The Politics of Mantyhose


MSNBC discusses a growing trend of stockings for men which many call “mantyhose,” as well as other “feminine” clothing that are renamed and altered in quality to dodge the stigma of being deemed feminine. On the one hand, they’re making the hosiery as masculine as possible. On the other, the way the companies and their consumers humorously embrace its femininity is interesting.
Most companies name their stockings, girdles for men and the like almost indistinguishable from the “feminine version” of the product by completely omitting the use of words like “hosiery” or “stockings.” For example, a product that’s claimed to be “spanx for men” is called a Core Precision Undershirt. There’s also a pantyhose for men called Comfilon’s Activeskin Legwear for Men.
And while men’s pantyhose is used for the same reasons anyone would wear hosiery, including support, comfort, and warmth and yes, aesthetics, the author makes sure to appease the reader:

European men have been sporting hose for several years, but the trend has been slow to catch on in the U.S. (It is important to note that the trend has no connection to men who wear hose to cross-dress, since they prefer to wear pairs that are more feminine.) The “mantyhose” is also part of a larger trend of untraditional men’s underwear designed to lift, sculpt and suck in that beer belly… (Emphasis mine)

It’s of the utmost importance you know that these are manly stockings! No cross-dressers here!
But while their makers and users try so very hard to distinguish themselves from women’s stockings, girdles, what-have-you, they still manage to make a joke out of the fact that – whatever name you give it and whatever manly material you make it into – it’s still women’s clothing. The word “mantyhose” itself could make one chuckle. In fact, simply adding an “m” in front of many of these clothes masculinize but also mock them, like “mantyhose” or the “mirdle” (man girdle). Even the companies use humor in their marketing techniques; the tagline for Comfilon is, “This is NOT your mother’s pantyhose.”
This seems indicative of the general male hetero response to anything they do or wear that’s “feminine” – if you mock it while you’re doing it, you can get away with it. Same thing with male hetero friends who pretend to make out when they’re hugging each other, or skip around the room in their face cream – it’s more or less a way of defying gender norms without having to catch shit for it. And that makes me sort of sad.
At the same time, the article seems to imply that men aren’t embarrassed, but their wives (of course they have wives!) are the skittish ones. Thoughts?

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69 Comments

  1. TheWhiteRaven
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    My ten-year-old brother has diabetes. He carries all of his supplies with him in a bag that we call his man-purse. My mother and I, both feminists, always feel a little tickled when someone asks if he is carrying “Mom’s” purse for her and he politely but confidently replies, “Nope. It’s mine.”

  2. natatafish
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    These garments have been around forever in the form of a medically necessary compression stockings. Although I am female, I often have to explain why I have to wear stockings with pants or jeans. The compression stockings help keep my pain manageable and I hope that their new publicity would help men who use them for the same reason.

  3. bluedavid
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    interesting post. as a gay man who spent several years working in nyc’s underground nightlife scene as a more or less genderless creature, i think i have some rather unique insights about the way hetero guys think about gender.
    principally, i think the main reason that these products are being marketed with such a ridiculously over-the-top highlighting of their “masculinity” is that hetero men are coniditioned to fear being feminized because it results in a loss of power.
    An extremely interesting experience i wish everyone could witness is the first time a “macho” straight guy finds himself in a cruisy gay bar. In my experience, it’s usually the first time that these guys have ever in their whole lives had the feeling that women and (lots of) gay men have every day– they’re being treated as an object. They frequently get angry or at least, very uncomfortable. one of the joys of being a drag queen is torturing str8 men in precisely this situation ; >
    By styling themselves in a “masculine” way, hetero men provide themselves with the illusion that they are in control of the world. They will make the decision– they are the hunter and not the prey. When personal style veers from the purposefully haphazard and more towards “trying to be attractive”, the illusion of being in command starts to weaken. It’s harder to fool oneself into thinking that you control your sexual destiny if you’re purposefully making yourself “pretty” to attract a mate.
    Personally, I view the so-called feminizing of our national male archetype as a very positive thing. I think it is the result of moving closer to gender equity, as, more and more frequently, men are on an equal footing with women and have to compete for power. I think we will continue to see a likening between male and female style and grooming habits as long as our society continues to move (slowly but surely) in the direction of equal rights and acceptance for all.
    p.s. i think this also plays out in the increasing popularity of women anally penetrating their male partners. we’re moving beyond conditioned gender roles and closer to objective ideas of “attractive,” “pleasurable,” “fun,” “sexy.” i hope my generation (the millenials) can get our society to the promised land of total equality!

