April 5, 2016
Hadley Freeman (29 March) overlooks a key feature of the outfits sported by leftwing male politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. These represent 1950s “manly” dressing: loose, shapeless, billowy and generally dull; designed to make sure men were not mistaken for women or seen as feminine, and at the same time meant to function as both camouflage (of the body) and as sufficiently “bloke”. The Sanders and Corbyn style predates the impact of young gay men and gay-influenced heterosexual men, who started (a long time ago) wearing clothes that fit (not necessarily tightly). Bernie and Jeremy’s outfits are surely a size or two bigger than necessary, and not so much retro as witty re-presentation, but simply the habit of older white heterosexual men carrying on as before, as if 1950s western manliness was an exemplar, and pretending their embodiment is not party to their politics.
This tells us that they have given little thought to their own sexual identity and its part in their new “old” politics in 2016. They lack awareness of the problematic part played by hetero-patriarchal masculinities in the politics of left or right, and in this continuity they identify themselves with that old hegemonic masculinity. They seem to think informal/casual, avoiding colour/pattern counts as political resistance, as opposed to manly conformity. Men in uniform are always a feminist concern.