I'm so nerdy that I dressed as a sociological experiment for Halloween


I'd planned for months to dress as "a girl" for Halloween. I don't remember exactly how I arrived at this decision, but I remember it was something I came up with while talking with a coworker a while back and thought it would be fun. It was. And much more informative and educational than I'd really imagined.

When I bought the clothes and accessories, I purposely tried to put together a "normal" high-femme outfit. I didn't want to look like I was in drag or look overly theatrical. The idea was that it wouldn't look like a costume to strangers. I think I succeeded in this aspect. Part of the fun was that I tried to have the outfit be made entirely out of things I would never wear. Pearl earrings, knockoff Tiffany necklace, filigree headband, fake nails, makeup beyond lip stuff, boucle skirt, pantyhose, and leopard print flats. The black t-shirt is something I'd wear (and do...) as is the black cardigan (which is usually worn over shirts with band logos or similar on them). Oh, and the sequinned purse is something I already had, which I do carry. You have to look closely, but it actually has Hello Kitty on it. It's usually an ironic accessory when I carry it normally, but it blended in with the outfit quite well.

What really intrigued me was the reactions from people who do know me and have seen me every day for years. Most of them realized immediately that it was a Halloween costume and thought it was creative and fun. A couple people didn't immediately realize why I was doing this, but immediately got it when I or someone else explained it, and thought it was clever.

A few people just really didn't get it, which is where the "educational" part comes in. I had several people at work ask me if I had court or something to go to. Someone actually said, "oh, I figured you needed to look professional for something." This remark was a bit weird, and pretty revealing on, well, societal attitudes. Despite the trainings I've done in my workplace on gender, in which I've used myself as an example quite frequently when discussing the gender continuum, there are still people who think nothing of the idea of me wearing fake nails for the first time in my life, pantyhose, makeup, and a little purse in order to look "professional." Why wouldn't they assume that my professional attire would be more androgynous? Like, similarly gendered to my normal clothing, just a little snazzier? (Which is pretty much what my professional wardrobe amounts to; androgynous blazers, sweaters, clogs, etc.) Similarly, I got several really nice compliments from coworkers who said I looked really good as a girl, but with acknowledgement that it's just so not who I am. A few others though made comments along the lines of looking "a lot better" with my girl outfit on, and said they've always wondered why I "don't bother with makeup." Hmm, maybe I'll put a little more emphasis in my trainings on how offensive it is to put identities into a hierarchy and to decide how other people ought to identify.


I didn't actually anticipate getting any different reactions from strangers, because I wasn't presenting any differently than a lot of people do. Yet there were some marked differences. I usually notice that police officers and construction workers in particular will say hi to me when I walk past. It's frequently in a somewhat "interested" way, but not disrespectful. I usually greet them back in a "this-is-just-a-greeting-and-nothing-more-ok-bye" manner, and all is well. But when I walked around in my Halloween costume, a group of construction workers actually talked about my boobs and my legs as if I wasn't right there a few feet from them. And I'd always thought this sort of thing was infrequent, or just an urban legend. So at lunch, I walked past several of the other neighborhood construction sites, and at about half of them, I got either blunt "compliments" ("you look real nice!") or the same talking-about-me-as-if-I'm-not-there. Dayum. I'd somehow thought we, as a species, were slightly more advanced than to make such blatantly objectifying comments on the street like that. It frustrates me, because apparently I present as less assertive or weaker or something when I'm doing the femme thing. I definitely believe that women who want to identify this way should be free to do so and should be respected just the same, and it's upsetting that this isn't necessarily the case. It kind of makes me question, well, who exactly has the power on the female gender continuum? If some people think we're "supposed to" wear makeup and present as femme when going somewhere where we need to look nice, then this is apparently the ticket to power with these folks, yet it's the ticket to objectification and not being viewed as having rights by others. Is it a matter of choosing with whom we want to have power, rather than pursuing mastery and competence in a more general sense? And if so, how do I feel that the way I feel most comfortable in the world is the one that seems to garner the respect of a particular construction crew that feels it's appropriate to say really lewd things to people who don't present the way I usually do?

