A woman writing in The Guardian confessed that although her boyfriend loves wearing dresses and was delighted when he found a woman’s wedding dress he could wear, his behavior challenged her heretofore “progressive ideals,” and pushed her “to perform a scrupulous inventory of my deepest ideas about masculinity” and “identify my shortfalls as a woman who wants to help rewrite gender norms.”
Emily Halnon wrote:
Ian thrust the white garment into the air like a Nascar trophy. Its lace sleeves sashayed from the tapered bodice and fluffy tulle grazed the dirty tiles of the thrift store floor. A smile stretched across Ian’s scruffy face and his blue eyes danced with the giddy excitement of a bride saying, “I do!” “Oh, wow,” I managed to spit out.
She continued, “I found myself unexpectedly uneasy with his new fondness for feminine frocks – a reaction that challenged the progressive ideals I’d prided myself on for decades. I’d long thought I was contributing to a progressive shift in how we define masculinity, finally allowing men to be emotional and vulnerable, or to ask for help, or to hug their male friends … or to wear dresses.”
This came next:
Ian giggled. “Isn’t it beautiful?” His chest hair battled the sheer neckline. The skirt fanned out as wide as a beach umbrella – a garment fit for a Vegas chapel.
She recalled, “On the first weekend we hooked up, I had to yank a green sparkly dress over his head to unclothe him. Foreplay involved palming his glittery glutes while dancing to Kesha’s Woman and caressing his furry thigh along a hemline so tight you could almost see the outlines of each and every hair follicle beneath it. ‘That was the first time I’ve undressed a man – from a dress!’ I shrieked the next morning.”
But then ugly reality stepped in: “Intellectually, I enjoyed that Ian was rejecting gender norms and expectations. But physically, my desire didn’t match. Those feelings illuminated some unanticipated boundaries of where I define attractiveness in men and when I still crave traditional masculinity. I realized I wanted less dress and more flannel shirts, trucker hats and sandstone Carhartts.”
My boyfriend’s wedding dress pushed me to perform a scrupulous inventory of my deepest ideas about masculinity and helped me identify my shortfalls as a woman who wants to help rewrite gender norms. As I went through this exercise, I chatted with a handful of girlfriends about it, who could all identify their own small hang-ups with masculinity: their need for men who are bigger and taller than they are, or who are better than them at sports, or who don’t cry in front of them.
As we interrogated our feelings about masculinity, we recognized gaps between our ideals and reality. I’m quick to blame men for perpetuating toxic behavior, but in this case, I, the woman, was part of the problem.
In June 2019 Guardian columnist Arwa Mahdawi wrote, “It is sad that so many men are petrified about seeming effeminate. It is sad that it is not socially acceptable for men to experiment with fashion in the same way women can. Happily, however, things are changing gradually. No one looks twice at a guy with a man-bun or a man-bag any more; male makeup is a growing industry; and male rompers were a thing for a while … London fashion week featured so many men breezing along in gender-fluid fashion that GQ proclaimed: “2019 is the year men will start wearing skirts.” I certainly hope so. Masculinity is a straitjacket; it is high time more men broke free.”