What I Wore: Navigating the Heteronormative Patriarchy, Pt. 12

Welcome to What I Wore, a series where I explore fashion as shelter in traditionally heteronormative and patriarchal spaces.

The Steakhouse

I read something about the French Revolution triggering modern day restaurants and it somehow blew my mind that restaurants haven’t always existed. It shocked me that it shocked me because what did I think — that since the beginning of time people have had the liberty to spend hours a day in an endless cycle of asking each other where they should go eat? Then it hit me how weird the concept of going to a restaurant is. Imagine living with the brain equivalent of a golden retriever that’s just smoked weed for the first time.

But it’s true – leaving the comfort of your own home to sit in a room with hundreds of other people to engage in a pretty intimate and vulnerable human behavior is weird! My big baby body is hungry and I need to deliver it food at once! And now here is how I chew and swallow. This is all I can think about now whenever I go out to eat, which just means I’m hyper aware of the people around me.

I knew I’d be extra aware at a steakhouse in an old barn with an attached cigar room given the kind of clientele a place like that usually attracts, and so even though I would be with lovely company, I needed an outfit for the peripherals. I went with a shirt that looks pretty but has a threatening undercurrent. To follow this theme I paired it with a skirt and a zero nonsense boot/sock combo.

Besides a greeter who bowed a lot, I registered zero men!

Success rate: 5/5

The Post Office

I had a thought inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale and that thought was: what if the only currency women had were stamps? (I’m sorry for another bizarre lead up to an outfit.) It was something I settled on after a stream of hypotheticals that went from a fascist regime bent on controlling women, to the denial of access to information or instant lines of communication, to stamps being the dog scraps given to women as a facade of autonomy. “See, you can still send each other letters, we are not complete monsters and, in fact, want you to thrive.” And so then stamps would become coveted items. The post office would serve as a polarizing symbol of liberation and oppression.

Just in case this is already under way, I kept this in mind for a recent trip to the post office. In a display of dominance, I dressed as the show’s blue oppressors and took it a step further by disgracing their uniform. Hiked the hemline, darkened the palette, bared the shoulders, and added some red to let them know I knew, you know?

I’m not going to say that I was dead TF on with this theory, but the postal worker was listening to gospel music and didn’t ask me if I wanted insurance for either of my packages, as if she knew it didn’t matter whether I had it or not because they wouldn’t be getting sent.

Success rate: 1/5

The Bank

If capitalism is the patriarchy’s errand-boy, banks are the patriarchy’s sign-spinners. Come give us your money, so they can distribute it as they see fit. But, even though the tone of this edition of What I Wore may suggest otherwise, I’m not at a point mentally where I’m ready to bury my money in various locations throughout the U.S, and so I continue to use them.

That doesn’t mean I have to respect them, and so for a recent trip to the bank I dressed like the best to ever do it: an angsty teen. I went with a black and red (the rudest color combination) striped shirt and ripped jeans being held up by a jacket that couldn’t really give a shit.

No one asked me if I wanted to do direct deposits or told me about a new credit card that I’d been approved for, but I did have a pleasant interaction with the teller.

Success rate: 3/5

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Los Angeles based writer. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 208 articles for us.


  1. Ah, the rudest colour combination: for those days when you wake up wanting to look like old-school British Dennis the Menace, or an extra-angry bee.

  2. I’ve often wondered whether if, in post-apocalyptic situations where only women survive (the only kind I ever consider), sanitary products would be a viable currency. Obviously you’d be moving into an extreme scarcity economy, where discovering an untapped Wal Mart beneath a mound of nuclear fallout could trigger a tampon rush. Ultimately, power would lie with shifting alliances of non-bleeders, free bleeders and post-menopausal mommi matriarchs, which sounds vastly superior to current global power structures.

    Also, congrats on 1 year!

    • this is the closest i’ve come to feeling hopeful for the future in an entire year

      • Diva cups would have been removed from circulation by a sect that worships them as totems of the new feminist deity

      • Alas, every unused specimen is taken off the shelves and incinerated several months before the nuclear apocalypse because OF COURSE the only sanitary product that allows women to forget all about their periods is a massive risk factor for toxic shock syndrome.

        At least according to every single French news outlet this morning, based on some new study from some national centre of staphylococcus research whose study I’ve yet to find actual meaningful details about (aside from the fact that they collected 700 used tampons to study).


  3. Wait, so you *wanted* to be upsold on package insurance and credit card offers? I’m usually hoping to avoid sales pitches like that, like you were trying to avoid having additional services/new tires pushed on you at the auto repair shop.

    • nooo i was glad they didnt upsell me at the bank – that was the upside there. and the post office not asking me if i wanted insurance meant i felt something was afoot

  4. Actually restaurants are much older than the French Revolution. The Chinese and the Soghdians had them along the Silk Road 2000 years ago.

  5. as a teenager i wore basically that exact same red & black shirt to a funeral, which i agree was a rude move

  6. And ala carte menus are a twentieth century thing. Before that, you had what they gave you which must’ve been great from their end but I like the choice now. Now you can go out & have a plain meat dish while your mother has something fancy & vegan.

    I normally go to very down to earth cafes where the main thing is to avoid having kids menu thrust at me but which is pretty gender neutral. Being aspie & trans masc, I hate fancy places. But had to go to one for my granddads eightieth.

    It was surprisingly good. Plain Sunday dinner that just meant skipping the fancy veg & eating the meat & potatoes. Meat cut into manageable chunks before it left the kitchen (I can’t be the only masc person who can’t eat a whole shoulder, surely? I blame my veggie upbringing) and waitstaff who absolutely spoilt us. Sure it was gendered & not sure how they’d deal w someone in the middle of the nb spectrum. But the waiter called me Monsieur whenever I asked for anything. Felt spoilt & masc at the same time.

    I wore green jacket & trousers & leather boots & sat with my gf who wore a long flowing silk dress and my mother (I can’t remember what she wore) and acted my own usual protective way over them. My gfs dad treats my mum like crap cos she’s vegan & deaf so I had plenty of opportunity. I think my dress, how my date was dressed & how I acted towards women signalled ‘male’. Which is very sexist in its own way but benefits me as a transmasc person & none of us were acting in a way that didn’t come natural. (including her stupid dad, he seems threatened whenever a woman has a different opinion on food to him, he does work studying agriculture but still…)

  7. I am here 50-50 for the fashion, and for the psychological thought experiments.

  8. This steakhouse you visited sounds almost exactly like one where I’m from, where the cigar room is called the Meat Locker, because why not.

  9. just wanted to say that i have to go to jiffy lube today and i opened every single What I Wore in tabs for inspiration/strategizing. ended up w/ acid wash mom jeans, loose long sleeve black crop-ish top, no makeup, french braid. still debating btw danskos, docs, and chucks. anyway: Erin, you’re making a difference in the lives of autostraddlers everywhere. <3

  10. This series has been in the cold hard ground for two years, and I *still* think about it regularly. Thank you, Erin, for being the hero we needed and the hero we still do need when we’re standing with one foot in a pair of baseball pants and one foot in a maxi skirt and bracing ourselves for imminent exposure to straight people and also screaming!

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