Men in Skirts, The Star


Date: January 1, 1970
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This is an image of a man wearing an African print skirt on the front page of a daily newspaper.

This article may be used to:

  • Make the point that challenging stereotypes can be done through male as well as female fashion.

 Training exercises:

 1)      A mother of a son forced to wear a dress at a South African school as a form of punishment threatened to take the school to court and to petition President Thabo Mbeki for the humiliation her son suffered. How would a mother in a similar situation in your country have responded? How would the son have felt? Now reverse roles. Supposing a girl had been forced to wear trousers as a form of punishment. What would the response have been? What does this tell us about attitudes towards women and men in our society?

2)      In groups or pairs discuss the responses to women wearing “men’s” clothing, eg trousers versus men wearing women’s clothing, eg dresses or skirts. Think of circumstances in which men wear skirts or gowns. Should men feel free to wear this or any other kind of dress that they choose?

3)      Now examine the image in the Star, titled “Men in Skirts”. How do you feel seeing this man in a skirt? Should newspapers be carrying images like this on their front page? Do images like this help to challenge gender stereotypes?

 
Trainer’s notes

General: We are used to seeing images of women and fashion in our newspapers. Images of men and fashion are less frequent, and those depicting men in “women’s” clothing even less frequent. The fact that this featured on the front page, with no accompanying commentary, is interesting and would no doubt have prompted response and discussion among readers. It makes for an interesting training discussion.

Exercise one:  This is a true story and caused quite a stir. The nub of the matter is that for a boy to be forced to wear a dress is humiliating in our societies because a) a dress is regarded as women’s/girls clothing and b) women/girls are regarded as inferior to boys/men.

Exercise two: It is common now for women to wear trousers (though until recently this was banned in some Southern African countries, eg under Kamuzu Banda.) In many parliaments of the region women are banned from wearing trousers. Women in the South African parliament scored a major victory when they changed the dress code rules to allow women to wear whatever they want, and for ethnic dress to be allowed in parliament. This is liberating, not only for women but also for men). If one searches far enough, there are plenty of examples of men wearing “dresses”: the clergy, graduation gowns, the West African flowing robes, the Scottish kilt (often worn by Prince Charles) etc. Indeed, well known Muslim cleric and gender activist Farid Esack jokes that men wear dresses when they want to look important: maybe worth pondering!

Exercise three: An interesting aspect of this image is the woman in the corner staring at the image of the man in the skirt. This is a nice swapping of roles: usually it is men gazing at the beautiful bodies of women. It is good to be reminded that there are women consumers of news who might be more interested in gazing at good looking men than vice versa! The model looks regal and comfortable: why not have more men in skirts seems to be the message! It will certainly prompt interesting discussion.  

Other training resources

“Picture our lives, Gender and Images in Southern Africa ”, Chapter six on “Gender, Images and Globalisation”, contains several examples of notions of beauty (racial and gender connotations) and the way in which women’s bodies have been commercialised in the era of globalisation. Handout twenty two (ADD) would make an interesting contrast to the case study with regard to how women’s bodies are portrayed relative to men.  


Download : Men in Skirts
Download : Handout 22

2 thoughts on “Men in Skirts, The Star”

Mara says:

First I have to make clear, that skirts are not a female garment. No dictionary on world will tell you that, only that is mainly used by girls and women in westernized societies.
Some people simply experience an illusion by the limits of comprehension. If they were able to fully comprehend both the problem and the recommended solution they would agree, i.e. using skirted garments instead pants for male bodies would be the best solution for their health and comfort.
I see the skirt for men as a very important way to dress appropriate for future, out of boring “pant-ed” uniformity and prepared for more hot summers.

Bobby Woodard says:

I wear skirts myself for the simple fact they are more comfortable. Also may help prevent prostate cancer. However, I don’t try to force it on anyone. I for the most part have little to do with people. The only 1ons I deal with are people I work with and that’s on a limited basis.

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