Gender

Ladies, Back In Your Girdles! Gender-Neutral Clothing Is Now a Tool of Oppression

A new Louis Vuitton ad campaign features Jayden Smith in a skirt. That's apparently transphobic.

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Louis Vuitton

Once upon a time, the expectation that clothing be highly gendered was considered a regressive view of style. Women eschewing traditional markers of femininity and men (like a young Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch) donning dresses and skirts signaled that fashion, like gender, was flexible in left-leaning circles. But in the bizarro realm of gender resistance circa 2016, breaking with stereotypical style cues is actually an affront to progressive good taste. 

At least so says Katie Glover, writing in U.K. paper The Independent. "Trans people should be aware that well-known faces like Jaden Smith are starting to encroach on our territory," Glover writes

Smith, the 17-year-old son of actors Jada Pinkett and Will Smith, appears in a new Louis Vuitton ad campaign decked out in a skirt and leather jacket. Glover objects:  

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. 

Bruce Allen/Medium

And that uniform is a bad thing, right? The stuff of the slut-shaming old bad days and Sharia law, right? Well…

Without strict sartorial gender norms, trans women "will no longer be able to rely on [gender-coded] props to help them display a female gender identity," Glover protests. 

I'm tempted to chalk this whole piece up to trolling—how could anyone seriously believe that the way to subvert strict constructions of masculinity and femininity is to reinforce them for most people? You can't liberate people from oppressive gender norms if liberation is contingent on adopting the right label. Saying only trans people should get to wear what they want is no better than saying trans people should stick to dressing as the sex they were assigned at birth. 

For a much more enlightened take on Smith's new ads, here's The Guardian's Fred McConnell: When Smith "looks stunning in an outfit media outlets unironically call 'womenswear', he reminds us of the equally beautiful truth that gender expression is distinct from gender. In other words, how Jaden expresses himself is not dictated–or more importantly restricted–by him being male. In fact, I'm not sure what Jaden's gender is, but I do know it's not indicated by his skirt."