I went to the library after work and sat down to read for a bit. I had three males walk by and greet me. One sat down at the table across from me and tried to talk to me, and the other two stood there and loitered and tried to talk to me. This struck me as strange, not because I've not had strangers approach me and try to talk to me, but because I was sitting so they couldn't see what I was reading, and I otherwise presented in, well, a really boring manner. I wasn't sending anything out. My outfit wasn't even an interesting or colorful high-femme outfit, and I didn't have on interesting jewelry or anything that most high-femme women probably would at any given time. I just looked flat-out boring and nondesrcipt. I don't mind at all when people notice something I'm reading, or a t-shirt I've made, or want to know what brand of purple hair dye I use, or want to read the buttons on my bag. This strikes me as pretty normal human interaction, that someone notices someone who looks like someone they'd want to get to know. But what was I sending out? Nothing, other than being female, and apparently "pretty." Judging from earlier construction worker interactions, possibly that I was not particular assertive and therefore was safe to make objectifying comments about? The "conversations" these guys tried to have with me were so desperate and lacking in substance that they were creepy, too. "Hi, how you doin'?" "You look nice." "Where are you from?" "Are you reading a book?" (Yes, one of them seriously said that. I thought for a second about saying "no" to see what would happen.) One of them left after I muttered "hi..." and engrossed myself in my book. The other two actually persisted to the point that I flat-out said I was busy and didn't want to talk.

Ew. And here, I would have thought that my typical presentation would attract a lot more attention than the high-femme presentation, just because I tend to have clothing and possessions that are somewhat of conversation pieces. I never would have thought that a boring outfit would lead to people coming over and talking to me. I guess the biggest thing I came out of this with is that, damn, is there anyone who it's safe and comfortable to be in this world? It seems like all identities have upsides and downsides that I'd never have imagined.


16 comments:

Jodie said...

I had several people at work ask me if I had court or something to go to. Someone actually said, "oh, I figured you needed to look professional for something." This remark was a bit weird, and pretty revealing on, well, societal attitudes.

I wonder if you might have gotten a different reaction if you had dressed in a more casual femme style. Your workplace allows you to dress casually with only a few restrictions (something about particular t shirts comes to mind), but doesn't require you to dress "professionally." When I've seen you in your work attire, it's generally very casual. I've also seen you dress professionally for other occasions- as you point out, there is a distinct difference, though it still stays in your own basic style. I wonder if you had worn a fitted solid color T, structured-dark-rinse-non-faded jeans and a structured jacket with more casual jewelry (single sliver necklace, small hoops) to be compared with the clothes you typically wear work if the "professional" reaction would have been the same. That might be a consideration for further research/ ;-)

eeka said...

Yeah, I was thinking of doing something like that. Still, keep in mind the people we're dealing with; actually, yesterday afternoon a cow orker (who's cool and gets gender stuff) was talking about ways of gender presentation aside from clothing/grooming, brought me into said conversation, then previously mentioned cow orker and I started talking about the spectrum you can place yourself on from My Gender Workbook, and the other cow orker said to me "oh, I don't think of you as butch at ALL! You're dressed really nicely!" The fuck? And this person totally didn't get why that's a really clueless and offensive comment. I was wearing all male-department-purchased clothing yesterday too, and yes, I did look nice. And butch.

It's also intriguing that people tend to equate clothing on the butch end of things with "casual"; there has been research done on that, showing that female-identified people who dress in the workplace pretty much like I do (the articles talk about mostly khakis and button-downs, except these people didn't also have bare feet or have hoodies on over their shirts, like I often do!) are told that they're dressed too "casually," when male-identified people were wearing the exact same clothing and weren't told anything. Currently, this sort of thing is covered by sex discrimination laws, but requires a civil suit and is still using very gray areas of the law. This is why we need gender identity protections in ENDA, so it's spelled out clearly that a workplace can't have different dress code expectations based on gender.

Molly said...

I'm guessing a lot of people don't read you as "butch" because you have long hair. Yes, it's stupid, but people have this idea that butch women have short, masculine haircuts and wear flannel. All of them. All the time. Maybe mullets, but definitely not long hair.

I'm probably read as more masculine than you, when we both know that I'm way too girly for my own good.

Molly said...

