So to start with, I need to make it clear that this is very much an opinion piece and as such it is my interpretation of the subject. I say this, as the Feminist movement throughout history has contained numerous factions and all with differing agendas and approaches.
What is a Feminist?
In its simplest form, Feminism is a belief that the binary genders of Male and Female are equal. The Feminist movement is about realigning the imbalances that were created from our history of being a Patriarchal society.
In essence, equal rights! Rights such as the right to vote, the right to equal pay and the right to not be portrayed as a weaker, one dimensional and less capable gender.
Can a Male Feminist exist?
Well this really depends on just who you talk to. There are those who believe that any man who is a supporter of Feminism is just that, a supporter and cannot lay claim to being a Feminist. The belief is that without the personal experiences unique to women, someone cannot be part of the Feminist movement.
Another view an one that I subscribe to ( albeit as a male) is that anyone who supports and believes in the concept of gender equality and equal rights for women should be able to be termed a Feminist.
So from my perspective anyone, male, female or non-binary can lay claim to being a feminist, provided they genuinely believe and support the fundamental ideals of the movement.
So what then are my beliefs on Feminism?
Personally I believe that Women should have no more or less rights than their male counterparts. I strongly believe that the world will be a far better place with total equality across the genders.
This means equal representation across all areas of society and most notably in positions of power such as Government. It also means equal pay for equal jobs as well as access to those equal jobs.
On top of this, my ideal would see a more varied portrayal of women in the media, one that reflects society as a whole.
Does this make me a Feminist?
Well the answer to this is actually both yes and no. Whilst obviously I do strongly believe in equality between men and women and as such ally myself with feminist principles.
I cannot call myself a Feminist. This is not due the fact I am male, nor is it in response to some of the more radical factions within the movement. Rather it is simply because to call my self a Feminist would be too restricting of my social beliefs and conscience.
Instead of calling myself a Feminist if pressed to categorize myself, I would call myself an Equalist. You see my belief in equality goes beyond that of women's rights and includes everyone.
As a Father of a gay Transgender teen (about which I have written in my post Goodbye Daughter , Hello Trans Son), how could I not be as strongly supportive of LGBTIQ rights as I am of women's rights? As a Man, I hate to see men on the receiving end of gender inequality ( Although rarer, this does exist)
My beliefs are to fight against any form of inequality and prejudice, be that based on binary or non-binary gender, race, skin colour, religion and others.
I am an Equalist and I am Proud of it
The people I admire the most are those who are actively fighting against inequality and prejudism. People such as the worlds first Plus Sized Supermodel Tess Holliday who has created the #effyourbeautystandards movement. A movement about body acceptance of all (Fat, Thin, Disfigured, Hirsute, short , Tall etc)
So whilst I clearly believe that I have the right to call myself a Feminist I choose not to do so and call myself and Equalist instead. There are bigger things to worry about than belonging to a group that feels itself to be superior to others.
Dictionary.com describes style as "a mode of fashion, as in dress, especially good or approved fashion; elegance; smartness". Whereas, for me, a persons sense of style, is the way a person chooses to portray themselves aesthetically.
A persons style should reflect who they are, who they wish to be and how they would like others to view them. So how then with all these subtle complexities, do we discover our own sense of style?
In truth, the answer to that is to say "Over Time". A personal sense of style is something that evolves, something that begins as a foggy haze of influences and likes and which over time begins to come in to focus, resulting in a your own unique look and a sense of self confidence and worth.
On the surface, one would imagine that any search for a personal sense of style would begin simply in buying clothes you like, but starting here will see you waste money and slow down your style discovery.
Sure, most of us have an idea of what we like and what we don't like, some even have a concept of how they wish to look. However, to truly discover your own personal style means first to discover who you really are, or at the very least, begin that journey.
Know yourself first
I maintain that very few people have any real concept of themselves until they are thirty and it is not until you turn forty that you are really getting a handle on who you really are.
In your twenties, you tend to be swayed by your interpretations of what society expects of you, social media, peer pressure and the wish to impress others (Usually those of the opposite sex that have sent your hormones racing). This does not mean that someone in their twenties cannot dress in style, it means that he is unlikely to have discovered his own unique sense of style.
Knowing who you innately are, will help you define what you want from your attire, what environments you are likely to be in and your overall lifestyle. For instance should you regularly attend Gala's and Gallery Openings a regular outfit comprising of blue jeans and a crisp T-shirt may not be the best look for you.
