, but I stink at it because the only persona I know to put on is myself. So when a person tells me I need to be more feminine or masculine or angry they are, in all ways that count, speaking a foreign language.

        I can know that my behavior is considered bad, but I will never understand the how’s and why’s of it. It just does not make any sense to me.

        Perhaps what I am saying sounds as if I am being difficult or not trying to understand. That is not the case. Words like these hold no meaning to me because I am me. It is impossible for me to be anyone else.

        People I have met think that this sounds like a good thing. In an ideal world it would be. But in the world that I have now lived in for almost 50 years I have wished for the ability to internalize “appropriate thinking and behavior” a great many times. Not any longer, but I used to.

        I do not know if these words make things clearer at all or if they just complicate matters.

      • Thanks for your thoughts. Food for thought, as they say.

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