Thursday, February 9, 2012

Boots and Normative Masculinity

I wrote a post on February 6 titled, "Normative Masculinity" which provided my comments about an academic research study about Western male "hegemonic" masculinity. I invited comments or questions.

I received two interesting email messages about that post, both of which asked, "do guys wear boots to appear more masculine, especially gay guys?"

I have thought about that matter a lot over the years. Readers of this blog know that I represent the intersection of a regular boot-wearing guy and a guy who happens to be gay.

As a gay man, do I wear boots to appear to others as being "more" masculine?

...Not really. I behave in a masculine manner because that is how I am. Just a guy. I like how I am, and do not like effeminate mannerisms in men. That is my preference. My partner is a masculine man, too. While the gay community is diverse, and I value what makes all of us different, I have my preferences, likes, and dislikes, just like anyone else. I am not saying that gay men who behave with effeminate mannerisms are bad or wrong. Those behaviors are not my preference. That's all.

Yeah, I ride a motorcycle and would never think about wearing any form of footwear other than durable, sturdy, well-constructed boots with soles that provide good traction. To me, wearing sneakers (or worse, sandals) while operating a motorcycle is an invitation to injury (as well as silly-looking). But does the fact that I ride a motorcycle while wearing motorcycle boots have anything to do with my sense of masculinity? No, again--not really. I know a lot of women who ride motorcycles while wearing boots, too. And they are very feminine women -- so bikes and boots go together regardless if the boot-wearer is male or female, masculine or feminine.

Some guys refrain from wearing boots because they are influenced by what some other people say or from what they see/read on the Internet -- or worse -- by what they *think* other people may say about them wearing boots. These guys read comments or see things about gay men who express fetish (sexual) interests with boots. To avoid having any of those observed fetish activities be linked to them, some guys bad-mouth boots because of their aversion to being linked in any way to anything that may be considered "gay."

That type of thinking is very sad. It shows, to me, that some guys are insecure and uncomfortable with their sexuality, and therefore take on a more masculine bravado and exhibit behaviors perceived to be more masculine to cover up or hide their insecurities. Some of these guys express themselves (sometimes by writing rude comments under pseudonyms) on YouTube videos, for example, because to them, acting out in this way makes them feel tougher -- an act, not reality.

Back to the topic at hand (or at my feet, so-to-speak): do some gay guys wear rugged boots to appear more masculine? Well, perhaps some of them do -- particularly those who are still in the closet about their same-sex orientation. Some of these guys choose to wear clothing, particularly boots, to throw others off the track. "Hey, that dude's in boots. He must be straight."

That kind of thinking is all bullcrap.

I could ramble on more and more, but I think you get the point. What a guy wears is not directly connected to his sexuality. Wearing boots does not make a guy more -- or less -- masculine. What he wears is connected to his inner sense of style and comfort. Some guys truly like to dress up in a suit, tie, and dress shoes. They like their appearance that way. I'm a guy who likes to dress in clothing that to me is much more comfortable -- jeans, boots, flannel shirts (in winter), t-shirts (in summer), and leather shirts and jeans, too. That is just how I am, the original "booted man."

Life is short: know yourself.

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