I can’t seem to link to the story I am talking about. Just google Sikh girl facial hair and you will find numerous articles about it!
This is a great example of a person accepting herself as she is, not as people tell her she is supposed to be because she was assigned female gender at birth. She explains what it means to be a Sikh and refers to their concept of god as genderless and some other interesting gender equality concepts as well as great self acceptance of her own looks that do not conform to society’s view of females being “hairless”, which of course, is fiction as females have hair in a lot of places on their bodies but some get rid of it to conform to what is considered “acceptable” for “females”. Everyone can learn a lot from this girl. The only issue I had with what she said is, what do Sikhs do about people who do not recognize themselves as what they are assigned at birth, ie. transgendered and other gender noncomforming people who want to change their bodies in some way to affirm who they really are…
“Trans Bodies, Trans Selves”
is a website and a book published this past spring by Oxford University Press. It is also, from my point of view, a great starting point for looking at “gender” and people who identify as gender non conforming from a healthy affirming, and validating model, rather than society’s traditional model of pathology. This is most likely the definitive book on this subject and covers all aspects, including health and well being, which I aim to discuss in another post.
We tend to assume that the word “transgender” covers a lot of definitions, but interestingly there are individuals who don’t like the term. The term “transgender” can be both affirming and useful to some and not to others in this community. The interesting thing is that over the years the need to define oneself though it has mostly arisen from being treated abusively or marginalized; luckily it has also resulted in a diversity of terms and self identity.
Now at least all of society can start to understand the people who inhabit “trans bodies” and “trans selves”.
The beginning point for this book is to explain certain terms and give definitions and portray the variety of terms that have become choices for self definition. Even the need for self definition through gender is up for question. Why do we need it at all? What would the world be like now if humans had never come up with binary gender at all? This post just touches on some of these points to introduce the topic.
Most people are used to the terms MTF (male to female) and (FTM/F2M) female to male describing a transgendered individual in terms of assigned gender versus affirmed gender. There is assigned female or male at birth, ASFB or ASMB, as well as transgender and “trans”, however over the years many more varied descriptors have arisen often in direct response to people being misunderstood.
The term cisgender used a lot in this book refers to people whose sex and gender match, via meaning “in the same side” while “trans” means on the opposite side (p6) also trans is connected to words like transformation… And I believe it comes from a root meaning of “crossing over” , used in common words like transport and transition. The idea of transitioning is actually important for part of the trams gender community. Some people want to include Gender Affirming Surgery in their transition and others do not. The term Gender Affirming Surgery was new to me and a welcome replacement to the old phrase “Gender Reassignment Surgery”.
I am still confused by the term Transexual versus a Trans gendered individual, as well as use of the word “sex” as indistinguishable from “gender”, as sex in this context seems to be an older more antiquated term. I believe there used to be a distinction between a “transvestite”, a male or female who presents him or herself as the opposite gender through makeup , clothing and other means, often but not always connected to performance and not for the purpose of expressing their Affirmed gender. The term transsexual used to refer to someone who is not a transvestite, someone whose assigned gender at birth does not match their gender identity, which is the main aspect of the concept of transgender versus cisgender.
There are, however, many subsets of people who identify as gender non conforming but are not transitioning through hormones and surgery. For example, some ASFBs who are not heterosexual do not like the term lesbian because it defines that person as female. There is a growing acceptance of people who don’t like labels, whether binary gender or as a definition of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately mainstream society is miles behind; there is a growing understanding of homosexuality, but less of bisexuality and asexuality, much less transgender and non gender.
Some of those who refuse to identify as GLor B use the term “queer” to refer to their sexual orientation and/or gender. Queer is a term that has been reappropriated and transformed from something insulting to an affirming way to define oneself.
What of others who challenge the terms under the GLBTQ umbrella, who engage with none of these terms to define themselves or use different terms, new to mainstream society?
Younger populations sometimes use the terms trans boys or trans girls.
Most have rejected the term hermaphrodite instead using “intersex” to define being born with bodies that don’t “fit” as male or female.
There are many who reject all these classifications and identifications as too narrow, even insulting, and prefer to be male or female or affirmed male affirmed female.
The term Boi is an interesting term as it is used by a diverse group of people to identify as “young carefree and sexually explorative”.
Neutrois means having a gender neutral identity, a non binary gender, neither strictly male or female.
Gender fluid and non gender conforming tend to express someone who sees themselves as having qualities of different maybe not defined genders and/or sees gender binary as limiting and.
