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Women show cleavage - Why can't men?: A look into the stigma of men in revealing clothing

Apparently THIS... is "too revealing and tacky".

Apparently THIS... is "too revealing and tacky".

But THIS... is not. What's up with the gendered double standards? (e.g. You have the right to express yourself through your clothes, so long as you are a woman.) Sounds like reverse Talibanism if you ask me!

But THIS... is not. What's up with the gendered double standards? (e.g. You have the right to express yourself through your clothes, so long as you are a woman.) Sounds like reverse Talibanism if you ask me!

Apparently the Guardian UK fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley (pic) wants us to "put it (our male cleavage) away". I guess she'll have to start burning her cocktail dresses and  and low-cut tops then; if she wants to practice what she preaches.

Apparently the Guardian UK fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley (pic) wants us to "put it (our male cleavage) away". I guess she'll have to start burning her cocktail dresses and and low-cut tops then; if she wants to practice what she preaches.


Today, I am going to get a massive load off my chest (pardon the pun). You see, there has been an issue that's been bugging me for the past few years, that I feel has been marginalized by the mainstream media. It's the issue of MEN IN REVEALING CLOTHING. Bit surprising isn't it? You see, most people would never associate MEN with wearing REVEALING CLOTHING. For most people, it is only women who want to wear revealing clothing, and therefore only women who need protection whenever their honor for their choice of dressing is threatened (Criticize a woman for her dressing, and I assure you the 3rd-wave feminists of my generation would be all over you). But has it ever occurred to you that when it comes to fashion, besides the bare-breast rule (for the record, I NEVER walk around shirtless in public!), men are under far more social restrictions than women, and are judged very harshly for showing even the sligthest bit of skin, and need just as much protection as women when it comes to these issues?

"WHAT?", I can almost hear you gasp, in sheer horror at my impudence to suggest that women have an easier lot than men in some ways. "Don't men have all the freedom in the world"?, you say. Uh, no. Actually, we don't. How many women have you seen wearing trousers today? Did you bat an eyelid at any of them? Chances are you didn't. How many women did you see wearing suits today? Did you bat an eyelid at any of them? Chances are, no. But let a man make the slightest deviance from mainstream suit and tie/jeans and shirt hegemonic masculinity, and BOOM! It seems that society cannot accept the fact that all men are not alike, and seems to impose a very rigidly conservative set of norms and dress codes for the male gender to follow. For instance, while women at most black tie events are free to choose among a wide array of beautiful, glamorous dresses, or perhaps opt for a nicely tailored pantsuit, men do not possess these freedoms. While old school feminism has liberated women to an extent from the highly purittanical and restrictive Victorian dress code, the same cannot be said of men, who are still held to a very rigid and "Victorian" standard of conduct. As such, a man who does not fit the rigidly defined rat pack mould of suit and tie and long trousers can still be denied entry from these events, and this takes a huge toll on individual male freedom of expression, being forced to don an unofficial "uniform". The frustrating thing is that we are, whether we like it or not, obliged to wear our work clothes (suit and tie) to formal functions, and this gives men the short end of the stick with regard to freedom of fashion expression.

Anyway, I digress. We were talking about the issue of men in revealing clothing, were we not? You see, I wrote an article on how modern society vilifies the male body; makes it out to be the subject of a joke, so to speak. I also wrote an article on how the "male cleavage" has been widely criticized by narrow-minded fashionestas worldwide, for God knows whatever reason.

I have tried, really I have, to look on the bright side and welcome this development as a step toward gender equality. But (a) is it not a little depressing that of everything women have contributed to civilisation, it is displaying your naked chest that men have picked up on, and (b) well, just, eew. I can't take it any more.

...No, the final straw came when Jude Law – the 11th best-dressed man in Britain, according to GQ magazine – took Sienna out for dinner in Mayfair, dressed in a V-neck sweater slashed as low as a wrestler's vest. Gentlemen, please. Put it away.

