Today I got into a altercation in the comments on FB (gotta love those) in response to a status update by a presumed enlightened male I know by proxy. He said he needed some help with his Halloween costume this year. And that he needs a dress, because he's going as a woman.
I guess I'm the only one who's eyebrows are raised by this. My immediate reaction (which I commented) was, "Thanks for reducing my gender to a Halloween costume." Some interesting conversations occurred. First, the one between this person and I went something like this: He responded confused as to how this was offensive. Going as a firefighter doesn't offend firefighters. Really? Well, going as a man doesn't offend men either. Why would it? They don't have to worry about being trivialized. Let me explain something. If I went as a man for Halloween, it wouldn't be interesting. We have "tom-boys" in real life. Big deal. But a MAN in a DRESS?! Now THAT'S hilarious. When you see Bing Cosby with his face painted black, people back then thought it was funny. Nobody cared who they were offending because they didn't have to worry about it.
Then something interesting happened in the comments, which I had a terrible feeling from the start, but keeping my mouth shut would have defeated the purpose. One of his lady friends came after me with silly (snide?) remarks, one about how I should just go as a man- "That'll show him!" Show him what? Show him that we're on an equal playing field and dressing as the opposite gender is ironic nomatter what? (And I haven't neglected to mention how this is totally offensive to transgender folks) I'm the one that just doesn't get it, I guess.
In my experience, if you are the one being called out on potentially oppressive behavior that is either subtly or blatantly exercising your male/white/first-world privilege, it usually does more harm than good to try to explain your actions away or otherwise defend them. These situations are usually a call for sensitivity, listening, and empathy, even if you think the person bringing the issue up is crazy, over-politically-correct, or too sensitive. It's not your place/privilege to decide. It's your responsibility to listen up. And it's not my responsibility to explain this shit to you. If I'm offended, as a woman, AS YOUR SISTER, chances are I'm about to say something important.
Great article from Ma'ia on privilege to follow.