An interesting aside: I believe that the concept and activity of interpreting dreams or even tarot cards is one way that people loosen their view of only seeing gender as binary gender. When you are everyone in your dream, you can easily see visually that there are parts of you that are not your birth assigned gender, as well as non genderd parts of you that come in all forms, animals, alien creatures, objects and settings. When people are able to identify with these parts of their dreams, they are engaging in what I would call gender opening, not just “gender bending”. When you read tarot cards, it’s the same thing. A man could get the Empress card in some important place where she embodies some part of himself just as anyone could get the Hanged Man card, a major arcana card that has multiple meanings about spirituality, and so the images on the cards, especially the classic Rider deck, may be gendered and the “querent” the person asking the cards something, will learn about different types of energies within him or herself that are stuck, need attending to, or are helping in some way. These energies within us may be represented by a gendered image but go beyond gender, and this is the relm of the Self. I guess I am suggesting that we all have “Trans selves” within us. This is this a book for everybody to learn from and find enlightenment about what it is to be human and a being…
Due to many misunderstandings of what introvert and extrovert really mean, this post clarifies some of the misconceptions and reveals ways in which some people are balanced between the two. I personally don’t identify with it, but I do understand people mixing up not liking group gatherings, seeming open with “everyone” ( not really, just people I am comfortable with) and also feeling shy and not being seen as a shy person. We all have our quirks and some of us are very much one category or another and some are indeed mixed…
Wow! I am adding this post to follow the last, so skip it if you’re looking for anything serious! In order to get offended pretty quickly, all I had to do was go to the Victorias Secret website. A minefield of horrible terms for clothing.
I must be living under a rock, as I was super shocked to see that there is a new category of underwear called “cheekies” and “cheekinies”, referring to showing some of your “cheeks” while still wearing underwear. No further comments necessary. What would be a neutral term for such undergarments???
I was also reminded of something I find very silly but sort of true now that it is hard to tell the difference between pygamas and clothing. “Loungewear” is a term that has been around for a while now, and I sort of like it as it seems to refer to a verb, lounging, which doesn’t seem to refer to one gender in particular although I doubt there is loungewear in men’s clothing. The weird thing is that the word Lounge also refers to a place you have to leave your home to go to. I think it is called a Lounge as a way to refer to going out somewhere yet when you get there at the “lounge”, you kind of are supposed to feel like you are home in your living room but listening to good music and the lighting is better. So it’s kind of funny that lounge wear these days is really just the same as sleep wear in separates. I am a fan of casual clothing that can be almost worn to some jobs and at least out to brunch without people looking at you wondering why you forgot to get dressed.
Looking at the dresses, most seem to be described based on the way they look, if you skip the “boyfriend” shirt dress, which could easily just be called a shirt dress as it is a shirt that is long thus able to be worn as a dress.
I just saw the term “knife pleat” for the first time, not sure where this originates but I guess it means the pleats are nice and sharp. Come to think of it, I have no idea where the word “pleat” comes from…
Here are all the different kinds of pleats described:
box pleat (a flat double pleat made by folding under the fabric on either side of it)
inverted pleat (a box pleat reversed so that the fullness is turned inward)
kick pleat (pleat in back of a straight skirt to allow ease in walking)
knife pleat (a single pleat turned in one direction)
tuck (a narrow flattened pleat or fold that is stitched in place)
It’s middle English from the 15th Century. Not sure if it started as being a type of folding or something else… I can’t find anything about this.
Just came across a juicy description of the term “poodle skirt”, definitely not totally a descriptive term though it does seem to be quite concretely connected to the image of the dog:
The poodle skirt was a full skirt worn in the 1950s it had a poodle embroidered at the bottom of the skirt and a lead from the dog to the waist of the skirt. The idea was as you walked you looked like you were walking a poodle. As viewed from a distance.
I like poodles and had one, so I can’t really be too offended by this although it seems more like it wants to make the woman look somehow blown up the way poodles get when their owners make them look poofy and ridiculous…SIgh…
For the folks out there who read my blog for the art therapy and psychology posts, I am sorry to venture into an area that has not much to do with either, fashion and the terms used to describe clothing, but I am fascinated by this topic; it’s my love of language, that surfaced early on when I was the only one in English class who loved dividing up sentences and naming parts of speech. We used to have “grammar” as a separate part of English class, probably not the case now…
So, here we go venturing into fashion meets psychology/language/sociology. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this. That’s what I love about blogging. You can reference people who know more about it, and just start up a conversation without having to be an expert!
It is now ubiquitous; just look at Old Navy and Gap and Victorias Secret websites and catalogues. There are “boyfriend” jeans which are a certain shape and style, just like “skinny” jeans, which were mentioned in my last post on this topic, as well as “bell bottoms”, “high waisted” jeans and various other kinds. I first saw this term in a Victorias Secret catalogue, a few years ago, in reference to a “boyfriend” sweater. I assumed it meant a sweater that is supposed to look like the wearer of it is wearing her presumptive boyfriend’s sweater. A lot of assumptions here, that a slouchy sort of too big sweater is akin to a man’s sweater for a woman, who must have a boyfriend or remember putting on her larger boyfriend’s clothing. Of course many women don’t have boyfriends, some have girlfriends, some have neither, some have non gendered lovers, etc. And of course many women who call their partner or dating casually person their “boyfriend” are the same size or larger than this “boyfriend”. Somehow seeing this term on clothing just never gets old in terms of how insulting it feels. And of course, I may be wrong about the origins of this term. I was way off with the “baby doll” reference!
