From my experience, most men, more than women, seek to break the existing social norms. Most probably, in this way, they seek to establish themselves in this competitive world. At the same time, there is nothing worse for man than being called a woman. Despite the growing diversity of the population, most men still want to look masculine. Apparently, wearing female clothes and makeup for a man is a severe violation of the established social norms, since clothing and appearance are among the most essential factors of gender identification in the western world. Gender norms regulate the ways in which men and women should behave in public, and women and men must follow these norms in order to be members of their social community and avoid rejection. This is, probably, why I decided to focus on wearing female clothes in public. I felt that was one of the most innocent ways to violate accepted social norms without causing any legal or ethical harm to myself and others.
Prior to the experiment, I had read tons of online responses and forum messages, trying to predict how the public would react to my behaviors. I had always tried to be “a proper guy”, and wearing female clothes in public had to become something unbelievably outrageous. I did not know whether I would face rejection or, on the contrary, gain popularity among my friends and acquaintances. I was not surprised to see that the prevailing majority of Internet users perceived the act of wearing female clothes by men as degrading and unacceptable. I had to prepare myself to the criticism and unpleasant comments. However, everything that happened to me during the experiment was quite surprising. In brief, the experiment showed that our society was far less tolerant to such forms of behavior than I had imagined earlier.
The surprises started when I had to find female clothes and makeup. My mother and my female friends were the only people I could ask for assistance. Surprisingly, only one of the three women I talked to about female clothes asked me why I needed them and what I wanted to do. I had a feeling that most women were simply indifferent to what I was going to accomplish. Whether they knew about my experiment I did not know, but there was no reason to believe someone could have told them about my project assignment. For that experiment, I chose two different female dresses of the appropriate size, as well as a female blouse, pants, and two pairs of shoes. Choosing shoes was the most problematic task, since I was not used to wearing heels. I had to spend a couple of days at home, learning to walk.
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I should note that, in that experiment, I did not want to look like a woman. I would not wear female underwear or speak like a woman. The goal of the experiment was simply to wear female clothes and makeup, without pretending that I was a woman. I wanted to see how the public would react to a man who was wearing female clothes, as if it was normal and absolutely common for him. I wanted to see how men would react to another man using makeup in a men’s room. I was not going to join female communities or spend my time with women. I would simply participate in my usual activities and lead a normal life, except for the fact that I would be wearing a different type of clothes. As I said previously, I expected criticism and even rejection. As for a person, who had never broken any social norms, the experiment had to become troublesome and challenging to me. As planned, the experiment included four different acts, which took place in a city mall, at a public meeting, in a night club, and a restaurant.
First, I decided to visit a city mall. I wanted to make the experiment more vivid, so I overcame my fears and went to the city mall on Saturday in the afternoon, around 1PM, when the number of visitors was reaching its peak. I was wearing a dress and female shoes, with some makeup on my face. I did not take anyone with me, and the city mall I chose for the experiment was entirely new to me. Most likely, unconsciously, I tried to avoid the places where I could meet friends, neighbors, relatives, or acquaintances. At the same time, I also expected to see a diverse audience, people of all ages and social strata, looking for the goods and services they wanted to buy during their weekend.
Most people I met on my way to and inside the city mall were young (20-30) and middle-aged (30-40). I met whole families and couples. Many women with children were wandering from one retail outlet to another. A whole line of people was standing at Burger Kings. My actions were simple: I was walking around the city mall in female clothes and getting into the retail outlets that were selling male apparel, accessories, and shoes. I also wanted to have a breakfast at Burger Kings or some other café located within the city mall.
It was interesting to see how people, who were occupied with their purchases, failed to notice things that were happening around them. It was not until the third floor that I started to notice people who were looking at me or whispering something behind my back. The most surprising was the reaction of the male sales consultant in a retail outlet with male clothes and accessories: the man approached me with a statement (not even question!) that I was in the wrong place, and female clothes were on the second floor. He was openly negative about my look. I had a feeling that the man could not even tolerate my presence within the outlet, even if had plans to purchase something there.
I spent one hour and a half wandering around the city mall. By the end of my journey, I had already become a star, because sales representatives from various outlets looked out and around, as if they already knew I was coming. I suspected that the news about my presence in the city mall was spreading quickly. My behavior did not lead to any negative or positive consequences for my personality, except for that unpleasant talk with the sales consultant that I have just described. At the same time, I did not like the way people were looking at me as if I had come from a different planet. Despite the growing number of visitors in the city mall, I constantly had some free space around myself, as if other people did not want to be close to me. I felt like a stranger. At times, I felt like a patient who had escaped from an asylum. By the time I left the city mall, my biggest wish was to get rid of the clothes I had been wearing for so long. I expected that my friends, relatives, or peers would call me, hearing about the case. I was thinking someone might have seen me wandering around the city mall in female clothes. Yet, no one called. When I came home, I did not notice any changes in the way I was treated by friends and family members.
After the first experience with the city mall, I had to take a break and re-think everything. Simultaneously, despite numerous negative feelings and even fears, I had to continue the experiment. I decided that the second act of deviance would take place in a nice restaurant. I decided to add details to the experiment and invited my sister for a dinner. I believed that inviting a woman for a dinner and wearing female clothes would make the experiment more useful and colorful. The dinner had to take place in a small but cozy restaurant, whose name I would not report here. My sister and I had to meet there at 8PM on Wednesday, four days after my first act of deviance in the city mall. I decided that I would be wearing the same clothes and the same type of makeup. After the events in the city mall, I came to realize that wearing a dress was a better expression of deviance than any other type of female clothes.