  4. Danyell
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I too, hate stockings and rarely every wear them- opting stead for those little hosiery-shorts that keep your thighs from chaffing but let the rest of your leg BREATHE. But on the picture of those masculine, disembodied legs (p.s.-ew), they do look kind of hot.
    But I think it’s funny the way “man” or men-type pretend words get added onto names that are not feminine. Does “panty” literally mean woman the same way “manty” is derived from man? It’s stupid. And who cares if it is “cross dressing”? Maybe that can be an “in” thing now. But as someone else mentioned, hose used to be common for men. As was frills, lace, robes, gowns, slippers (as in “feminine” dress shoes) and other non-pants that somehow only belong to women. If anything, men’s clothes became more restrictive in relation to options as women’s gained more choices. Ever since bloomers, women can wear nearly everything while still retaining “femininity” (of course, you still have to have long hair and/or make-up or it doesn’t count. I have learned this first hand.) But the more “free” women’s clothes got, the more repressed men’s clothes became with the intention of distinguishing from women. Sad sad sad.

  5. Gopher
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    No Timothy. Most guys feel the need to inhibit themselves in order to fit into outdated, irrational and offensive modes of masculinity and human representation. This makes them hideously boring and also immature and short serving.
    Youre one of those guys that comes on feminist sites and professes to be the victim arent you?Dont take my posts out of line. Think like a feminist and you might’ve actually gotten what I was talking about. But youre so busy saying ‘ohhhh, poor menzzzz…’ that you can’t read my posts correctly, huh?

  6. Gopher
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Exactly! I appreciate your experience with the issue. Your experiences reveal alot about our society and how we still have alot of issues that haven’t even been addressed in the mainstream community.
    Shoutout To Timothy: This is what I was talking about. Men constrain themselves because they are uptight about ‘falling’ into anything that even resembles what might be hypersensitively associated with femanine so they act in artificial and demoting ways in their interactions with women. This makes them vapid, immature and BORING!
    Jeeezus!

  7. John
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Speaking as a guy … I like to wear full-leg HOSIERY. (Socks are hosiery too?) In the winter, I mostly wear tights … for the reasons mentioned: they feel better than sheer pantyhose and they provide an additional layer of warmth. For me, I like the feel of pantyhose and tights.
    What I find odd is that women complain of the feel and fit of pantyhose but proceed to cut off the legs — figuratively speaking — and call then spanx, i.e., “hosiery-shorts that keep your thighs from chaffing but let the rest of your leg BREATHE.” Come on ladies, its the panty part that is uncomfortable!
    Just my opinion.

  8. Alan
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Wow. Generalization alert.

  9. Armand
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I may be inclined to agree with your first part, but was it really necessary to be so rude to Timothy? I mean, seriously. I really, really don’t want to start an argument over this, but it seems ridiculously hypocritical to call oneself a Feminist, and then completely look down to whatever adversity someone else has faced because they are male.
    It’s true. Sexism hurts men just as much as it hurts women, and it really bothers me when I see people who just think that my or any other male’s thoughts and experiences are somehow “less valid” because we’re not of the same gender.
    If you want to call yourself a feminist, or a humanist like I did before I really even knew what feminism was all about (basically, everything I already believed to begin with, just kind of muddled and without direction), you absolutely must be aware that generalizations of any kind are not only rude, but rather detrimental to society as a whole.
    Of course, self-analysis and being honest with oneself is often a difficult and exhausting process to go through, I’m afraid.