Actually, I'm just usually not read as gendered or as having a sexuality. Nobody reads me as male, what with the boobs and the tendency to wear skirts, but I've had quite a few people over the years seem startled to remember that I am, in fact, female, including Brad. I have no idea what I do or don't do to get this reaction, but I'm fine with it. Now. :)

Jodie said...

Perhaps I've not seen your full work wardrobe spectrum, but as far as casual goes, I think of jeans and unpressed slacks as casual, along with cotton loose fitting shirts, regardless of sleeve length and button presence. I think that for both female and male styles. For a guy, even with a tie, I would think that too casual for something like court or a business environment. I would think that should be fine for either gender in a casual work environment.

Just like you can make pressed slacks and an ironed button-down look much more "professional" with a tie and a jacket, when I want to wear a dress without looking "dressed up" I add a hoodie. Those are totally casual.

I don't know- I often dress like you do (we even have some of the same clothes, as we both have a penchant for Old Navy). I consider most of that (jeans, cords, tshirts, hoodies) to be very casual. A lot is just your own preference- you and I might wear the same exact thing, but I would never consider myself to look butch, nor do I think that anyone would get that perception from me.

I remember you once saying in conversation that it isn't really appropriate for someone who considers themselves very femme to go around wearing prom dresses to work- I guess is the sentiment that someone should be able to wear khakis and a rumpled button down to a professional office if one identifies as butch? Or would the expectation be that they would still wear a suit like everyone else, just one tailored in more of a male style?

I guess I'm confused because it's extremely rare that I've seen you dressed as anything *but* casual. Casual has such a range to it to- the halloween outfit you wore certainly would't be appropriate to wear in ultra-professional office where everyone wears suits, but it would be appropriate for such an office on "casual" friday, whereas the jeans or cords wouldn't be (khakhis are a tough call because they've come to encompass all non-jean/cord/tailored pants, not just the light colored, straight-legged traditional 5-pocket pants that they once were. Those are casual-professional for either gender- cargo style, really loose/wide legged or "I-just-grabbed-these-out-of-the-laundry-pile" light colored pants aren't really).

I meant to say something about the make-up earlier- from the picture, it doesn't look like you're wearing any except for lipstick (and the brows, I think. They look darker than usual). I assume that you are, and you must be wearing it the way it' intended- bring out your features without looking like you're wearing any. I bet if you did that on another day even while wearing cords and a t-shirt and a hoodie, people would notice you looked "nice" but they'd have no idea why. Well done make-up is funny like that.

I guess to me, the biggest difference between casual and professional (baring corporate office types) is largely about how you wear stuff. Even if the shirt and the pants are to the extreme of being tailored, if they were pulled from the bottom of the (even clean) laundry pile, have rips or stains or don't fit, they're not going to look professional. I would have a hard time equating that with either gender. It just looks like you don't care about your clothes, which in some environments is fine, and in other portrays an attitude that you don't care about your business (and in some cases, yourself), either.

I don't think that there's an easy answer to any question where a person has to be able to represent both themselves and someone/something else.

Molly said...

I guess is the sentiment that someone should be able to wear khakis and a rumpled button down to a professional office if one identifies as butch? Or would the expectation be that they would still wear a suit like everyone else, just one tailored in more of a male style?

This really has little to do with gender identity; it has to do with personal style and what's appropriate in a given situation. I've worn khakis and an (unrumpled) button down to work at a government office, the day before I wore a dress and the day after I wore a blazer and slacks. I don't particularly identify as either butch or femme. My gender identity didn't change, just my clothes did.

In an office where suits are required, a woman wearing a tailored man's suit may or may not be butch. She may just be wearing a man's suit. Take, for example, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall...she wears men's clothes, but she's certainly not butch.

I had a cow-orker who always wore fitted suits with little skirts (sometimes pants), often with a ruffly shirt. Nobody would ever describe her as femme, since she had blunt-cut short hair, never wore makeup, and barked when she talked.

If you, Jodie, wore the same outfits as she did, and you did everything else you normally do, you'd most likely be read as femme.