Of course I cannot tell you who you are, that is something that only you can know. I do however know that being divorced and nearly Fifty, I had to go on a journey of self discovery myself and have blogged about discovering your single self after divorce, although the advice within is relevant to all, divorced or not.
So once you have a concept of who you really are, the next step is to begin building your wardrobe. My piece of advice here is to do so slowly and allow it to grow.
If you go out and buy an entire wardrobe full of outfits, you may find that whilst they are good outfits and you look great in them that they may not fit your evolving style. The best way is to first of all edit your current wardrobe. Remove everything and only put back that which you would want to wear now that you are focusing on a sense of style.
Now you need to look at what you have and what is missing, thinking primarily of the current season. If it is Summer, no point in worrying that you no longer have heavy jackets and jumpers, that can wait until it is indeed cold and wet.
Regardless of the season, I always find that long is best, long pants look far smarter than shorts and a long sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up is always a better look than a short sleeved shirt. Again, no need to rush out and purchase bulk outfits, looking at your edited wardrobe should tell you if you have any complete outfits and what you lack.
Do you lack pants, shirts or footwear? If this is the case, then go and make a few small purchases to plug the gaps. Just remember we are talking essentials at the moment, as your sense of style evolves you will add more items and no doubt retire many more too.
For many, you will be surprised to see that you still possess a complete wardrobe, this would suggest that you already dress well even though you are yet to fully develop your own personal style.
Do your research
Now comes the fun part, developing your unique style sense. I would suggest, if you haven't already, getting on social media, start following some style influencers, men's wear lines and bloggers, maybe subscribe to a men's fashion magazine (most are available in a digital e-format) and simply get a concept of current fashion trends.
I personally follow many of my favourite menswear stores/producers on social media such as Tarocash, Gordon Rush, Blazer, David Jones and Dapperscene. Magazines like GQ, The Journal and Men's Style are an invaluable source of style trends.
However the best source of information is from fashion influencers and bloggers such as The Stylish Man, The Sartorialist, Inspiration Style, The Art of Manliness and my personal favourites Gents Lounge and Blake Scott. Become (within reason) immersed in the world of men's fashion and gauge what you like.
One at a time
Your next step is to start with one purchase at a time and begin refining your look. There are two ways to approach what to start with, the first and most logical, is to identify an item of clothing you wish to upgrade.
I would recommend a larger statement piece such as a sports coat or shoes. Get a specific idea of what you are looking for, i.e. tan double monkstrap shoes and go and seek them out, don't rush the purchase, buy quality and shop around.
The second and less logical way is the way I went about things. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entitled Red Suede Shoes and a Blue velvet Jacket, my journey began with seeing a pair of red suede shoes in a store window.
I fell in love with them, but did not buy them at first, waiting about two weeks before doing so. In other words, you can start with an item you find that you cannot get out of your head and desire really badly. Of course I would recommend against pure impulse buying and suggest you allow yourself a cool down period before actually purchasing.
Once you have your first item that is a step up from your usual purchases, bit by bit start adding more. Making single, considered purchases is the key here. In my case I purchased my red shoes and next was the blue velvet jacket.
But I certainly was in no hurry to buy , buy , buy. You need time with each new item, time to wear them, see how you feel in them, gauge peoples responses and in essence get an idea of if they are part of your burgeoning personal style.
That old saying that "Clothes Maketh The Man" may have an element of truth to it but your sense of style should go beyond just your garments and footwear. Accessories play an important part and provide the perfect opportunity to individualize your look, whilst adding highlights of texture and/or colour.
Accessories include, ties, watches, jewellery and much more and I have discussed there use and impact in a previous two part post dedicated solely to their use, Accessories: Style items that add pop Pt1! and Accessories: Style items that add pop Pt2!
Lets too, not forget that your hairstyle is an vital part of your look, so once you begin to develop your sense of style with your attire, I would recommend talking with your Hairdresser about styles that may suit you better.
So how do I know if I'm on the right track?
The simple answer to this is that only you will know. Remember that this is your own personal style. If you like it, then ultimately it is right.
Of course it is always best to ask yourself a few questions every now and then. Do I look good? Do I feel good? Does what I'm wearing give me confidence? and perhaps most importantly, Do I feel like myself and comfortable? This is all about you, so it really is only your opinion that matters.
