Jaden Smith sometimes wears so-called “women’s clothing” – and the people criticizing him for it have gender all wrong. So here’s Kat Blaque with an explanation to help you get it right.
She covers the difference between gender expression and gender identity, and reveals just how limited our common ideas about gender binaries really are. Does this change how you feel about gender?
The Editors at Everyday Feminism
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This video is part of a series for Everyday Feminism, a website dedicated to helping you stand up to and break down everyday oppression.
Oh, gender. Such a complex and complicated subject.
When each of us is born into this world, before we can form words, we’re given a gender.
If you’re born into the socially constructed idea of “male,” then the idea is that you’re going to grow up and become a “man.”
And for most people, this makes sense. And those people are what we like to call “cis.” And these people are cisgender because they identify with the gender that they were assigned at birth.
Gender in society is viewed as a binary. And while many cis people may never have an issue with that, some people do.
See, having this idea of “male” or “female” and “man” or “woman” is extremely limiting to a lot of people who find themselves identifying outside of the gender binary.
In fact, these lines aren’t even as black and white scientifically.
If we were to make the mistake of saying that sex and gender were the same things and that gender is something that can be determined by the formation of chromosomes, there would be over 30 available genders.
But sex and gender aren’t the same thing. An easy way to boil it down is to say that sex is biological, while gender is mental and social.
A central part of the social implications of gender is gender expression. And one of the most obvious ways we express gender is through our fashion.
Jaden Smith has recently been criticized in the media because of his fashion choices. He can often be found wearing what society has deemed as “women’s clothing.”He occasionally likes his dresses and his skirts – and in my opinion, he certainly pulls it off. However, there are certainly people who don’t seem to agree with me.
One of the comments on a Hollywood Life article reads:
I am sorry, Jaden. The girl clothes look ridiculous. But hey, to each his own. Maybe it’s a phase you’re going through. Although it seems like you’re traveling the route of wearing wigs, lipstick, makeup, having a boyfriend/husband, getting a sex change, and changing your name from Jaden to Jadena. There is nothing wrong with having your own style. However, sexless clothes would not be a dress that women wear or a jockey strap that men wore. It would be shirts either men or women could wear, pants regardless of sex. Please get the point. But as I said, to each his own.”
I think that this comment perfectly summarizes how society shames men who present in a typically “feminine” way. But femininity and masculinity as we understand them today is socially constructed.
In fact, men throughout history exhibited qualities that we would look at today as “feminine.” In ancient Egypt, it was customary for men to adorn their eyes with black kohl liner. This was done for many reasons – sometimes religious and sometimes as a sign of rank.
On the subject of rank, Roman Emperors wore tunics, as did most men in Ancient Rome. This includes gladiators who are still to this day a representation of hyper masculinity. High heeled shoes were created for men and worn as early as the 10th century.
Their initial design was for the purpose of horse riding – an activity that women were forbidden from participating in. High heels kept the riders’ feet steady while in stirrups.
It wasn’t until the 17th century when European women started wearing high heels after the trend was started by the Parisian Calvary. At one point in time, it was seen as masculine to wear makeup, dresses, and heels. And that’s because all of these things are objects that we project meaning and ideas onto.
In today’s culture, Jaden Smith wearing a dress is shocking. And every time he does it, there are articles written about him.
Like the comment I read earlier, a lot of people in the media speculate about his gender identity simply because he likes to wear dresses.
Gender expression and gender identity are not the same thing. Just because someone presents in a way that you might see as masculine does not mean that their gender is also masculine. Gender identity is how you feel about your gender, while gender expression is how you express your gender.
You could argue that for decades, Caitlyn Jenner’s gender was female, but her gender expression was male for most of her life. Gender identity and sexuality also are not the same.
And while I shouldn’t have to say this, men wearing makeup or so-called “feminine” clothing are not always attracted to men.
There are several readily available examples of men in the media who have had extensive relationships with women almost as long as they’ve had an extensive relationship with makeup.
Like with gender, we shouldn’t assume Jaden’s sexuality. As far as we know, Jaden Smith very much enjoys being a boy who loves girls. He just likes to wear dresses. There are a lot of people in LGBTQIA+ media referring to him as “genderqueer.”
“Genderqueer” is an identity that, to my knowledge, Jaden Smith has never claimed. You can be a man who very much enjoys being a man, but also enjoys wearing makeup or dresses. Jaden wearing a dress doesn’t change his gender, unless he wants it to.
When I wear my boyfriend’s shirt, that doesn’t mean that suddenly I identify as male. His shirts just happen to be comfortable. And fashion should always be about expressing yourself in a way that represents you and makes you the most comfortable.
At the end of the day, we should all recognize that gender is not written in stone. Gender is fluid, and our ideas about gender are also fluid.
In my personal opinion, the gender binary is only dangerous when the people who fall outside of it are told that they need to pick a side or simply agree to the gender that was assigned to them before they had a voice.
Jaden’s dresses aren’t “girls’ dresses.” They’re Jaden’s dresses.
Kat Blaque for Everyday Feminism, signing out.
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- 10 Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up’
- Here’s How the Patriarchy Damages Men’s Emotional Literacy – And Why That Matters
Kat Blaque is a Contributing Vlogger for Everyday Feminism. She’s also a children’s illustrator and thrift store shopper. Check out Kat’s website and YouTube channel, and follow Kat on Twitter @. Watch her videos here!