You guys, I think I found a legitimate way in which men are systematically oppressed on our culture. I know, crazy, right? The answer is this: businesswear in general, and skirts specifically.
Skirts are awesome, particularly for DC summers. You can get away with showing your knees, they come in all sorts of light fabrics, and you get a cool breeze up your legs. I wear bike shorts under skirts constantly, both to avoid heat rash and because with my West Coast upbringing I am uncomfortable unless I am dressed to go on a hike at any time. So I guess that makes this an ode to the skort? Anyway, the bike shorts mean that I can stay cool in a skirt without having to worry about flashing people. I think a lot of what people don’t like about skirts is that they leave you vulnerable to giving people an unwanted upskirt view, unless you behave in a ladylike way and cross your legs. Skorts, people, I’m telling you.
My heart goes out to those poor businessmen sweltering in our humid summers, in their collared, long sleeved shirts, ties, and long pants in thick fabrics. Things you have to iron. Things you can’t bike in, unless you want to ruin them with sweat and chain grease.
Big city workplaces are refusing to acknowledge the realities that most people’s commutes don’t happen from door to door in air conditioned cars. This leads to weird double standards, where skirts to the knee are professional and weather appropriate, but shorts are not, no matter how nice. And, because discrimination is bad, y’all, we jokingly, technically, allow anyone to wear either skirts or pants. But the policy is always told to men with a conspiratorial wink of “we both understand you’re not actually going to come in wearing a skirt.” Can you imagine a man being taken seriously in a professional setting while wearing a skirt?
There are people in my life for whom it would fit their gender identity better to wear skirts, at least some of the time. But even though it’s comfortable and feels right, there’s too much at stake in their careers.
This illustrates a key principle of privilege: just because an oppressed group IS ALLOWED to do something, doesn’t mean it’s safe for them to do it. Danny breaks down some of the reasons why “but you can do what you want” is a weak argument — go read it.
So how do we fix it? I think we should take a clue from the Swedish train drivers who recently made headlines. It’s hot in a train, but they were only allowed to wear skirts or pants. So, they all, en masse, switched to skirts. They created a culture where it was ok, and bam! It was ok. With a few dozen media stories, but still: progress!
I want to hear from you. Men, tell us your skirt wearing experiences! Everyone, tell us your experiences of changing office culture!