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(Excerpt from Jess Cartner-Morley's The Male Cleavage: Put it away, boys!)

Yep, so much for the idea of giving men and women equality to dress themselves as they see fit. As far as I'm concerned, Cartner-Morley is no prude either, as you can see in her profile pic (pic 3). See? As I mentioned in my previous hub, she is going to have to burn all of her cocktail dresses and low-cut tops, then; if she wants to be called anything short of hypocritical. Do you know what's my problem? My problem is this: Go to a mall, and you will see numerous young women in skintight jeans and figure-hugging tank tops with a good amount of cleavage. Why not criticize them instead? Go to a nightclub, and you will see numerous young women in racy cocktail dresses, with a good amount of cleavage. Why not criticize them instead? Go to a contemporary wedding, and you will see that most liberal brides show a fair amount of cleavage. Why not criticize them instead? Although some die-hard conservatives might not approve, cleavage has been accepted as a perfectly normal thing, SO LONG AS IT IS ON A WOMAN. The funny thing is that we complain about how women are judged so harshly for wearing revealing clothing, while men get off scot free. Or do they? If a woman wears a sleeveless cleavage-baring ballroom gown (as long as it isn't too racy e.g. pic 2), nobody bats an eyelid. If a woman wears a strapless wedding dress, nobody bats an eyelid. If a woman wears a backless tank top with a pair of nicely fitted jeans, nobody bats an eyelid. All these are considered okay, so long as they are done in a tasteful and classy manner, and THEY ARE ON A WOMAN. But when a man decides to show abit of skin, maybe a little bit of chest that isn't even half as revealing, BOOM! Peope make such a big fuss about it, as if they have never seen a man's body in their entire existence. Suddenly you'll have a sh*tload of fashion critics like Cartner-Morley popping up like mushrooms at this so-called "metrosexual fad", telling them to cover up, and "have abit of modesty". (Funny though, that if the same were said about women showing a similar amount of skin, there would be cries of outrage amongst the mainstream feminist population comparing the detractors in question to the Taliban). My point is, that men don't wear sexually revealing clothing not because they aren't under pressure to wear it. On the contrary, they are under a hell lot of pressure NOT to wear it, even if they wanted to. Western men are under a hell lot of pressure to conform to a rigid, monochrome style of Victorian conservatism, and not to wear anything that could be construed as "gay", "cheesy", or non-mainstream. Give men the freedom to dress themselves as they please, and I can assure you that hordes of men would be loosening up the rigid funeral vibe that they have been pressured to maintain, and maybe show a little bit more skin than is the norm.


