Men in Bras – The Emancipation of the Male
Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA
Widespread among crossdressers is the feeling that it is unfair that society discriminates against them for choosing to wear feminine clothes.
There is good reason for the feeling that male crossdressers are unfairly discriminated against; after all, women frequently dress in masculine clothing - the woman truck driver wears jeans and a plaid shirt and the woman executive wears a smart suit and carries a briefcase.
Indeed, female crossdressers - women who choose to dress in clothing normally worn by men and to thereby bring out the masculine aspects of their own personality - are so numerous and so open about their crossdressing that they face no problems from society.
Every woman who has ever worn a pair of slacks or jeans or a male-style shirt is a crossdresser. Modern fashion designers now recognise the importance of crossdressing to women by producing large ranges of male style clothing (trouser suits, jeans and so on) but despite the wide availability of ersatz male clothing, many women still prefer to wear the real thing; the original, male articles made out of rougher materials and with a chunkier more masculine style. This is not surprising since the unspoken, and very possibly unrecognised aim, is after all, to find the greatest possible contrast to normal, female clothing.
It is no coincidence that women have started to dress more and more in men's clothing as they have become more and more liberated; the rising role of women in business, politics and sport, and increased crossdressing by women, are twin, important features of the twenty first century which go together as well as a bra and pantie set.
While men crossdress to bring out the allegedly `feminine' qualities of their personality, women crossdress to draw out the harsh, allegedly `masculine' qualities of their personality.
`It's perfectly OK for women to wear trousers, men's shirts, and boots,' said one crossdresser who wrote to me. `But people get terribly excited if a man dares to wear something delicate or frilly. I don't mean to sound as though I'm whingeing but it's simply not fair.'
He is right. This discriminatory attitude towards male crossdressers is quite ridiculous. Women have entered all areas of a once `male' part of the world; why should anyone now object when men attempt to enter a once `female' part of the world?
If a young girl exhibits any masculine qualities she is described, rather affectionately, as a tomboy. And if a woman exhibits strong, typically and traditionally male qualities she is admired for taking a stance and congratulated for sticking up for herself.
A woman can be tough or gentle and still be considered a woman. Women today can do whatever they want. They have won the right to smoke cigarettes in the street, to drive buses, to take the highest political office, to fly aeroplanes, to operate factory machinery, to drive trains, to run huge, international businesses and to do just about anything that takes their fancy. Women are in a wonderful position for they can be competitive or ambitious as and when they want to be and yet if they fail they can slide daintily back into femininity.
Men have no such choice: they must be constantly driving forward, fighting their way towards the goals which have been set for them by society.
Why should it be considered perfectly right and proper for a woman to show her emotions by crying, and to show consideration for others or for animals, and yet considered rather odd for a man to show the same emotions and feelings?
Women seem to regard the freedom they now enjoy as a natural right. But a mere century or so ago women did not have these rights. Women had to behave daintily; as `women'.
Today's men are in a similar but contrasting `mirror image' position to the one women were in a century ago; they have to behave firmly and aggressively - as `men'.
A man still has to be tough if he wants to be regarded as a man. If a boy or man exhibits feminine qualities he will be described as `girlish' or as a `sissy' - and there is no doubt that the words are being used in a pejorative, condemnatory sense.
Many men, when faced with the fact that they cannot safely exhibit personal feelings and emotions which they know to be genuinely held, feel concerned that there must be something wrong with them. It is this dichotomy which often leads to alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness.
The female who feels strong male qualities can dress and get a job where her qualities will be recognised and rewarded. The male who feels feminine qualities rising within himself, and who feels uncomfortable with society's constant expectation for him to exhibit strong, male qualities, may well have a nervous breakdown (or, in order to avoid the inner conflict end up running away from society in some way).
And yet it is perfectly natural and healthy for a man to have feminine feelings. Every human being is a mixture of `male' and `female' qualities. Anatomical males are not exclusively aggressive and tough any more than anatomical females are exclusively dainty and compassionate. We all contain elements of `maleness' and `femaleness' and it is dangerous to attempt to suppress some of those elements. It is, indeed, the widespread suppression of femininity among men which explains why males live such noticeably shorter lives than females.
We describe human qualities as `male' or `female' according to social rules rather than because they are genetically associated with men or women. Aggression and dominance are not inherently male qualities. In matriarchal societies where women are in charge they adopt aggressive, dominant qualities. Even though all the qualities associated with both maleness and femaleness are present in all human beings it is easy for some qualities to become dominant. Men are expected to be aggressive, and so tenderness and compassion are repressed.
The male began to regard himself - and be regarded - as an aggressive, bold hunter when the lack of vegetarian food turned man, through topical necessity, into a temporary carnivore. The female, who stayed behind to look after the children and the fire while the man went off looking for animals to kill, acquired a powerful, social image as a gentle, caring `mother' figure.
In today's society, maleness and aggression are virtually synonyms, but aggression is present in both sexes and is only more obvious in men because our society trains and expects men to be aggressive. It is male misfortune that they have adopted (and are expected to display) the more hurtful and damaging emotional qualities. We are all human beings and as human beings we all have within us both male and female qualities. We are not as `male' or as `female' as our physical form might suggest. The qualities which society tends to regard as `male' (strong, silent, unemotional, unwavering and reliable) are combined within us all alongside the qualities which society tends to regard as `female' (gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, emotional, soft hearted and unpredictable).The only difference is that women now express the full range of emotions available to them while men still suppress those emotions which are considered inappropriate.
It is ironic that women, who normally, naturally and traditionally express the healthiest emotions, (crying and allowing oneself to be seen as vulnerable is healthy both because crying liberates toxic substances from the body and because it attracts sympathetic support from bystanders) should, in recent years, have been encouraged to explore and express their previously hidden masculine emotions while men, who normally and traditionally suppress the healthiest emotions (and, as a consequence become liable to problems such as heart disease), should not have been given any sort of social permission to change.
Men are expected to be aggressive; to fight for themselves, their families and what they see as their rights. Men are expected to be forceful, ruthless and strong. Our society expects every man to be constantly competitive but does not expect him to exhibit any signs of tenderness - indeed, these are likely to be dismissed as signs of weakness and unsuitability.
When dressed in feminine clothing a man can temporarily put aside the aggression and allow himself to feel more tender and more gentle. Crossdressing, in its various forms, is a totally healthy and honest way of tackling a very real problem. Crossdressers are fighting for the freedom to express all aspects of their own personalities. Crossdressers do not want to give up their male qualities and nor do they want to stop being able to live as men; they simply want to adopt and enjoy their own female qualities. Most crossdressers enjoy all the usual male activities, such as sports and messing around with cars; wearing feminine clothing is an extension of their lives, and not a substitution for their masculinity.
Most men still don't feel able to exhibit traditionally female qualities. Most men still hide their emotions from one another and from themselves. It is the burying of their emotions which results in men suffering so much damage from stress.
At heart most men are just as romantic, compassionate and sensitive as most women. But most men dare not admit their gentleness, their sensitivity or their femininity to themselves - let alone show it to others. They cover their sensitivity with crude jokes, innuendo and physical bravado.
As stress becomes increasingly invasive and inescapable so men suffer more and more from stress-related disorders. Men are every bit as soft and as emotional as women; they need sympathy, support and encouragement just as much as women. There is a man inside every woman and a woman inside every man. The physical manifestation of an individual's sexual being is just the start.
Copyright Vernon Coleman
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