In my dressing down of the fashionistas in my last two posts, I stated the obvious: we wear clothes suitable for the different roles we play in our lives.
For example, I generally wore a suit in my many court appearances. I should point out that I was once charged with 'obstruction of the highway' after a demonstration, but I also made several court appearances as a lay advocate in civil cases involving 'squatters rights'. I felt that wearing a suit and tie gave me the required dignity and focus to articulate procedural matters and, thankfully, walk away having won on 'technical grounds'.
Children generally love dressing up, particularly if they adopt, say, the persona of Spiderman or Winnie the Pooh. Allowing children to exercise their fantasies is important in their development into responsible adults. I do not believe that describing girls as 'tomboys' or determining that 'pink is for girls and blue for boys' is beneficial, particularly in the early stages of that development
For a few, dressing up may lead to an actor's life with roles as diverse as Shakespeare and zombies.
For others, it may lead to an intrinsic lifestyle which some incorrectly term as a fetish. The closest I come to this is wearing a sarong, a long length of cloth wrapped around the waist, for bathroom visits. This is not to be confused with the sari worn by Indian women and, incidentally, the name of my sister-in-law. Nor am I referring to the sarung which is a sheath worn by Muslim men here in Indonesia and in Malaysia on their regular visits to the mosque.
Cross-dressing is generally thought of a trait of homosexuals and, in particular, tranvestites. Yet it is a multi-faceted subject. For example, Shakespeare and other dramatists cast men in women's roles, largely because women were not allowed to appear on stage. When used for dramatic or comedic effect - think Bugs Bunny in his (its?) attempts to deceive Elmer Fudd - there isn't a sexual connotation with a social stigma.
Here in Indonesia, banci (pron. banshee) are quite public, singing in the streets or in other performance acts and generally acceptable to the wider population. Read Dede Oetomo for an inside account of the growth of gay organisations and local perceptions of transgenderism.
The Indonesian criminal code was revised when the Dutch East Indies was a French colony under Napoleon, so we've never had to decriminalise homosexual acts.
If you want a more objective, academic approach, then a few pages of Framing the sexual subject: the politics of gender, sexuality, and power by Richard Guy Parker, Regina Maria Barbosa, Peter Aggleton can be read here.
And if you want something more convoluted on the topic, then try Cross-Dressing Across Cultures by Felicia Hughes-Freeland. This is the online Abstract.
This paper focuses on two cross-cultural projects involving Didik Nini Thowok, a cross-gendered and cross-cultural cosmopolitan who is the most popular* and successful professional dancer and comedian in Indonesia.
Felicia Hughes-Freeland analyses performances from an international dance tour of four Asian dancers in which Didik represented Indonesia, 'In Gesture and in Glance - The Female Role Player in Asian Dance and Theatre' (2003) to redress the neglect of theatrical performance in academic accounts of gender cultures and gender reversals.
I consider whether this tour reifies cross-dressing as Asian-ness, and whether it assert or subvert stereotypes of 'Asian theatre' by re-examining Asian female impersonation in relation to western drag in terms of theatrical skill and the production of an 'unnatural body'. The Chinese performance in the tour was by a star of yueju opera, normally performed by women, who performed dressed as a man to represent a female cross-dressed performer who represents a man.
Ignoring the grammatical and syntax errors, try and get your head around that last sentence.
The main criteria I have for my clothes choice is whether they fit my frame and are comfortable so you are unlikely to see me as anything but me. ......................................... *'Er Indoors has never heard of him.