Alright; so maybe it's your opinion that cleavage and "sexiness" should be a monopoly of the fairer sex, and that men have no business enjoying the things that their sisters enjoy. You certainly have the right to your opinion, but I also certainly have the right to feel offended and repulsed by it. Not many things repulse me as much as sexism against men AND women, and this is clearly a case of sexism against men. Oh, what? Men aren't supposed to show off their bodies because they are in a dominant and privieged position in Western society, and therefore would be degrading themselves if they were to wear something traditionally associated with the feminine? Can we PLEASE retire the circular logic already? This is clear and present discrimination AGAINST MEN. Full stop. If we use that logic to explain why men aren't allowed to wear revealing clothing, then we would also be obliged to say that women werent' allowed to wear trousers in the 1900s, because they were in a dominant and privileged position in Western society at the time, so to don something traditionally associated with men would be consdiered "degrading" for them. See? This is why circular logic trips itself up. No. The real reason men aren't allowed to don anything out of their very narrow hegemonically masculine manbox is because society hasn't grown comfortable with men emancipating their role as a servant to the patriarchy and its old-fashioned ideas on how men should behave and dress. It makes people UNCOMFORTABLE, in the same way the first women in trousers made people feel uncomfortable. To understand the hostility many people have against men showing abit of skin, we need to understand that for a man to wear a skintight, figure-hugging top, or maybe a nice pair of leggings, this is commonly construed as a shirking of responsibility on the part of the man to do his "duty" for society, in dressing and behaving in manners that are expected for men to dress, whether he likes it or not. And men have, since the Industrial Revolution, never been associated with flamboyant, "fun" clothing. Sometimes, a man just wants to have fun with his fashion, to wear the things he truly WANTS to wear (e.g. low-cut tee shirts, halter neck tops, sleeveless women's tops, short shorts, dress shirts with a few buttons unbuttoned), as opposed to what society EXPECTS him to wear (e.g. Collared/high-cut T-shirt and jeans/ suit and tie and long trousers/etc). Sometimes, a man also wants to express himself through his clothing; it's not always a matter of Neo-Neanderthals and their cheesy muscle flexing to attract sex partners. Has it ever occurred to you that we also enjoy revealing clothing for the same reason women enjoy it? The wonderful feeling of freedom to know that you are dressing FOR YOURSELF, to express an aesthetic that you would LIKE to express, and not for the sole purpose of finding a mate? Has it ever occurred to you that we take as much offense as women do when being told to "cover up"? Is a beautiful man wearing something less than ultra-conservative funny? Do you think it's something to joke about? No. No it's not, and I'll be perfectly honest with you. "Heavage" jokes are no more funny to me than misogynistic jokes, or "Dumb Blonde" jokes, or even homophobic jokes (I suspect this squeamishness toward the male body arises partly due to an underlying sense of homophobia and misogyny; the traditional assumption that if a man wants to show skin, he must be gay, and that it's "women's role" to do the skin-baring). To quote Sir Winston Churchill, "A joke is a very serious thing". Don't tell me to just "man up and suck it up". Because if I were to do that, I'd pretty much be accepting an injustice against my gender lying down. No. As much as we should extend the same kind of courtesy towards women who dress "provocatively" as we would to anybody else, how about realizing that the same should be said about men dressing "provocatively"? Why not get over the double-standard, and start treating flamboyantly dressed metrosexual men like me with the same kind of courtesy you would expect towards yourself? We need to stop trying to keep men within the narrow confines of their little boy box, and start encouraging them to expand on the extremely rigid and restrictive notions of masculinity.

You know what? This has been an extremely nerve-wracking topic to talk about, but being the complete teetotaler prude as I am, I will not be fixing myself a strong drink in order to calm my nerves. Rather, I will be doing what truly makes me happy: Wearing the clothes I like, as opposed to the clothes society says I'm SUPPOSED to like. So if you'll excuse me, I have a date with my gymnastic tights and backess tank top tomorrow!


Daniel Sebold on May 18, 2017:

I would like to contact those boys I grew up with in the late sixties and seventies to ask them how they did it? How did they get away with essentially running around in girls' short short cut offs up to their pockets without suffering the incessant sexist wrath of "feminist" Erica Jong and Betty Friedan reading mothers and sisters and their disgust with boys in short shorts. Girls nowadays demand the exclusive right to wear short shorts to school--God forbid that they would argue for both boys and girls to do so. Well, back in the seventies in some suburban school districts both boys and girls could both wear short shorts to school. Boys can't do it today what with all the "progress" we have made in the last fifty years. The Japanese a few years back proudly posted children's videos from NHK Television of their boys from the eighties singing and dancing in cute little Hanzubon short shorts, but they have been shamed and censored and you can no longer find these videos. You can find, if you look hard enough on the net photos and videos of western boys from those times, so it did happen.

Luana on August 08, 2012:

Great topic!

I'm from Brazil, sorry for my poor English.

My boyfriend is a very feminine straight guy, loves feminine clothes, make-up and also has a very feminine personality. I on the other hand have a more "tomboyish" personality/style - still kinda feminine but more "relaxed" and practical. He is the one that suffers more sexism in that sense, and I feel so angry with all of this. He was a victim of violence once because of his choice and RIGHT, by a strange on the street. Still, I totally adore his courage to wear whatever he wants, and support him 100%! This world needs more men like him, and like you.

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