“I love your androgynous style.” This is something I have been told on more than one occasion. And I am happy to use hashtags like “genderbender” when posting pics of myself in a suit because I realize suits for women aren’t the quote-unquote norm for a fancy occasion. When people think red carpet women, they immediately picture a dress. I, however, more often than think pant suit. It’s not a comfort thing. I love dresses and have many comfortable ones. It’s not a statement about my sexuality, my gender, or me taking a stand against how women are treated on red carpets. Though they are often treated like a mannequin with no talent beyond wearing a designer dress, but I digress. For me, it’s as simple as this: I feel sexy in a suit. And powerful. And clean. And head-turning. I do it for me, because that day, I want to wear a suit so I’m gonna to wear a fuckin’ suit.
And I know you have the best intentions when you tell me I’m “androgynous.” But effectively what you are doing is robbing me of my femininity. The suit does not do this. You do this. You and your ideas of the suit. Your ideas of fashion. Your ideas of what you feel welcome to comment on. My “genderbender” is mine. And you commenting on it is for one: unsurprising, but more importantly: unwanted.
Confused about where to go in this “new” politically correct world? Let me help. Consider noting the feeling evoked by the look that the person has thrown together. “You look commanding.” “I love your presence in this outfit.” “You look radiant, powerful, unstoppable.” Or perhaps the person looks delicate, full of grace, classical, poised, fierce, inspirational, mysterious, confident. Trust me: if you cut through the outfit itself and opt for what is inside instead, I guarantee that that person will remember that compliment over the thousand other “you look beautifuls.” And they will definitely appreciate it more than “I love your androgynous style.”