Monday, May 22, 2017

No Rompers Allowed: The Deeper Issues at play behind feminine fashion for Black Males
Call me old fashion, but I want my man to dress like a man.

That may sound "gendered" or antiquated, but its just my opinion. In modern society, saying what I just said can get me borderline crucified, called every name under the sun from conservative and right wing (which a cursory read over the blog will tell you I am not) to even homophobic. However, it is very interesting to me that those who would call me these things, the "dress how you want" camp, by doing so, would automatically be guilty of the same biases as those who stick to stricter gender norms.

Where am I going with this?

A recent convo with some gal pals over the whole man romper situation that caused a social media firestorm lead us to an interesting discussion; why does it feel like Black Men, specifically, are the ones being targeted for emasculation through fashion? Why the skinny jeans and the crop tops and, now, the rompers? It was interesting what was revealed through this conversation.

For me, the best example of this goes back to last year's  Louis Vuitton campaign with Jaden Smith where Jaden models one of their skirts in this ad. (There may have been earlier examples of this, but, for me, this was one of the more glaring).

You have my hometown hero, Will Smith, who has played almost every type of typical "manly" roles in is ever growing resume of films. He's a West Philly boy, and being from that hood,  and having survived it during one of the roughest and most violet times in Philadelphia's history, there is a certain swagger Will possesses, even to this day that is undeniably manly. Yet, here is one of his son's, Jaden, who, yes, has been very experimental with his look and his life (as all children should be allowed to during their journeys  in self discovery) being not just photographed while out wearing a skirt (which, respectfully is his decision) but being commissioned by an iconic brand in the history of modern fashion to do so.

Why does this cause such a stir? Well, we have to broaden our perspectives a bit to include historical views of Black Men. Considering the fact that the Black Man has (for whatever reason, intrinsic or not) been viewed as threatening by popular culture (as seen by the sheer quantity of films, tv shows, and the like where they are frequently portrayed as the villain, the rapist, the robber, etc). This history has gone back even to before times of chattel slavery, but was further emphasized during that period. Any effort to demascluinize Black Men by their oppressors was definitely taken, as can be witnessed by a mere view of American History, and still continues to this day.
To say that a Black Man wearing a skirt or the man romper is just a man wearing merely pieces of clothing misses the entire historical undercurrent of Black masculinity being frequently attacked and demonized. To not have these historical references to reach back to, it is easy to miss the overall messages here, that is both an insult to Black Men as well as Women in general: a demascluinized Black Man, who wears women's clothing is of no threat. This belief holds two sickening understandings: that Black Men are indeed a threat unless they look and act more like women AND that women are weak and defenseless beings, ergo the perfect beings to model men that are deemed to be threatening, the Black Man.

This isn't about freedom of aesthetics. This is about more than the liberty to wear what you want. A man wearing a dress, skirt, or even a romper is not the same as a woman wearing a tuxedo or jean. There are deeper prejudices and historical biases at work here. Hence the overwhelmingly negative view many of us have about our men wearing such pieces. It has nothing to do with sexuality. As you notice, there has been ZERO discussion of sexual orientation here. No, its not homophobic to say that I don't want my teenage brother in a romper. No, It does not make me a gay-basher to say I don't want my future son wearing a tutu. For me, and for many of the people I have spoken to, the "crime" of the man romper and pieces like it is playing right into the biases mentioned above.

It is a complicated and confusing dialogue, but with understandings of the past and accurate views of the present, the dialogue certainly does become better informed.

So what do you think? LET'S TALK! I want to hear your opinion. Drop a comment and let's chat.