My favorite line is a toss up between: “You only don’t dare to wear skirts and dresses because your dads don’t dare to either” and “I had only one option left: To broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself.”
Love that image of broadening his shoulders to wear a skirt. In a few words it refutes the idea that skirts emasculate men and evokes the sense of bravery required for men to wear what some call “unbifurcated garments” in white western society. At this point there is a split (or a bifurcation, if you will) in “men in skirts” advocacy.
There is the branch that says, hey, men in other cultures all over the world wear “MUGs” (male unbifurcated garments) – think kilts, sarongs, dashikis, etc., and there doesn’t have to be anything feminine about it. This branch emphasizes the masculinity and liberation of male skirt-wearing. See, for example, the Men’s Skirts Facebook Page, which asserts,
The idea behind MEN’S SKIRT’S is that Men DO look masculine in skirted garments, designed and made for men and that its time that men have the same freedom and equality in fashion as women! It is NOT about men wearing “feminine” skirts, rather it IS about men RECLAIMING masculine skirted garments, which have always been a men’s garment, worn by men throughout every era of history and still today in many countries.
Or the “Liberate Yourself with the Macabi for Men” campaign, which says, “the Macabi Skirt is the original unbifurcated adventure travel garment, for guys who truly know no fear.” The language in the sales pitch is fascinating and telling – “we faced our demons,” “free your manly self,” “no more fear,” “unfettered fellow Macabites.”
On the one hand, I find these images of everyday guys wearing their Macabi skirts refreshing correctives. They really serve to highlight the question, “WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL?!” Why does this seem threatening to anyone?
On the other hand, we tried selling the kilt idea to our son and it was a non-starter. (For those of you who find it hard to believe small children have their own ideas about fashion and self-expression, yes, a 4 year-old can tell the difference between a boy’s kilt and a girl’s skirt!) And it’s pretty evident in the picture of the little German boy in the article that it’s not a MUG he’s aspiring to. The other branch of men in skirts advocacy says, “so what if men are feminine — whether what is stereotypically considered feminine or what they feel themselves to be feminine?” The website malefemininity.com asserts:
Men are going to have the freedom to express their feminine side and many will enjoy it along with all the benefits that come with a feminine personality.
This trend is not something that will overthrow masculinity or classical maleness and we don’t want it to. So all you guys who can’t identify yourselves with feminine men need not feel threatened by these changes in any way. Think of it more as a broadening of the horizon for men and their place in society. Nobody has to become feminine but, equally, nobody is denied their feminine side either.
Before I had kids, I was most focused on giving boys more options: I was troubled that their options and our definition of masculinity seem so stunted and constrained. Why can’t boys have bright colors and motifs? Why are the only emotions we encourage competitiveness and anger? Why are things characterized as beautiful, whimsical, or creative almost always also characterized as feminine? Etc. I still feel this way. But my son has gently taught me that, in addition to this desire for all boys to have more fully developed and healthier choices, some boys want more than this. Regardless, I think more dads in skirts of any kind will make more room for everyone.