Incidentally, there's a difference between "fitted clothes" and "clothes that fit". I think people should ideally wear clothes that fit; I don't think everyone needs to wear fitted clothes per se. Fit and cut do say a lot about gender cues; there's a difference between pants that are too big and pants that are big-fitting. Very tailored clothing tends to be read as femme, on both females and males.

As for the makeup, I can attest that eeka was wearing obvious makeup. The real question is why a woman wearing makeup should be targeted for derisive comments and treatment and the same woman while not wearing makeup doesn't have to deal with them?

Gender identity is a spectrum, just like sexuality. If someone identifies strongly with one of the binary genders, completely presents as that gender, and is accepted as that gender, s/he just doesn't have to think about gender issues. It's offensive and demeaning to treat someone differently when they're presenting more as their perceived gender than they do at other times, and this is what I think the real point of this post was.

Jodie said...

I think that you're saying better what I meant to ask, if that makes sense.

Clothes are clothes. There are some clothes that aren't appropriate for particular places of work, regardless of gender, and there are tons of different styles within both business and casual categories of both genders and everything in between. I think you can identify however you want, but I think it's an area that has a lot of gray when it comes to perception. If eeka and I stand next to each other both wearing the same cords, t-shirt, and hoodie, how is a stranger supposed to perceive that? I think that's where I'm getting caught up, because it seems like what I'm reading is that people should know, especially if the shirt has buttons on the other side.

There might have been a time in my life where if I really thought about it, I would have identified as femme. Right now, I don't really. I spend a lot of time wearing scrubs, a lot of other time dressed like a slob (in clothes that don't fit and are falling apart...), but I'm just as likely to wear really femme clothes. It's interesting, because as I'm writing this, I want to say that I don't use my clothes to define who I am, but in the clinical setting, I totally do. I wear scrubs, which means I work directly with patients. I wear scrubs of a particular uniform color, which means I'm a student affiliated with a particular school. I wear a long white coat, which is used to set me apart from the med students and the non-advanced practice nursing students. They define what I do and what my role in the hospital is. They don't define who I am.

As far as the fitted vs fit- I did mean to say "fitted" (nipped in at the waist and then out at the hips if it's long) when if came to defining a casual femme outfit (though it should certainly fit, as in not be too small), but otherwise I certainly mean fit, unless accompanied by another adjective like "wide-leg"(as there are so many types of fit in fashion these days...)

I don't at all mean that transpeople should have to wear clothes that would be appropriate to their genetic gender, just that anyone should be wearing appropriate level of dress for the environment they work in (like, I have to wear scrubs to the hospital no matter what I identify as. I can't show up in cords and a hoodie any more than I can a prom dress or flared pants with high heel boots... since none of those are the uniform).

I definitely get that treating someone differently because they're dressed as their perceived gender rather than identified is a problem. But-- I question if coworkers asking if you have to go to court when wearing a skirt (along with a shirt that you would wear anyways) is necessarily about gender. When one always dresses casually in clothes that aren't so obviously "male" (because really, what is obviously male that isn't also worn by females?), how is one to know the difference? Dress at the same casual level but with a much more "feminine" spin (which is really about cut, color and accessories), and then see if there's a big difference. Or wear slacks and a tucked in button down shirt and a tie and maybe a sweater vest for a for a while and then do the skirt. Right now though, those two styles are apples and oranges, and it would be shocking if people *didn't* notice a difference. If I saw a classmate who's usually meticulously dressed come in to class in sweats, I'd be concerned that something was wrong (since a drastic change in appearance can be indicative of depression). Or like when my former supervisor came into work wearing a suit and tie, I'd assume he was going to court. I would absolutely ask that (and have). Since it was a casual environment, on the occasions when I wore a dress, people asked me the same thing. When I wore jeans and a largish t-shirt, no one ever commented, especially since I tended to be very casual.

It's all clothes. How are people supposed to know it's about gender? I've known eeka for years. It never would have occurred to me that some of her clothes come from the men's department, with the exception of the men's dress-up type clothes. So if the only time that a close friend can tell that the clothes are obviously men's is when dressed up (like for orchestra stuff), and eeka doesn't dress up that way for the office, how would people who haven't seen the regular dress-up clothes know that a skirt isn't the regular dress-up clothes?

