I stumbled across this article today about gender roles and how as a culture, we’ve made great strides (though we still have a long way to go) in making it socially acceptable for a woman to wear pants and play with power tools, or be a surgeon, or run a company, but if a man does ballet, or wears pink, or likes flower gardening, then he’s obviously gay. As the author asks, “why is it alright for girls to break out of gender roles and embrace their love of tools or cars or spaceships, but when a boy wants to dress up like Princess Jasmine people are uncomfortable?”
It got me thinking about men and boys in the faerie culture. One of the things I love about the “modern” faerie festival is that it’s very gender-neutral. Sure, there are plenty of pastel princesses with shimmery wings and pretty curls, but there are also male faeries and sprites and goblins and elves and greenmen. It’s more about the connection with nature and the other worlds that touch ours than a specific gender role. The gentleman in the photo above, for example, is someone I’ve seen at just about every local faerie and renaissance festival, though I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never actually chatted with him (I did stumble across his website, though – he and his wife are the proprietors/creators of Mythical Masks and Miscellaneous Oddments, and he frequently posts some interesting articles and musings on his blog) – he always looks wonderful in natural, woodsy outfits.
And then of course there’s the more punk-esque side of male faerie fashion. I saw one adorable little boy at the Maryland Faerie Festival (sadly, I didn’t manage to get a picture) who looked like a mischievous imp, with cobwebby wings, little horns, and his hair spiked up into a mohawk. Or the guy pictured at the right, who was wearing a utilikilt, red stripey socks, and a tophat, and felt no qualms about joining in the bellydance troupe’s audience participation line dance. As a matter of fact, I counted no less than twelve different guys in utilikilts (or some variation thereof) at the MDFF that Sunday. I’m a big fan of the utilikilt, personally – just the right amount of utility, manliness, and awesome. Gotta love a guy in a “skirt.” And my husband tells me that they’re incredibly comfortable, and you can’t beat the feeling of, well, freedom.
I’ll admit to knowing relatively little about the inner workings of organizations like the Beneficent Order of the Greenman, but it seems like a great idea to me. “We all agree on the sacredness of nature and the importance of acting as guardians of the forests and other wild places” – I can get behind that. “This is a concept that seems to resonate with many modern men, a symbol which is virile and masculine, while also representing peaceful guardianship.” I’m reminded of the thoughts I had after meeting Brian Froud at FaerieCon a few months back: that the feeling of joy and peaceful happiness that seems to permeate faerie gatherings is so closely related to our love of the natural world and all its wonders.
There are so many different places for men and boys to fit into the faerie world, and it’s a shame that they have to work so hard to overcome the stereotype of faeries as “girly” in order to get there. I think it’s incredibly important to teach our male children that there are ways to express their creativity and can embrace all aspects of their personalities, regardless of gender stereotypes. After all, what’s more “manly” than a guy with antlers sprouting from his forehead? I think it’s incredibly sexy to see a guy in a kilt, or dressed only in leather and vines, with a wickedly mischievous grin on his face and a playful glint in his eyes.
I don’t have children yet, but when I do, I fully intend to encourage them to just be themselves, and to spend as much time as they’d like exploring their own identity and creativity. If my daughter wants to be a ballerina? Awesome. If she wants to be a carpenter? Great. If my son wants to be a truck driver? Fine by me. If he wants to wear a dress? Go for it. One child at a time, maybe we’ll be able to work towards a world where people are just … people.