Boy buttons, girl buttons
I recently bought my first men’s polo shirt. It’s kinda huge –most stores don’t carry XS–, but I love it. Yesterday, however, it caused me some trouble.
I went to my grandmother’s house wearing my lovely polo shirt. As usual, she started scrutinizing me. She noticed the buttons on my chest and her face darkened ominously: “That’s a boy’s shirt.” “Noo, it isn’t,” I lied. She showed me her own shirt: the holes were on the left and the buttons on the right. “These are girl buttons –she said–. You have to look for shirts like this.”
This is the most ridiculous gender rule I’ve heard in a while, right up there with gendered colors and toys. I’d forgotten all about it: when I was six, my mother explained that rich women used to be dressed by servants; buttons were placed in such a way to make the servant’s job easier. Men’s clothes buttoned the other way because they dressed themselves. (Supposedly, it’s easier to button one way than the other, at least if you’re right handed.)
While we’re at it, why did only men dress themselves? Was it because women were considered weak, or was it suspicious to have a man touch another –naked– man? Sexism or homophobia? Two women touching wasn’t suspect, of course, because everyone knew that lesbians didn’t exist. And what about women who didn’t have servants: were their buttons placed for their own comfort, or did their clothes button up like the rich women’s?
This rule should be obsolete by now. I didn’t imagine that clothes makers would keep on making shirts that are harder to button up by yourself.
But watch out: someone might still be policing your buttons.