It seems that the next battle over manhood and masculinity among black men will be happening in skirts.
What I mean is that Brand Nubian rapper Lord Jamar wasn’t too keen on Love & Basketball star Omar Epps’ recent appearance on The View, particularly, the black leather kilt-like skirt he rocked over his pants while there. Taking his angst to Twitter, Jamar, who is also probably well-known for playing Supreme Allah on the hit prison show Oz, tweeted a couple pictures of Epps’ outfit and wrote:
So now OMAR EPPS has joined the SKIRT GANG??? Say it sint so!!! Old heads suppose to know better.
Jamar then went on a rant with fellow Twitter users over what he alleges is the emasculation of black men. Feeling a little perturbed by Jamar’s continued questioning over his friend’s sexuality and masculinity, comedian and actor Marlon Wayans decided to jump into his mentions:
@lordjamar the real question is why you taking close shots of a ni**a crotch and tweeting it? U wearing an invisible dress.
Of course, this sparked a spirited – as well as hilarious – debate between the two famous men, which started off with them comparing the age-appropriateness of male apparel choices:
Wayans: @lordjamar 60 year old ni**as rocking timbos and lugz disturb me
Jamar: @MarlonWayans but 40 year old ni**as in skirts is okay? GTFOH
Wayans: @lordjamar n*gga u the type of ni**a that’s waiting for the trend to come back. 20 years removed u still holdin on to your ENYCE.
And then the whole thing turned into something more direct and personal:
Jamar: @MarlonWayans U corny. U can try & clown ur way around the issue but fact is u one of the MAIN NIGGAS that helped in the feminization.
Wayans: @lordjamar ni**a you still buying quarter water and loosely cigarettes. Come on son, u got grand kids grow up! Take the baggy jeans off
Jamar: @MarlonWayans Ur corny twitter jokes aren’t translating & ur lookin stupid, U the one should raise the flag for I really get that work
Wayans: @lordjamar u the JAROBI of brand Nubians
Jamar: @MarlonWayans And u the step & fetch it of Hollywood!
Wayans: @lordjamar Ni**a u still rockin cross colors and khair shells. U finally take the leather africa medallion off your neck
Wayans tweeted pictures of Jamar in what some in society might classify as less than masculine attire, including one picture of the Five Percent-rhetoric spouting emcee rocking a kufi with sparkly tassels on the top while bare-chested. Eventually, Jamar tired of the ruckus blowing up his mentions and blocked the White Chicks star, but not before Wayans jabbed him one last time:
Yo @lordjamar u trying to spit knowledge u talking 2% of yo 5% ni**a yo math is off #f**kouttahereni**ayouaintdeep go rub yo beads
First off, let me point out how refreshing (yes, just like a cold glass of iced tea on a hot day) it is to see a man check another over their ignorance. But more to the point, your sexuality does not determine your manhood–that would be your character. And I wish black men would stop acting like overzealous hall monitors over each other’s apparel choices. You know what ‘looks gay’? Gay sex. Everything else, including what we eat, the way we move and how we adorn our bodies, is pretty much speculation – and a bad speculation at that.
I get it. Black men in America have always had their masculinity – at least a version of masculinity as described by the dominant society – questioned and compromised. Therefore, many men are uncomfortable and flat-out vehemently adverse to anything, which seeks to define them as less than the dominant culture. But perhaps that’s a horrible way to go about gaining one’s autonomy. Perhaps the answer is to resist the dominant culture’s standards in favor of our own.
It always bewilders me when Afrocentric black folks, men in particular, go off about men in skirts/dresses, considering the wearing of pants as a proper form of male attire is pretty Western and European. Prior to pants, men and women both donned the draped, leg-accentuating garment. And as this article on the website Sociology of Style points out, some still wear them around the world:
“In warmer climates, many men still wear skirts or draped garments in one form or another today. Some examples include the unstitched dhoti in India, printed and fairly unisex sarongs in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and the colorful Eastern African garment, Kanga. As we’ve touched on in our article about the suit, fashion is just a symptom of larger cultural norms and changes. The gendering of clothing is part coincidence and part history. As men grew to incorporate pants into their wardrobe, women were restricted from doing the same because of norms of “modesty”; pants hugged the body and revealed the woman’s shape more, and so women were relegated to long skirts, even as men became more versatile in their wardrobe. This in turn made loose garments like dresses and skirts take on a feminine association, and today, most men avoid these garments for nothing more than that reason — a fear of femininity in combination with a recognition of the social norm that they should dress in ways that uphold their masculine identities. Look at the only non-taboo form of skirt in the West today: the kilt. Though it’s got the same anatomy of any other skirt that a woman might wear, nobody bats an eye at it because it’s read as a masculine garment that is worn to honor someone’s (Scottish) heritage.”
And that is pretty much what Epps himself eluded to in his own response to Jamar, when he tweeted:
The uninformed couldn’t understand my contemporary ode to the Zulu warrior roots. The Maasai, Fanti, etc…it’s all tribal, study our history…
So the next time a dude accuses black women of following behind white women and their feminism, remind him that his praise of the pants, even when slouched, are the ultimate mark of his own submission. But Jamar (among others) might not want to hear that from us ladyfolks, and other men, who are not scared to show a little leg. Perhaps they might be swayed seeing one of hip-hop’s more mature and conscious players, like Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def, who recently appeared for interviews in his new home-base of Cape Town in South Africa rocking a kente cloth “skirt” handsomely paired with red Gucci slippers.
Besides, what’s not to love about the idea of letting your junk roam free? It would certainly cut down on the need for some men to grab at their packages several times a day (sometimes done right in your face).