It's easier the other way around. If you're a genetic male who identifies as female and wears dresses and skirts and low-rise pants with flared bottoms and then come in one day in straight-legged slacks and a tucked in button down and a tie and a sweater vest, there's an obvious difference in the perceived gender. But when it's a genetic female who identifies as a female who wears clothes that she identifies as butch but are clothes that lots of self-identified females who do not identify them as butch wear... it gets a little harder to tell that there's a difference. I'm not sure how people were supposed to know that when dressed up or "professional," eeka wouldn't dress like that, since that's not the way she would normally dress for work, as her work is a casual environment. I've seen one of her gender trainings at a conference- while I would call what she was wearing "business casual," (sweater, slacks), I would never guess that they might have been from the men's department, you know? There's nothing about most men's clothing that screams "MALE" since women started wearing pants all those years ago.

Bottom line, I would have laughed and gotten the joke if I had seen eeka dressed like that, because I know it's just not her style. When I first met eeka, she occasionally dressed girly, but what she wore for Halloween was definitely not her style in any of the time I've known her. I'm not sure how people who only see her dressed casually would know that it was the first time she's ever worn fake nails and that she wouldn't wear something like that for court.

Blanket statements like "butch does not equal dressed nicely" are certainly much more understandable as offensive. Even the "why don't you bother with make-up?" is right in there. This is where I have more trouble understanding- I more often than not wear very casual cords/jeans to classes. Sometimes, I dress more like I used to, in the more Banana Republic clothes and wear make-up. Usually people do make a comment like "you look nice today." I usually know people will say something, because it's *different* than what I usually wear. Sometimes the clothes are even less flattering to my body type that the casual clothes, yet the "dressed up" ones get the nice comment. So shouldn't I expect a reaction, since they're really reacting to a difference? Doesn't that mean that people just notice how I usually dress, and isn't that, in the end, a good thing?

I guess I'm not seeing where coworkers were making or implying negative comments about either appearance (other than in the comments section). Maybe I would feel differently if the whole entry opened with (or mentioned) "I openly identify as butch" (or somehow else make others aware of this in a way other than attire), rather than "my usual attire is androgynous" which also describes 92387492830492385 other women who may or may not identify as butch. As you (molly) point out, with the long hair, people might not make that connection. Even with short hair and flannel (or *shudder* a mullet) how is it that people know? A lot of what I took from eeka's training was about treating people as they identify, but if someone doesn't tell me how they identify, how should I know? And really, other than being respectful of using preferred pronouns and such treating someone as "male" or "female" or "androygenous"? Saying "you look nice today" is something that I would totally say to a male coworker who's dressed up who normally doesn't- I don't get how that's specifically a gender thing. Same with equating "dressed up" in this type of office as "professional" as in "going to court or an interview or a really important meeting." It's the norm in a lot of human services offices these days to dress very casual, so any difference stands out. If the implication is that someone who is a biological female has to dress high femme in order to be professional, I get it. I just don't see that necessarily being the message from the coworker.

If the whole argument is really "people should know I'm butch," how?

As for "professional office"- I equate that with a fancy law office where the lawyers bill $500 an hour or the stock exchange- the type of office where everyone from the CEO to the junior partner or entry-level analyst wears Brooks Brothers and Donna Karen- places where this is the actual dress code, not just what some of the professionals wear because they feel it sets them apart. Not a "business casual" environment. That would be totally different from the point that I was trying to make. I was definitely talking about when your job requires a suit, not when it's optional.

eeka said...

See, Jodie, I think you're making the point perfectly. I do wear probably 50 - 75% clothes from the guy's department. But I wouldn't expect you to necessarily know that, because you're naturally not going to be as attuned to gender cues. I mean, I do think you're super-attuned to gender stuff, really, but there's just a different mindset that straight gender-normative people rarely have. Queers have to be tuned in to gender cues, because we spend much of our time trying to pick each other out of a group and trying to assess people to determine whether they're one of us, since this makes it easier to sort out which people are going to cause us trouble. Pretty much when we go into any setting, a big part of our consciousness is aimed at determining who's queer. When you don't have to do that, you don't get as much practice.

