March 12, 2011

Gender Perception -> Perception of Self -> Clothing as Perception Filter

Recently, Peter of Male Pattern Boldness wrote about the phenomenon of men who dress as women. As often happens, reading the comments to this particular entry got me thinking of my own experiences, my own psychology, and the extrapolations I can make.

I was often mistaken for a boy. That's not to say I hated clothes! I LOVED clothes and picked my own outfits right from kindergarten. Mother took me second-hand shopping on a regular basis, which was so inexpensive that only my favourite outfits were preserved against rambunctious play. I was in a tree or playing with G.I. Joes more often than I played with Barbies or My Little Ponies, once my brother was old enough to do "cool" things with me. As a 12 yr old girl, I was "one of the boys" and that's the reason I got a mushroom cut; it was cool on boys, so why not! Right up to age 14, most of my friends were boys, or girls who didn't care to be "girly." Then I suddenly found myself saddled with a woman's body... Fascinating at first, but now that I'm nearly 27, it's a bizarre simpatico between comfortable and tiresome!

Sometimes I hate my body for how others perceive it. I often wear nothing more flamboyant than casual jeans and a cute top, and men of all ages have rubber-necked to stare at me. This is unsettling when I've done nothing to deserve such intense attention, except exist. My defence mechanism has long been to wear something outrageous so people have a reason to notice me. Almost like if I can make the symbol more noticable than the actuality, I have something to hide behind. Suddenly the attention becomes a positive thing because I've manipulated people into giving a certain reaction. It is not I that is being scrutinized, but rather my carefully contrived presentation of self. It is then that I feel the most powerful, that I can influence another person's perception of me just by making a conscious choice to wear a particular garment. Conversely, I feel weakest, most exposed, when I just want to relax and have somehow drawn attention just the same.

An issue I have not thought logically about in a very long time.

As a related aside, I'd seen this spread and adored the clothing (it may have been via Outsapop; WANT the chain-embroidered leather jacket), but seriously never realized that the model is a man.

*EDIT* Yep, it was on Outsapop.


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