My short story, by Ulfah Davids
Gender-neutral: referring to people in general
As long as I can remember, women were supposed to wear pink and men were supposed to wear blue or something like that. Growing up in a house full of men and boys it was difficult for me to be ‘girly’, I wanted to fit in with my brothers and not be made fun of or be paid any attention to because I was a girl. Being an introverted girl in a house of men and boys I was of course being paid more attention than my brothers and I didn’t like any sort of attention at all!
I always thought of uncles and men in general as being pervy and I was paranoid about it as a child. I tried to stay away from ‘that’ kind of attention by carrying myself in a way that boys carried themselves, acting and dressing like my brothers did. It’s weird now that I remember it all and how my love for men’s clothing even began but it be so!
I felt comfortable carrying myself that way for years and as I grew up it eventually became my style, it became Ulfah. The more I walked around Cape Town and everywhere I went I thought this would keep men from looking at me, catcalling or that pervy look but I was wrong. They look and say trash regardless, However, I still felt comfortable dressing that way and carrying myself that way so now I own it. Something that came from an insecurity because of men is now something that represents me and makes me who I am. Interesting…
I don’t want to give men the benefit of the doubt by thinking they’re the reason the gal can dress. When you like something, you like something and I LOVE men’s clothing but not just any man’s clothing, old men walking down the street in their structured chino’s and tucked in shirts with a pair of banging kicks, a cute pair of loafers or just a classic pair of leather sloffies. Their everyday look for me was the icing on the cake and how I wanted to present myself. Don’t get me wrong, I also love the way skaters dress and apparently it’s called ‘skate rats’? (S/O Idris). When you think of it now, they do resemble those old men in their chinos and baggyish jeans haha just add a beanie or cap!
I don’t necessarily think of myself as dressing like a man but more being comfortable and wearing clothes that I won’t be sexually objectified in are meaningful to me. I love men’s clothing, it’s comfortable, structured, kind of basic and classic.
I think we live in an age where many people are conscious of their bodies, whether they’d like to admit it or not. I have learned to be proud of mine but I still have a lot to learn, being proud of my body means taking care of it by treating it with respect, we have a long way to go when it comes to respecting our bodies. Mens clothing allows me to express myself but I also feel protected, I like the way it covers my body whereas a lot of women’s clothing doesn’t give me that same feel.
I bought a turtle neck from a local online store and I usually buy 2-3 sizes too big because I know women’s clothing are made REALLY small (I love oversized things) and everyone has their own preference, some like really small clothing and some just want regular fits. I bought an XL in this top and when I tried it on, it fit me perfectly – I’m a medium. Can anyone tell me how a person who actually takes an XL is supposed to fit in that? Its fucking ridiculous.
I wanted to do my masters this year and write on gender-neutral clothing. I wanted to base it on the future of retail stores with regards to a gender-neutral section but there’s so much more to learn about this and I don’t think we’re headed in that direction but there is space for this kind of clothing and I am happy to be one of those spaces!
My pronouns are she/her and I am quite a pinkish pink gal but you would never say that by just looking at me. It’s hard not to judge someone by what they’re wearing and our default is to automatically have that male/female complex where if you’re wearing a dress you must be feminine, vice versa, and if you’re a girl dressed like a boy then you must be a lesbian or thats what people assumed about me but that is not who I am and so what if that is who you are? And then? We like to put others in boxes and I am guilty of that but we need to educate the new generation to be better than we are and treat people better by not judging them by what they choose to wear but accepting them for whatever they want to wear and whoever they choose to be.
So wear whatever you want to wear!!