In her shoes

One man's experience dressed as a woman

Being a woman involves more than just hair and makeup.
AG Nahtstrumpf

As a man, I’ll never fully comprehend what it’s like to be a woman. But after a night of dressing in full drag, I gained much needed insight on the sexism and sexual harassment that many women face. 

When it comes to dressing up for Halloween, I’ve developed a reputation for pulling out all the stops.

This year, my heart was set on going as the absolute craziest, most polarizing, yet not offensive character I could think of, The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s star, Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Alas, as cruel fate would have it, my plan fell through and I decided that going in drag also had potential to stir the pot a little. I mean how often do you see a stocky, 170 lb man in full drag? 

So that’s what I did. 

I recruited some friends to do my makeup, I waxed my legs (an agonizing process), put on the cutest dress I could find and slipped into some heels. Though admittedly, I initially did this for laughs, by the night’s end, my getup ceased simply being a costume and became something more.

Although awareness of forms of harassment, such as catcalling, has increased, they’re arguably still common place and almost acceptable practices in our society. 

On Halloween night, I took a brief stroll through the Queen’s area alone and to my surprise, I didn’t get the kind of attention I’d anticipated. 

As I walked, people quite obviously stared at me. They poked fun at my appearance, blatantly commenting on it within earshot, while the odd person whistled at me humorously. I, of course, didn’t take offence to it. I was fully aware that the attention I received stemmed from being a man dressed as a woman. 

Despite this, the feeling of being watched or harassed, or anticipating some sort of verbal harassment or intimidation from crowds of people while you’re on a harmless walk, is quite unsettling and downright uncomfortable. 

This is where my costume turned into a greater understanding for me. Yes, as stated earlier, the attention was stemming from my choice to dress drag, but I realized that this is a kind of social phenomenon women everywhere and at Queen’s must experience regularly. 

I remembered all the times a female friend asked me to walk them home because they didn’t feel comfortable going alone, or when groups of men catcalled women over Frosh Week or any typical Friday night. 

The whole event sparked my curiosity. Soon after, I interviewed a few Queen’s students about their experiences with sexual harassment on Halloween night and in general. 

Melody Woo, Comm ’17, is one of many women who has experienced this. On Halloween, when Woo was walking home from dinner around 8:15 p.m. on Brock St., a car pulled up beside her and two men yelled, “I hope you have a great night, sweet thang!” and proceeded to honk at her as they sped off into the distance. 

Woo said this wasn’t the first time this has happened. She cited two similar experiences within a two week span. 

“It made me feel disrespected and ashamed that this kind of behaviour exists,” she said. “I questioned what I was wearing, but what I wore was what I considered to be modest. Then I reflected and wondered why what I wore even mattered, because being catcalled is unwanted.” 

Woo’s experience is only one of many that happen all the time in the Queen’s area. Unfortunately, from what I gathered talking to her and others, many women are ashamed and frightened to come forward about what’s happening. 

I was always cognizant of catcalling and other forms of sexual harassment as issues. But I’d never thought too much about them or the many negative implications they have for women in their everyday lives. 

As Melody said: “I’ve never heard of my male friends experiencing catcalling, whereas it’s almost acceptable or a fact of life for a woman.” 

Blatant sexual and verbal harassment isn’t so much a part of the male social experience. It isn’t something I worry about while walking down the street, but for many women it’s sadly a normal part of life. 

I am by no means claiming to be an authority on womanhood, nor am I proposing a solution to the endemic and bizarrely socially acceptable phenomenon. But I do have a newfound insight on a particular experience many women go through — an experience that’s a symptom of a society that’s still grappling with issues of gender inequality. 

Having said this, I’d encourage anyone, male or female, to put themselves in the position of another gender at least once in their lives and see what happens. You may learn something new.

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