I was late for the dinner; I came to the restaurant at 8:15PM. My sister was already there waiting for me. However, my adventures had started long before I got to the restaurant. At first, I met a neighbor who was watching me with a huge question in his eyes and a deep misunderstanding of why I looked the way I actually looked at that moment. At that time, I did not want to think about the far-reaching consequences of that encounter, so I went down to the taxi, where a second surprise was already waiting for me. On my way to the restaurant, the taxi driver was trying to persuade me that I definitely had to visit one of the most famous gay night clubs in our city. I can assume that he thought I was a homosexual man. I told him I was heterosexual, but I do not think he believed my words. The last and the most surprising was the fact that the restaurant workers did not want to let me go inside and meet my sister. I saw her sitting at our table, but I could not reach her simply because I was not allowed to get inside. I did not violate any laws. I was not drunk. I was not a criminal. I had no violent intentions and did not behave in an inappropriate way. However, the fact that I was wearing female clothes was enough for the restaurant workers to deny my right to have a dinner. Only when I said they were discriminating against my basic rights, I was allowed to join my sister.
Only a dozen of visitors were at the restaurant at that time. Most of them were in their 50s. They all looked at me as if they could not understand why I was wearing a woman’s dress. However, they could not stay forever focused on my appearance; so, in a minute or two, they would lose their interest to me. My sister, on the contrary, could not help laughing. Actually, she could not stop laughing all the time while we were dining. She did not criticize me. She did not reject me. She thought I was joking with her. She also thought I was doing that for money. The moment I left the restaurant and went back home, I started to think there was nothing deviant in having a man wearing female clothes. Yet, remembering that tragic encounter with one of my neighbors, I decided I had to be more cautious in my social experiments.
Optimistic and brave after the dinner with my sister, I continued my experiment in a night club. That time, I wore a different type of clothes, female pants and a blouse, simply because I had to change something in my style. Although I was wearing pants and a blouse, I still looked like a man wearing female clothes. I felt physically uncomfortable, but I had no fears about the consequences that could follow.
I came to the night club around 11PM, when it was full. Most visitors were aged around 21-30. They were drinking and dancing. The atmosphere was very busy, and, at first, no one paid attention to me. I was alone, and I felt I looked as if searching for a couple or, at least, a romantic encounter. I went directly to the bar and ordered a cocktail. I hoped that it would relieve my worries and make me feel better. Visiting the night club was, probably, the most challenging part of my assignment, because I knew that the presence of alcohol and the relative freedom of dancing could make people more open in their negative (or positive) attitudes to me.
After the first drink, two men approached me asking whether I believed I was at the right place and possibly I wanted to go and dance somewhere else. Meanwhile, I noticed that two girls were looking at me with interest. Actually, they helped me a lot during that evening, because they told everyone I was their friend and showed their compassion, as if I were mentally ill. I went home at 1AM because I could no longer tolerate the alcoholic atmosphere in the club. I was also tired of those compassionate attitudes, because the two girls kept asking me about my family problems, my relations with parents, and any other difficulties that could have pushed me to wear female clothes. I was still thinking about the consequences of my meeting with the neighbor and their possible effects on my future relations with the family and community. At that time, I started to feel better because my experiment was coming to an end. I felt no pleasure from being an experimenter and playing a socially deviant role.
In a few days, I put on my female dress and shoes and went to a public meeting with some politician. Life in our city is always busy, and people always have things to do and places to visit. Needless to say, I was not interested in the public meeting itself but simply used it as a wonderful opportunity to finish the experiment. I took my sister with me, because I was tired of being alone in public. From what I could see, the average age of participants ranged from 35 to 60. I was wearing a dress, without any makeup, and I also had a small purse borrowed from my sister. Surprisingly, the public meeting turned out to be the only place where I did not face negativity and aggressiveness. By the time I reached the public meeting, I had already used to the acts of aggressiveness and negativity based on my appearance. I had learned to be constantly alert, just in case somebody wanted to approach and attack me. I had used to the moral and emotional (not physical) violence I was facing because of my look.
Yet, people at the public meeting did not pay too much attention to me. After 30-40 minutes of being there, I almost forgot I was wearing a dress. I have no reasonable explanation to the fact that the crowd at the public meeting was not aggressive towards me. I did not talk to anyone and did not hear any personal comments about my appearance. I can only assume that the presence of another person, a woman, my sister, could change the way other people behaved, but I cannot check this claim. At the same, even though no one attacked me during the public meeting, I could finally get back home, get rid of the female clothes I had been wearing, and forget about the negativity I had experienced during the experiment.
The results of the experiment have shown that being a socially deviant personality is an extremely difficult task. Society does not tolerate those who violate its social norms. Despite the overall innocence of such deviance, I was fated to experience rejection, criticism, gossiping, misunderstanding, and even open negativity and violence. I had to invent stories to prove that I was a heterosexual man. At the same time, the experiment has confirmed that appearance and clothes are essential cultural markers. Gender norms are still prevalent in our society. We must follow the gender standards prescribed by our community. Otherwise, our lives can become extremely problematic.
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