So when did this emerge as a classification of not just sweaters, but jeans and I guess other things like shirts and jackets? The “Wise Geek” blog tries to describe this basically as a tradition of women wearing menswear, either raided from a “boyfriend”, “brother” or even dad’s closet:
So this seemed to come up in the 80’s. I’m not sure what leggings have to do with it except I guess the big oversized boyfriend sweater or top was popularly paired with tight “leggings”. Now there are even “jeggings”, a term I am quite fond of just because of its sound, and it does not seem to be connected to anything besides leggings which are just described using the word leg, so not bad, considering they could have been called “skinny tights” or something else…
Anyway back to the “boyfriend” cut. Sorry I had to resort to Wikipedia for the more detailed description, as well as celebrity references and possible beginning of the popularity of the garment. They cite Katie Holmes wearing Tom Cruise’s clothing, which is really ironic, considering that most people did not believe Katie and Tom were really boyfriend and girlfriend anyway. I will refrain from speculations about their relationship.
Wikipedia: “In fashion design, primarily in ready-to-wear lines, boyfriend is any style of women’s clothing that was modified from a corresponding men’s garment. Examples include boyfriend jackets, boyfriend jeans, and boyfriend blazers, which are often more unisex or looser in appearance and fit than most women’s jackets or trousers, though still designed for the female form.
The origin of boyfriend fashion is literally borrowing and wearing a boyfriend’s clothes—his distressed jeans, his band tees, his dress shirts, his blazers, his cardigan. The trend expanded in 2009 when actress Katie Holmes was spotted in public wearing Tom Cruise’s slouchy jeans after a Broadway rehearsal; other celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Bilson, Sarah Jessica Parker, and others began to follow the trend. From there, many brands such as Gap, Forever 21, and H&M began to create boyfriend fashion products or men’s-inspired fashion.”
Here are some live examples of boyfriend jeans from Forever 21:
Here is an example of a “boyfriend sweater” from Victoria’s Secret:
It seems like it must be hard to size these as they are meant to be “oversized” and in fact, some stores prefer the term “Oversized”, which is at least descriptive and neutral, like “baggy”. I remember when “baggy” jeans were a big deal, must have been in the 80’s as nobody seems to be into them anymore!
What other offensive terms are there out there to describe women’s garments? Please let me know about any you have found. I think the word “bikini” while not offensive, has an interesting history. The other term, “two piece” is not used as much as people seem to find the word “bikini” to be sexier. This season there is a “monokini” out there, which seems like the thong version of a one piece, that is, a one piece bathing suit that someone took and cut out the sides but kept the whole thing from turning into two pieces. It seems like a strange kind of bathing suit as people like one pieces for the very reason that there is fabric covering the sides and middle of the body. I don’t see the appeal even on the tall skinny models it looks kind of cheap and really as though the person wanted to try out the idea of “cut outs” on their one piece bathing suit. Jeans with lots of holes and rips sold in stores make more fashion sense than the “monokini”…
I was on vacation during the week of July 4th and have not had a chance to post in a while, but meanwhile, on July 9, my colleague, Anastacia Kurylo posted my blog post about clothing on her great blog, “The Communicated Stereotype”!
I am inspired to continue the series and post soon about more of these strange anad loaded descriptions for mostly women’s clothing…
It’s summer, a time when maybe nobody is reading my blog anyway, so I can sneak in something personal and not get too worried about being too, I guess, “personal”:
Sort of a poem:
Things were beautiful every day, we were happy, we played.
noone knew of the sorrow to come.
we were on the monkey bars in rain or sun.
We painted lilly pads together. You shared your love of soft furry animals,
then one day from nowhere, we found out you were gone.
you became a brief moment of sunshine,
a physical girl so real, who jumped and played,
a piece of sunshine such as every 6 year old is mostly made of,
a tall girl in a cupcake shirt with a big smile and particular eyes with flecks of this color and that,
eyes that refused to be checked off in a box marked “blue” or “green” or “hazel” because they were all of these and none.
How could you be so much here among us, shining bright as the sun, a smile to melt the coldest heart,
and suddenly cold yourself, no longer alive, your beautiful soul is gone.
They say you are a star in the sky.
But that won’t do. We can’t play with you when you are so far away.
Really you are gone forever, maybe in the place of where the ones who haven’t even existed yet are, maybe in another place, the ground, the earth, gone forever.
what good is it for you to be in our hearts when we want you back?
what good is it?
It is not good. It will never be so.
The Communicated Stereotype Blog, a really great source on diversity, multiculturalism and common and uncommon forms of stereotyping, has reposted my recent post about an article on women and masturbation, which I found to be interesting and informative but not thorough enough.