  10. timothy_nakayama
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi there Gopher. Ok then, in your opinion, men are a monolith. And yeah, we’re all like that. Thank you for your honest and sincere opinion in the matter.
    Cheers!

  11. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Sorry – my comments here have been attracting a lot of troll (which I know you’re not) attention lately, so I often do end up defending the position…

  12. Gopher
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    “It’s true. Sexism hurts men just as much as it hurts women”
    Bullshit. Do you also think racism hurts white people as much as those of other races?
    And no, the rest of your post will not be listened to because its full of bullshit as well. Knock off the ‘what about the menzzz’ bullshit – k- Youre doing it like Timothy.

  13. Gopher
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    (sarcasm) I just love it when privileged little boys come on this blog to spout their bullshit and misinterpret every fucking little thing. Timothy, youre one of those bloggers that many of the readers consider a bit of a troll. Seriously, we could do without another little boy spouting his “wha wha, what about the menzz” crap.
    For fucks sake Mr. Hysterics, you didnt even explain yourself. You have a fucking wall right up where your cognitive skills should be. You know what the name of that wall is? Its misogynistic privilege. Your knee-jerk reaction is a product of anything that says the truth about guys. You live in a misogynistic society and you get the privilege in it. You cater to small, narrow constucts of gender identity and this makes you FUCKING boring. Swallow it Timothy and dont make a face.

  14. Gopher
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Tim,
    Youre not even an feminist. Why the fuck do you even post here anyways?
    You’d rather have your lies complacized than listen to the truth. This makes you a censor of the realities women face and therefore a inhibitor to the constructive dialogue concerning feminism. All you are is a troll.

  15. Gopher
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    And for fucks sake, his thoughts are less valid because THEYRE STUPID! The dude completely misinterpreted everything I wrote because he’s doing his typical ‘what about the menzzz,’ bullshit. Unclog your brain and we wouldn’ve had to spend time clarifying it so the little boy could have his irrational sniffle’s wiped.
    But this is all you hear…..————-.
    (sarcasm) Gosh, thanks for being on this site! We sure dont have enough crybaby men posting here that barely escape being deleted as trolls but live to trash any legit discussion stared on this blog between women about feminism.

  16. Posted January 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Vanessa,
    Good article here. I’ve been wearing pantyhose or tights for about 10 years or so—primarily for improved leg circulation, but along the way have found them to have other benefits as well. There’ve been dozens and dozens of articles on the rise of men’s pantyhose over the past 8 or 9 years, but not too many of them scratch below the surface of the issue like you’ve done here. Haven’t yet read all the posts, so I hope I’m not duplicating with this one.
    I’ve posted many blog entries or comments asking the question of why there’s such a disparity between the way ‘cross-dressing’ is treated when it’s a man versus a woman who’s doing the crossing over. For instance, everyone thinks its ‘cute’ or sexy when a woman wears a man’s shirt or boxer briefs—or if she’s wearing a necktie or power suit, she’s not typically ridiculed for it. But, let a man wear something that’s in the least bit associated with ‘feminine’ and he’s laughed at, ridiculed, and treated with so much disdain and scorn as to make most any guy afraid to so much as pick up a piece of women’s underwear for any reason at all.
    So, you’ve got to ask yourself, why the difference? It seems that maybe the idea of a woman wearing men’s wear is seen as ‘reaching up’ to take on the air of the ‘superior gender’—while a guy wearing something associated with women’s wear (in this case, pantyhose) the negative reaction makes it seem as though he is ‘lowering himself’ to the level of the inferior sex. Mind you, I don’t subscribe to that notion—just making the observation. And, like you asked at the end of your article, why is it that the wives and girlfriends of those men who aren’t afraid to wear hose more disturbed by it than the men? Is there a certain inferiority complex ingrained in the women that makes them do that? Or, is it just recognition that society makes that judgment on the relative merit of male vs female, and they don’t want their guy getting degraded?
    While many guys will take a ‘live and let live’ attitude towards men’s pantyhose, it’s interesting to note that the guys who DO get really stoked about it (‘he oughta have is ass kicked…’) sound like the ones who are most likely to consider women to be an inferior species.
    I do value the differences between the sexes, and believe that men should be men and women should be women—just as God intended us to be. However, I don’t agree that pantyhose (other than the name, maybe) should be considered to be an inherently female garment. I also don’t believe that anyone should consider male or female to be superior to the other. Different DOES NOT equate to better/worse. Each has their own gifts and burdens and those should be embraced. But, wearing pantyhose does not matter if you like wearing them.