I think this has already been said, but gender identity is expressed by so much more than clothes, which I know you know, but maybe aren't thinking about so much right now. Along with clothes are accessories and so forth that can be huge "markers" for being read as queer, but then there's also the huge component of body language and speech. It's harder, but still pretty easy, for queer people to pick out the people who are aiming to present as queer when in a situation where people are wearing uniforms. I think this is just part of minority identity, that we have to be accustomed to how the dominant group thinks about things and our way of thinking about things. So, sure, I know that even people who are really sensitive to gender and sexuality, like you are, just aren't going to be as attuned to it. It doesn't mean I'm not going to be frustrated that queer culture and norms aren't understood by everyone. It's just like how I don't expect the dominant group to learn when the holidays of 34982348932 different religions are, because that just wouldn't be reasonable, but it's still oppressive that the country revolves around someone else's calendar and not my religion's. It means I'm in a place of having to explain myself and stick up for myself all the time, where the dominant folks can just sit back and it "works" for them.

Jodie said...

Oh, I totally get a lot of the non-verbal-non-clothing cues relating to queerness, in the sense that even if I were meeting you for the first time, after a few minutes I would be pretty sure that you're queer- and I tend to be pretty accurate about that. Just as far as even more subcategories go, that's going to be really hard for people to pick out, because that's something so specific to that culture and also some that that's not really "out there" in the mainstream.

I totally get that being defined by someone else's gender expectations is offensive, but when it comes to statements that you've now done this experiment and now you see that you need to add stuff about not assuming that when people dress really nicely in their perceived gender that's they're dressed professionally (because that's specifically what the training comment was in reference to), I'm kind of "whut?" If you chose to dress that way and said dress is appropriate for court and is not even remotely related to the level at which you usually dress... people aren't going to know. And more to th point, why would someone do that other than because it's Halloween or a social science experiment? And if that's the case, why make that a training point? I assume if you were actually going to court or somewhere else that you have to dress up for, you would wear a nice (men's) suit, just as you do for orchestra when you have to wear tux pants/shirt. Teaching people that this is what people who are genderqueer who identify this way would and should and do wear for formal/business wear is one thing- so is the whole strangers treating you differently or people making comments about how women wearing men's clothes can't possibly look professional or nice or anything like that is, or even if people are suddenly being nicer to you or doing you favors or hitting on you or whatever because you're dressed like a "girl." Even education about when you are really tuned in to look for subtle differences like buttons on the opposite side or the waist and hips of pants being the same- but to hold people to this level of subtle detail and if they don't and they ask you when you choose to wear a "femme" outfit that's appropriate for court if that's where you're going are being offensive seems rather extreme to me. Now, if the climate in the office is that "if all biological women don't dress exactly like eeka did on Halloween when they go to court are unprofessional," that would be different. I didn't get the impression from the entry that it's considered unprofessional if you do wear a suit (or at least something closely resembling neat pants and a neat tucked shirt and tie and a jacket or sweater or vest or whatever else your office considers professional male attire for court, because for a lot of agencies in this field that's usually the only reason people get really dressed up). If it is, I would totally see that as a reason to reeducate people. The concept that some parts of society doesn't accept the way you might dress and that if they're not going to accept you as you are, to only accept you when you dress as your perceived gender is false and unfair and offensive resonates for me- someone asking you if you're going to court or somewhere that you have to look professional on one of the rare occasions when you're dressed up at all doesn't. I think you would have a much better case on the point of other people's attitude's towards genderqueer "professional" attire if you were doing the experiment consistent to the way you usually dress. If you came in wearing even hiphugger jeans and a blouse nipped in at the waist and someone started making comments about your attire as professional (or not), then you have a realistic comparison. Otherwise to call people out for assuming you were going somewhere that required professional dress is holding people to a standard that some people are never going to be able to internalize.

Eve said...

You rock, BTW. That's the best idea for a Halloween costume I've heard in a long time.

Just based on that pic, I read your costume as "librarian."

Rich said...

Good post - I really enjoyed your experiment. So how did it feel to have men wanting to make contact with you?

Rich said...

Oh one more thing... I know a lot of women who LIKE getting comments from construction workers etc. It gives THEM power to be able to get a reaction out of men and go on their merry way.

Molly said...

