Hello and welcome to the first edition of “Dear Wenger,” a college advice column for anyone who thinks I’m a credible enough source.
I’ve gone through many misfortunes in my life. I lose my keys daily, suck at relationships, and cry when I get nervous!
I’ve decided to share with you my advice on ways to avoid making the many mistakes I make!
This week I will be answering three questions! Question #1 is about clothing and gender roles!
Pictured above: Janelle Monae, singer and baddie.
How do you build the confidence to start dressing more “masculine” sometimes when you have always dressed “like a girl”? And do you have any sort of obligation to explain yourself to friends or family?
Your biggest fan,
My biggest fan,
The struggle with gender and clothing is something I’ve had problems with throughout my life. Keep in mind that my answers are how I personally deal with identity and presentation. Everyone is able to identify and present in whatever manner they choose. As Audrey Hepburn says in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (based on a book by the late, great, gay Capote)
Thank you for letting me make that reference. I know it sounds irrelevant given the context of that film, but to me that quote always reminds me that your body and your wardrobe, are your own. You owe no one an explanation, at the end of the day it comes down to being true to yourself. (God, that was dramatic. Also, look how good Audrey looks).
That being said, here are a few of my ideas!
First: on “masculine” and “like a girl.” I address these phrases by asking myself, “what the hell does that even mean?” When you really get down to it, those phrases are meaningless. Masculinity and femininity are individual and they have a whole range of definitions for a whole range of people on the gender spectrum.
For me….I identify as a woman when I wear a dress, and I sure as hell still identify as a woman when I wear a blazer out and about or boxers to bed. I identify as a woman regardless of what I wear because my identity is my own. It is important to remember that you are who you see yourself to be and the rest can go (censored) themselves.
The problem with clothing is a problem of fear, perception, and presentation.
As I have said, I identify as a woman regardless of what I wear, but it is my level of confidence that lacks consistency. While I identify as hot as hell when I wear a tie, I have a hard time getting myself to walk out the door with one on. I see confidence looking back at me in the bedroom mirror, but by the time I’m nearly out of my house, I find myself turning back and throwing the tie to the ground in a fit of dramatic frustration.
I can wear a blazer and “men’s” pants but the second I put that tie on, I feel like I suddenly stick out like a sore thumb. I feel like I’ll be walking down Jayhawk Boulevard and get stares. But in all truth, no one gives a flying (censored) what you wear. Everyone is so self conscious about themselves they don’t have time to worry about you on top of it.
And in truth, I look damn good in a tie. And I bet you look damn good in the “masculine” clothes you own, and I bet your lady thinks you look hot as hell in them too (I know you, you’ve got a fine lady).
When you’re dressed more “masculine” and are walking around whether it be on campus, in town, or about a sorority house, think about what you are doing. Think about how you have the freedom and ability to do that. You are breaking arbitrary and constraining prescriptive rules about what it means to be a woman. You are saying (censored) the 50s and long dresses and housewifedom. And you, whether you know it or not, could be setting an example for those around you.
I remember being younger and being forced into a jumper in elementary school. I remember crying and hating the way I looked in the mirror. But I also remember my parents’ lesbian friends who wore “men’s” clothes and looked happy. I wish I saw more people like them around. People wearing whatever they want regardless of what people may think they are “supposed” to wear and doing it happily. It makes you feel less alone.
The first time I put on a button up, my brother’s sweater, and a pair of jeans I looked in the mirror and saw a glow I wasn’t used to. I can almost guarantee you will see that same glow when you wear what you want. That’s the glow of confidence. It’s a glow that comes with being yourself fully, in your inner perception of yourself, and in your outer display of yourself.
I’ve learned the hard way, hiding part of yourself often leaves only part of you present. You will walk around wondering what’s missing but it’s the part of you, you left at home. The tie you threw dramatically on the floor, that nice jacket from the Forever 21 “men’s” section you didn’t buy.
While I’d love to say clothing doesn’t matter, it does. Fashion is a very personal, very real, manifestation of self. It can either give you confidence, or leave you wanting.
I hope this helps,
P.S. For more reading look to “Gender Trouble” by Judith Butler, or “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg, two great books to look into for more information on gender and presentation.
A final note: If you would like to ask for advice in future columns, DM me on twitter @jewenger with your name or wish to remain anonymous. You can also find me on facebook under Elizabeth Jayne Wenger.
Always here, always lost, always full of myself!