Sunday, 14 November 2010

What the hell is wrong with a girl in a silly pink dress anyway?

Japanese ama-loli, courtesy of Wikipedia
    This week I have been disappointed by a minor kerfuffle in a comment stream elsewhere on the web regarding the presentation of the transsexual scrabble player Mikki Nicholson. For those unaware of Mikki, she won her title while wearing a pink wig and pink PVC dress. Not conventional clothing and perhaps not the wisest choice for someone wishing to be taken seriously, but her choice not mine and as all of us with any form of gender related issue should be able to agree, clothing alone does not define the person wearing it.
    My disappointment reading the comments linked above stemmed not only from the offence and disappointment caused by willful misgendering but from the sentiment that to be taken seriously as a woman one must dress only in the most conventional way and by inference one can also only be taken seriously as a woman if one passes. Maybe I'm a bit sensitive on that last one for reasons that should be obvious if you've read this blog for a while.
    Last night at the support group meeting I had cause to reflect on this. A couple of my friends  in Swindon do not always dress as conventionally as they were yesterday. One enjoys bridal events and the other has a neat line in French maid outfits, feather duster and all. I'm not going to tell you which is which, but one of them identifies as TV and the other is TS, in the medical system on her own path to transition. If you saw either of them presenting female on a normal day in the street though you wouldn't give her a second look and you certainly wouldn't have any doubts as to her gender, even though one of them definitely has a "him" side.
    As I thought further on unconventional dressing I was reminded of a couple of other friends of mine. Bloke friends that is, people who as yet know nothing about Jenny and to whom I'm still just a scruffy big bloke with an unhealthy interest in riding motorcycles and making cider. My goth friend who I last saw wearing a purple frock-coat. Or my middle-aged bloke friend who spends some of his weekends battling Royalists as a soldier from the English Civil War.
     So I have to admit to being a little disappointed in the reactions to Mikki based solely on her presentation from people who to my mind should know better. If my limited circle of friends contains unconventional dressers I hope I've demonstrated that unconventional dress is not as unconventional as one might at first think and that a mere combination of unconventional dress and less-than-perfect passing skills should not be justification for a suspension of common courtesy.
     The girl in the picture is part of Japan's thriving Lolita scene, a subculture of exquisite costumes that I am told are conventional weekend street wear in the Tokyo district of Harajuku. I wonder if she's any good at Scrabble?


  1. I'd think if my goal was to distract an opponent, wearing something unexpected would be good.

    Hmm, if I wear my fembot costume to the next golf tournament, that might put a few off their game... they might be put off lunch too... lol.
    Come to think of it, I would probably lose my lunch while trying to swing the club. :-)

    I think the matter of whether one is taken seriously as a woman in such an outfit would be based on people's prior knowledge of your gender. Given no prior knowledge, assuming the outfit is effective, you are a woman. If you are known to be male by those who see you dressed in a 'costume', and they have no reason to think you are transitioning, then you will be seen as a man in a cute girl's outfit, cross-dressing.

    In my experience, within the main population base, ignorance is the rule and courtesy towards gender benders is hardly common.

    Harajuku district looks like a place I might feel at home in.

  2. I see that one contributor to that thread has thought better of it and deleted their comments. Fight the good fight....

  3. What can I say? I have to agree with Halle though, it's just the way things are. All of this comes from a lifetime of grooming by our parents and peers and we (the mainstream majority) tend to have pre-conceived ideas on many things. To put it bluntly we grow up with attitude and for the more sensible among us it becomes a new learning curve to undo the damage. Why can't people live and let live? People put it down to human nature but I say that isn't an excuse. Sad.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  4. Point of clarification here....
    "to be taken seriously as a woman one must dress only in the most conventional way".

    Do you mean: (to be taken seriously as a woman)one must dress only in the most conventional way?

    Because increasingly in the current economic climate I'm finding: (as a woman)to be taken seriously one must dress only as a man.

    I think both of those attitudes need blasting out of existence but, unfortunately, a lot of people still rely on "uniforms" to define others.

  5. @Halle, Shirley Anne: I can excuse a member of the public through ignorance, but I have a harder time with someone from within our own sphere.

    @Dru: You've just taken me back to the sound of 40 1970s children bellowing their way through the hymn book in an English country church.

    I hope our words were persuasive to the person who deleted their comments.

    @AJ: In my line of work senses are important, so I should have written that in a less ambiguous style. The first sense, in the context of being taken seriously by the commenters who annoyed me.

    I guess I'm not best qualified to comment on how seriously a woman is taken in the workplace based on her clothing. I have a brain that notices clothing for all the wrong reasons (or should that be the right reasons?) and where I work there are probably more women than men, women who seem to dress in whatever different styles suit their personal expression.

    But sadly it's true, too many minds spend too long in the gutter.

  6. How is Mikki's dress any different from Grayson Perry's? He was taken perfectly seriously whilst he was dressed like a dolly on a entertainment tv prog a bit back.

  7. There are times when I despair seeing Grayson Perry on the box. I don't know how Grayson identifies, but since he's happy to be known through his bloke persona I'm guessing it's different because he *is* portraying a bloke wearing a dress. Mikki's costume might have been similarly less easy to take seriously but the difference is she identifies as female full-time and is on her own path of transition.

  8. As I understand it, Grayson was quite snotty about transsexuality when he did a TV series a couple of years back (no telly, didn't watch)... another case of someone stepping in and telling everyone that we are what we are not, from a spurious position of authority.

  9. I've often thought on pink wigs if its good enough for Britney Spears its good enough for me :-)
    But seriously, congrats to Mikki from someone with a comparatively dull wardrobe.

  10. Stylish and understated, please! I can tell you don't write marketing copy for a living. (shakes head/)

    A pink wig would certainly be eye-catching in the Brunel Centre.

  11. I'll dress as I like, if other people don't like then that's their problem, not mine..!

    I probably wouldn't do a Tesco shop in this but I reserve the right to..!

    Hmm, I feel a challenge coming on...!

    Much love,
    Ria xx

  12. I'm sure my local Tesco has seen garments far more flamboyant :)

    Looks as if you all had a good time at the weekend.