Rich,

I find your first comment somewhat curious, as it assumes that women who dress more towards the butch side never get random male attention, and I can assure you, that's just not true. There seem to be men who will hit on anything with boobs, and it's not flattering; it's creepy and weird, since they're not discriminating AT ALL.

It also assumes that guys don't ever flirt with women they know are not interested in them. They do, and depending on the guy, that can be fun. Especially if it's a gay guy, but that's a whole 'nother story, isn't it?

eeka said...

Hi Rich! Yeah, as I've been trying to point out here, gender is totally a spectrum. As I've said, I don't feel like I'm as-far-as-possible onto the butch spectrum, and even if I were, I just don't have the physical features to be able to present as "holy shit butch" even if I tried my hardest, so I definitely don't fall into the category of females who get absolutely no construction worker attention. The difference I noticed was that it's usually a fairly respectful kind of "hey how's it goin?" greeting, with somewhat of an air of "I'm a stud, talkin to the ladies!" But when I was all femmed out, several of them made really blatant comments about my anatomy, talked about me as if I weren't there, and shouted really obvious advances at me. Usually construction workers don't bother me, and like you said, it's kind of a flattering thing to be appreciated in that way but to have most of the power in the interaction. When they were responding to me as a femme, it felt disempowering, to me, at least. I feel like blatant discussion of my anatomy is way over the line into violating my personal space (not physical space...I guess, like, psychic space? Either way, way too into my business from a random stranger!) In my case, this was a result of an action I had taken, since I've never had this kind of stuff happen when I was presenting in my usual way. This is where it felt powerless, because I should have the right to dress however I want and not have to deal with people who suddenly have no manners, yanno?

Also, this might just be a personal thing, but it felt reaaaally objectifying to have guys come up in the library and want to chat with me when I wasn't putting anything out there that was remotely interesting. Which means the only thing they were reacting to was that I'm female. What is it about these particular guys that makes them think I'm going to want to talk to a guy who has absolutely no reason to come up and talk to me? (And who was too lame to even cook up some excuse to come talk to me -- couldn't you lameoids at least ask me what time it is or where they keep the books without any big words, or SOMETHING?) It doesn't bother me at all when guys come talk to me, even when it's clearly flirtatious, but they're at least approaching me because they want to know where I got my Super Mario Brothers backpack or something. I guess I'm just really put off by the presumption on the creepy guys' part that, yes, of course I'm going to welcome their attention no matter how lame their attempt, as if they see my role as being obligated to go along with whatever they initiate. Hey, at least it made it extremely obvious who the creepy guys with no respect were!

Suldog said...

Fascinating piece, Eeka, for a number of reasons.

"I never would have thought that a boring outfit would lead to people coming over and talking to me."

I certainly can't speak for everyone, but I think that, sometimes, we straight men are MORE attracted by a "blank canvas". That is, if we don't get a strong visual clue, we tend to read whatever we most strongly desire into what is presented. That may be what happened.

I don't believe I'd ever seen any photo of you other than the headshot. From that, I always considered you pretty - you have a very pretty face. My first impression upon seeing you in the costume was, again, "pretty". That's just the way I am, I guess. No offense intended :-)

I find the comments concerning picking up on visual - and other - cues fascinating. I contend that I have (for lack of a less-crude term) gaydar. MY WIFE says that it's impossible, but I counter that, as a person who has done a lot of gambling, part of the skillset is being able to pick up on non-verbal cues. It's not a conscious thought process, but something that happens in the sub-conscious. I don't claim some special power to spot gay people; rather, it is an ability to size up someone quickly, no matter what gender stuff is happening. Is that how you view the process, or is it more conscious on your part?

Finally, would it be possible for you to post a representative photo or two of yourself in "everyday" clothing? I think it would make this whole thing more interesting, if I could see a comparison.

Thanks for sharing all of this, in any case. It was an absorbing read, that's for sure.

Sis B said...

Ok I didn't make it through all the comments, but I think your Halloween experiment was deliciously nerdy and intriguing. Your posts on gender always make me think and evaluate my views of myself and others, and I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you write.

I'm still trying to figure out what being female means to me and how I relate to all the other members of our species. You make my brain stretch in all sorts of good ways.

Thank you!