It is important to remember that style should also be an evolving creature. Fashions can change at an alarming rate and you will need to change with them. For instance the current sockless trend is likely to disappear within the next few years and anyone sporting the sockless look then will look quite ridiculous.
So keep up with your trends on social media. Other things to remember are style basics, buy quality items, ensure you have a good fit by getting your clothes altered to fit, look after your wardrobe by keeping your clothes ironed and your shoes polished. Ensure your outfit is clean and fresh and should it start to get a bit tatty, either replace it or get it repaired.
Now is the time
What better time to kick start the new you than the new year. Like most people, I am several (well more like 30) years behind on achieving any New Years Resolutions. I still carry too much weight, I could eat healthier and be fitter, these are after all, the standard and cliched resolutions for the new year and ones that for most of us rarely get achieved.
So perhaps we need to rethink our strategy for resolution making. First of all, in order for us to achieve any resolution we have to genuinely want to, as opposed to feeling the weight of societal expectation on us to do so. Secondly, we need to feel it is obtainable and thirdly, we need to stop rehashing the very same resolutions year after year.
Regardless of how long you have been single or divorced, the New Year is an ideal time to begin the evolution of the new you. Sure, the process can easily begin at any time, but the new year can act as a starting point, new calendar year, Christmas Season has been and gone ( Plus in my case so has my post Christmas, Birthday.) and for many it can signal a return to work after annual leave or time off. The "New You" is however not an instant thing, but part of a process of evolution, something that you may have already began without actually knowing. However, lets make an effort to make the new year, the time in which you make the conscious decision to begin your journey to make the changes in yourself you wish to make.
In other words, it is not so much about making a a New Years resolution, but rather a conscious decision to work towards making changes. Start with little things, perhaps you may decide to wear less short sleeved shirts and instead roll up your long sleeves in hotter weather ( a far more stylish and mature look), you may decide that you wish to begin delving into the scary world of online or speed dating. The bottom line is, it is simply a great time to signal your intent to yourself.
Beginning the process.
Well you have decided that the New Year is a great time to kick start the new you. So what now?, Where to from here? Well the first step is to figure out just who the new you really is. This is not necessarily a quick and easy step, it is however one that on a sub-conscious level you have probably been formulating a concept of. I have written an earlier post titled; Who am I? Rediscovering your single self dealing with that very issue. This will enable you to work out for yourself what things about you, you would like to make changes to. Bear in mind that this is not a quick fix, but the start of an ongoing process of evolution.
So what then are some areas that you may want to address? To answer this I must look to my own journey of reinvention and mention some of the areas that I myself felt I had to begin to change, some of which I have and some are still ongoing. The obvious one for me was my dress sense, I felt that my attire was no longer reflecting who I was as a person, I can say now that even though I do make my own fashion mistakes at times, my clothes better reflect the new me. I also wanted to make changes that would see me improve myself socially and as a person. To that end, I began speed dating and dating in general as well as making a conscious effort to get out in the world and not to hide away in my own little shy world, something that I was all too prone to doing. The result has been going to more social events, comedy shows, gigs and seeing someone beyond a first or second date for the first time in years.
So call it what you will, A New Years Resolution, a Promise of Intent to Yourself or whatever. But the start of a new year really is the best time to push that reset button and start the process of change. By having a date of commencement, it makes it easier and more real in your own mind. Without my making a very conscious decision I certainly would not be in the early stages of what could be my first relationship after my divorce. We all know just how hard it is to initiate change, we as men have a tendency to resist change at all costs, often to our own detriment. So use the new year as impetus to make change, use it as the beginning of your journey. Yes, we all want to lose weight and get fit, but surely beginning a process that will see you become happier about both life and yourself is a priceless step to make.
A long term relationship, whether married or not, should see a healthy compromise between the two people concerned. Whilst this should never mean a complete change in you character, it usually means a subtle change in priorities. After all, you intended on spending the rest of your life with your partner. However, combined with the passing of years and your advancing age, when a separation occurs, most men are left either reverting back to who they were before the relationship began, or wondering "Who am I now?".
To answer this, we need to look at a number of factors and ask ourselves a few more questions. First of which is "Am I Happy?", which for most of us post divorce the answer would most likely be no. Next is "Am I acting my Age?",it is all too easy to revert back to the person you once were, which whilst that sounds like a good idea, a 50 year old acting like a 30 year old is simply not right. Other questions to ask include, "What do I want from my future?, Do I care how others see me?, What defines me as a person? and What about me would I like to see changed?"
