There’s a lot of talk right now about men invading women’s personal space, thanks to recent high-visibility touching by John Travolta and Vice President Joe Biden. It is definitely an issue, despite Travolta saying that the whole Oscar routine was planned and rehearsed. Surprisingly enough, I understand how women feel about this. Yes, I’m a guy, and I get the problem. Why? Because I wear kilts.
The photo above shows me and my son-in-law, with my grandson on my shoulders, at a Scottish Highland Games event.
Imagine, if you will, me walking up to a woman and asking her what she’s wearing under her skirt. Imagine if I tried to lift her skirt and peek, forcing her to grab my hand and make me stop — and then trying again. Imagine if I made comments to a woman at a bar about her dress looking comfortable because it lets the wind blow through her private parts.
I’d get slapped. A bouncer would throw me out on the street (and not gently). I might even be facing sexual assault charges.
Yet women have done all of these things to me when I was wearing a kilt.
I’m an average-looking happily-married guy in my 50s. I’m not out picking up chicks; I don’t look like David Beckham. I don’t think these women are hitting on me. They’re just playing around, and they don’t seem to understand why there’s anything wrong with it. But there is.
I feel like I should point out that I’m not wearing tight clothes or showing a lot of skin, but that’s silly. That plays to the old argument: “Look at how that girl is dressed! She’s obviously asking for it.” I don’t care how that woman is dressed — you don’t walk up and touch her and you don’t make personal comments about what undergarments she might or might not be wearing.
When you see a man in a kilt, he could be wearing any number of things under it. Boxers, briefs, bicycle shorts, a speedo, or nothing at all. It’s really none of your business. [The only exception to this rule is when men tell me they’re getting a kilt and ask what they’re supposed to wear under it. My response: whatever feels comfortable.]
I’ve brought up the issue of women lifting men’s kilts at various times, and one of the very common responses is, “you’re obviously looking for attention, or you wouldn’t be dressed like that.” You could, of course, say that to any sharp-dressed man, but let’s flip this around for a moment and pretend the comment was addressed to a woman.
Is she looking for attention? Possibly. Maybe she does want to be the belle of the ball. But if her outfit includes a tight sweater, that doesn’t mean you can walk up and ask if she has a bra under it! The attention she’s looking for is probably a comment like, “wow, you look great tonight,” not having random dudes lift up her dress.
And that’s exactly the issue.
Junior high school was a miserable time for me. I was very tall, which made me a target for all of the bullies. I didn’t like sports, which made it worse. They looked for ways to humiliate and embarrass me. I was tripped, slapped, and spit on. My books were knocked from my hands. Things were thrown at me in class. And, of course, as the ultimate humiliation for a junior high school boy, I got pantsed.
For my readers not familiar with the term, being “pantsed” usually happened during gym class (a.k.a. “PE”). Since gym shorts don’t have belts, it’s very easy for another kid to creep up behind you, grab your shorts, and pull them down to your knees. Boys and girls had separate classes, but were often in the same gymnasium or on the same field together.
What are you doing when you lift a man’s kilt? The same thing that those bullies were doing back in junior high school when they yanked down his shorts. It makes no difference what’s under the kilt or gym shorts. It’s embarrassing. If you never got pantsed as a kid, you wouldn’t understand how that memory can come flooding back when someone grabs the kilt.
A final comment: When I’ve grumbled about kilt comments in the past, women have often told me that it’s just not the same for me as it is for them. I get that. A 120-pound (55kg) woman isn’t likely to feel safe when a man twice her size is giving her unwanted attention. There’s a sense of vulnerability that I just don’t feel, because I’m 6’5″ (1.95m) tall and I don’t view the woman that’s grabbing my kilt as a physical threat.
That’s very true. But I understand harassment and humiliation. And you might want to keep that in mind the next time you get curious about what’s under the kilt.