I went trick-or-treating in heels

And I looked something like this. Don’t be scared.

Justin looking pretty fey on Halloween, 2005

So my friend Joy, admittedly with all the appropriate disclaimers, threw out this zinger, So: I find (straight) men dressing in drag an instant turn off, which I felt was just begging for me to reply.

At first I kind of wanted to debate the meaning of the phrase “in drag” but it turns out it means just what I think Joy meant it to mean, “clothing that is conventionally worn by the opposite sex.” I guess when I think of dressing in drag, I think of Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, or to borrow from Joy’s example, Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot. We could also put into that category the whole mantle of gay men dressing in drag as performance art. But my dressing “in drag” has always felt different than that.

What I see in those examples are men appropriating some of the stereotypical aspects of female culture and applying it in grotesque, almost hamfisted proportions. This is probably for a number of reasons, either they wish to entirely obscure their underlying sex, perhaps they don’t well understand the elements of female dress and make-up, or in many cases they may wish to queer the accepted standards of gender identity through exaggeration. None of this I have any issues with, but none of this is what I see myself doing.

My approach has been to use Halloween as a chance to appropriate some of traditional dress and makeup of the opposite sex in such a way that it might actually look good on me. Or at least interesting. I’d prefer hot. I don’t want to be a woman, I don’t like prothestics (fake boobs), I’m not interested in shaving my chin. I’m certainly not interested in revealing any aspect of my body that would be unsettling for others to see. In some sense I think that’s very much a part of being an American or Western heterosexual female: displaying the parts of your body you find particularly attractive and obscuring others.

I think what’s at stake here is the notion of a mask, in particular a physical one, and what freedoms it offers from various social pressures and expectations. For example, I never felt comfortable dancing. Part of that’s just me, but part of that I believe is what it means to be growing up male in America. I was extremely self-conscious of how I moved my body if I was doing something that wasn’t strictly utilitarian.

One Halloween a few years ago I dressed in my unique interpretation of drag, and I went with some friends to a dance party at a local bar. I was wearing a dress, wearing eye makeup and lipstick, so not much of a mask, I had a few drinks, nothing out of the ordinary, and I started to feel totally free to just move however I wanted to. Granted I was in some ways emulating what I thought were particularly feminine movements, but at that point I would have avoided any dance-related movements for being too effeminate.

Since then it’s something I’ve felt much less self-conscious about. Whether I’m wearing a skirt or not.

16 Comments

jackie

it’s much more church lady than in years past, almost Republican (gasp)

jackie

I remember the year you were an “ice dancer”–i wonder what kind of stereotypes you were reinforcing/shattering that year.

corey

he still looks stunning though.

Katie

Have you read any Judith Butler? She draws on greek drama to talk about freedom through mask work from gender-mandated gestures and such. And delves deeply into the subversive and ironic power of drag. She’s pretty cool.

jackie

judith butler is incoherent and contributed to my present drinking problem.

Jackie, you’re not the only one who said something to that effect. I was dubbed “sexy grandma” by white trash Matt. I think the ice dancer routine was just an excuse to show off my mad rollerblading skillz—wasn’t that freshman year?

Corey, thanks for the props.

Katie, I have the feeling I read an essay of hers in Philosophy of Feminism at UNC, but never one of the books. The book I remember the most was Marilyn Frye’s The Politics of Reality.

And now you are so uninhibited on the dance floor….

I’m glad to have read this post. It’s really very interesting and self-reflective.

Katie

It is, indeed, dense and does, indeed, inspire one to drink more. I agree with justin, essay sized bites are enough.

I’d be horrified if it weren’t for the fact that you look remarkably similar to an ex-boyfriend (in which case, the thought of him in drag looking like this makes me pee my pants with laughter. And because I’m old and have a wrinkled bladder). Anyhoo, this was a great post :). Can I link to your blog on mine?
Cheerio!

“Wrinkled bladder” eh? That imagery is going to be with me for a while. But by all means Tasha, link away. Such is the nature of the blogosphere. Glad you enjoyed.

Yep, wrinkled. Sad, I know. And disturbing. Sorry for the visual. Anyhoo, I got your link from grandma Matt’s page, so thanks for the ok to link to your blog on mine :)

Ice Dancer? Sexy Gramma?

I’m thinking there are some clubs in the city we should hit up. Naked clubs. Named “Daddy’s” or something similar.

On Sunday we walked by the Hungry I Club.

Men dressing up as women (FOR HALLOWEEN) has always been humorous to me, what scares me are the people who do it often, seem to be very comfortable in the role and then all of sudden they want to have a sex change! But what is even more scary to me is when women dress up as men! Yikes! Keep the role playing in the bedroom! I can’t believe you chose the red purse with that outfit!

I thought the red was a perfect accent to the brown motif I used throughout.

I am SO happy about the blue-and-brown thing you had going on. I love that 70’s shit.

And keep up the whole dance thing. I really believe that people who can’t/won’t dance haven’t really become comfortable in their own skin. Dance is a great way to get there. Don’t you think it’s fun?

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