Am I Happy?
After my own separation and subsequent divorce, I will admit to being in quite a "funk", I certainly was not in a happy place. However, it was not until I asked this of myself that I realized that things could be different. I knew that my life was never going to be the same as it once was, but that did not mean that I couldn't be happy again. It dawned on me that now I was single, the onus was on me and me alone to decide what I wanted to do. No longer was I required to consult anyone before making decisions. In other words, no more did I have a ready made excuse to talk myself out of doing things I actually wanted to do. I started going out and seeing live music and comedy shows again and whilst I was still having some down days, being myself was certainly having a positive affect on my state of mind. This led to the realization that not only could I be happy again, but that I had the opportunity to rewrite who I was and do some fine tuning,
So I made a decision then to be who I wanted to be, not who I was becoming due to the expectations of others. Did I know who it was or what it was I wanted to become? Nope! I had no idea at all and that is part of the journey. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, my infamous red suede shoes became something of a catalyst of change. I saw them in an outlet store and was immediately drawn to them, although it was about 2 weeks before I finally succumbed to purchasing them. The knock on effect however, was that I felt the need to dress myself in a way that befitted these new shoes and so began my interest in dressing well and fashion as it relates to a (soon to be) 50 year old man.
Did I know or expect the knock on effects?Not at all. I started researching online and on social media to gain an insight into both what I liked and what was considered to be a "good" look for someone approaching his 50th birthday. This in turn lead me to an understanding of how I wanted to dress, what felt right for me. Soon I was purchasing sports coats, long sleeve button down shirts, an ever expanding collection of shoes and accessories. Dress well and you feel good, so my darkness was subsiding and people began to notice that I was more relaxed and comfortable in myself. I was beginning to get an idea of who I was.
What Defines You As A Person?
The answer to this is of course complex in its nature and much of it relates to the way others see you. Ask yourself this. You are talking with a friend and she mentions that she has began dating someone. What is it that you now want to ask/know about them? For many, the first thing is often , " What do they do?". Certainly a persons occupation can often give an insight into who they are, but we also possess a mindset of stereotypes that can all too often, result in an incorrect and often negative biased assumption. For instance I will quickly list a few occupations and I feel certain that everyone of us will in their minds will picture the very same stereotypes. Lawyer, driven by success, very materialistic and with a tendency to be morally flexible, Teacher, frumpy but caring with a heart of gold, Architect, drives a Saab and wears Turtlenecks, Bricklayer, drinks an excessive amount of beer, swears too much and smokes at least a packet of cigarettes a day. Now I'm sure that these stereotypes hold true for the odd individual, but to define someone based on a stereotype is just wrong.
For many of us, we are working in jobs that we "fell" into after deciding on a career change earlier in life. I for one am working in an occupation that is far removed for where my working life began. Whilst in school I realized I wanted to be a chef and did so for about 10 years before having had enough of a very dog eat dog industry and left. With no job/income, I began casual labouring as a way to pay my bills, this led to my getting full time employment in the mining/refinery industry. So did the essence of who I was as a person change radically with change in my employment history? Was the Chef me, a different person to the one who worked in a soft drink factory or the one who spent his working hours pouring gold bars, of course not. So what then defines us?
Who Do You Want To Be?
So if we shouldn't be defined by our choice of occupation, what then does define who we are and how does that play into knowing who we want to be? I know it is a cliche but who we are is more about our interactions with others and our choices in our own free time. When talking about rediscovering/reinventing yourself post divorce, I am not talking about making radical changes to your core personality traits (Unless you have negative traits that do then require changing). In this instance I am referring to changes that will make you happy, happy in disposition, happy with who you are and happy with your life in general.
This means identifying, who/what you wish to be and what sort of life you want to lead. Be aware that this may well be a process of evolution and that one change may lead to another until you arrive at the destination you didn't realize was there. I discovered early on, thanks in part to those redshoes, that I wanted to dress better and take better pride in my appearance. I also was aware that as a person , I liked who I was, so my core character traits I was happy with. Whilst I knew I enjoyed my own time alone, I was also aware that finding love again was something I wanted, to achieve this, I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone and actually meet people. So began my experiences with speed and online dating.
After divorce or the loss of a long term relationship, we should all take stock of our lives, learn what our priorities are and rediscover who we are as individuals. I guess it really comes down to identifying those elements that you would wish to change, those that will make you happy and allow you to move forward with your life and then working towards making those changes happen.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.