So, it’s been announced that 17-year-old Jaden Smith, son of American actor Will Smith, is to be the new face of Louis Vuitton clothes. To be more specific, the womenswear section. And I didn’t even know they had an old face – clearly I’m out of the fashion loop.
But what a great publicity stunt for Louis Vuitton. So many people thought their fashion offerings were confined to handbags – whoever knew that they were actually selling womenswear for men?
Jaden seems to be up for this gender-neutral, equal clothing rights thing which allows men to wear women’s clothes without any fear of ridicule. But there is another, more important issue afoot.
There’s a reason why men wear men’s clothes and women wear women’s clothes, and why they are generally so different. OK, I know women have been wearing trousers for decades but they’re usually a femme version of the male equivalent - and I’m not talking about unisex clothes like jeans and t-shirts.
I’m talking about basic clothes norms that depict which gender is wearing them, even in the modern world. Stereotypically, men wear trousers and women wear dresses and skirts. That’s the ‘norm’ and it’s more than that – it’s a uniform.
When you get out of bed in the morning the most important thing you have to do all day is tell the world what your gender is, because from that, everything else flows. You may think that your job is to be an office supervisor or a stockbroker or police officer but these are all human constructs. Deep down your real job is to reproduce, and showing other humans your gender is the first step on that path.
So, to help make it plain for anyone to see which gender you are, you put on a uniform. Men put on trousers and have men’s haircuts, and women put on dresses and skirts, feminine tops and tights and women’s shoes to show their femininity and declare to the world that they are female.
They have women’s hair-dos and they put use cosmetics to make themselves look nicer and more presentable and to reinforce the female uniform a bit more.
So, when some people come along and want equal clothing rights, that upsets the apple cart a bit.
Male-to-female transgender people rely on props like clothes, shoes, make-up and hairstyles to create the gender identity they want to portray to the world because most of the time their bodies alone are unable to do that. There are a few lucky ones who don’t have to do a thing to put across a female persona, but most trans women have to work hard at it.
The danger for trans women is that if wearing what are traditionally women’s clothes becomes the norm for men too, then trans women will no longer be able to rely on these props to help them display a female gender identity - and for many, that could be a serious problem.
Of course it will take time - a long, long time even - for things to change to the extent where men wearing skirts and girly stuff will be totally acceptable.
But trans people should be aware that well-known faces like Jaden Smith are starting to encroach on our territory. They’re starting to wear the trans uniform without actually stating that they are transgender, and they’re claiming it for themselves under the guise of gender-neutral fashion. All of which begs the question: where does that leave us?
Read the other side of the argument here
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