Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Conservative Men in Conservative Dresses

In 2002, the Atlantic published an article by Amy Bloom entitled "Conservative Men in Conservative Dresses" about crossdressers and their wives.

When I read the article at the time, I remember thinking that Amy Bloom was very critical of the crossdressers she profiled.  She uses the small sample of people she interacts with to portray crossdressers in general as very selfish men whose long suffering wives barely tolerate their obsession.   She writes about how the crossdressers she interviews are not at all interested in being feminine in the sense of those attributes she sees as truly representative of women.  A telling quote "here is no innate grasp of female friendship, of the female insistence on relatedness, of the female tradition of support and accommodation for one's partner and giving precedence to the relationship overall. If there were that kind of understanding, rather than shopping for accessories and watching tapes on how to walk in heels, these guys would be unable to ask their wives to go through this cross-dressing life with them—and everyone, husbands and wives, knows it."

I recently reread the article.  It's interesting to read a piece a long time after you first did, especially if you have a strong memory of it.

I still find Amy Bloom condescending and believe she generalizes way too much based on the group she interacts with.  Having said that, I was surprised to find that the article is more sympathetic than I remembered.  It does have interesting observations about how the crossdressers and wives she met have very "traditional" relationships in many ways and how the wives of these crossdressers have made many compromises and sacrifices to make their marriages work.  Something to keep in mind when we forget how selfish sometimes when concentrating too much on expressing ourselves.

Here's  a link to the article.  It's very long but a worthwhile read, not just for the observations made but also as a window into how a mildly sympathetic "civilian" views us.  The link also links to various responses from our community.  I'd be interested in your reaction.


  1. Very thought-provoking article and responses.

    My basic reaction reading the article was that the author's observations seemed often on target but that her generalizations were far too sweeping given her small and homogeneous sample. As you said, the view of a "civilian", although as a lesbian woman she may not be as dispassionate as she implied. And a cautionary tale about self-absorption; a depressing one, as such tales often are.

  2. I think it was on the money in the main, but there were bits of it that were too general - as you posted :-)

    Maybe it would be different given another set of CD folk or somewhere out of that event.

  3. It was an interesting article and a decent attempt to discuss and educate about crossdressing but, like most other attempts to catagorize or label us it fell short. I am not ready to blame the author for lack of trying but she simply was not thorough in her research. It may not have been her fault since all she could see were those CDs who were out enough to be found. Most of us never or rarely see the light of day and most of us do not have wives who readily participate in being with us while dressed and out and about.
    I thought that the commenters about the article were outstanding and said what was on my mind about the article better than I could.
    The original article is almost 10 years old. I would like to seen an attempt by the author to update her original work.