  17. Armand
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I don’t even know where to begin with that. I think that is one of the single most offensive things I’ve ever had said to me, whether it be in real life or over the internet.
    I never said that it impacts men the same exact way as it does women, and I won’t say that racism doesn’t affect white people as much as other races. What I said is that it impacts them.
    I say this because I have experienced both sexism and racism from others, and yes, I am not afraid to admit that I am a white male who in their 20s.
    It makes me sad that you feel the need to lash out on someone who’s only trying to give you their perspective on an issue, but what makes me the saddest is that I totally saw this coming, too. But I still walked into it, anyhow.
    Go figure, it must be because I’m male. *rolls eyes*

  18. Gopher
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    “It’s true. Sexism hurts men JUST AS MUCH as it hurts women”
    What the fuck does that say? That’s YOUR own words. You DID say that sexism HURTS men just as much as women.Read the caps. I don’t need to hear you telling me not to ‘lash out’ at timothy. If timothy gave me the respect of actually reading my post I wouldn’t have to. You seem to think it’s okay for timothy to be an insulting reactionary, but I can’t be. Do you think men should get some sort of extra hand holding? I think that if youre a man blogging on this site, it’s up to YOU to ensure that you’re up to date, and its not my responsibility. You seem like a neophyte on this blog as timothy has often gotten derided for many of his comments he makes. This is a feminist blog and I dont need my views and perspectives twisted around by some privileged man’s reactionary distortions. Timothy is often an ignorant reactionary that doesnt even identify himself as a feminist. He commonly makes errors because he is not one. Why the fuck is he even on this blog? It seems to me he thinks himself some sort of rooster checking up on the hens or some misogynistic shit like that. Also, take my advice: you are seriously suffering from a case of ‘what about the menz.’ Cure it before posting again k. I couldve had a very stimulating debate among feminists in an area not commonly addressed, but instead, it was squalched by ‘whiny ass timothy.’ I’ve seen plenty of men contribute on this forum and have seen some very enlightened attitudes demonstrated to me. However, you, nor timothy is one of them.

  19. James Joyce
    Posted February 11, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ll start by stating that I’m married to a Finnish woman. Finland is perhaps the most egalitarian society on Earth – a least in the Western Hemisphere. They have a female president and while there’s still a slight salary gap between the sexes, women yield a lot of power there. It’s somewhat of a feminists’ nirvana… As the spouse of a Finnish woman, it’s certainly been a learning curve for me, an American guy, to feel comfortable with so much power sharing under the roof. While sometimes it’s like two rams butting heads, it works for us!
    Anyway, I’m a guy who wears pantyhose, unabashed, proud of being a little different. I only wear men’s clothes though. E.g. men’s briefs/thongs, men’s pantyhose (Comfilons). I’m in pretty good shape, cyclist all my life, so I’ve always shaved my legs and I like ‘em that way. And I think my legs look great in a pair of hose. I buy moisturizers and love what they do for my skin, especially my legs and feet. If I don’t, they get all dried out (esp my feet) and crack and ruin not only hose, but even socks.
    I firmly believe guys should take better care of themselves. I don’t wear make-up, even though there are some for men, but I enjoy spa treatments, even manicures & pedicures, just as much as my wife. I’m comfortable with who I am and thus confident about what I wear. The only time I’ve ever been complimented on my legs was when I was wearing a pair of sheer tan pantyhose and shorts.
    I’m excited about all of the publicity men’s pantyhose has gotten in the last year and I’m an example of the fashion freedom that’s provided. My wife has also really come around to accepting it, especially now that all of my pantyhose has a fly built into it, so she’s sure they’re made for men.

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