For my summer course, I had the students do an observation exercise on gender at the mall.
In their reports some of them wrote:
At the mall wife beaters were common among the men we observed.Due to my complete lack of fashion knowledge, I was trying to figure out how they knew that the men were beating on their wives. Were their wives bruised? Did they witness violence?
Of course, what they meant was that the men were wearing something like this:
In my day, such garments would be called tank tops or large undershirts (Sara calls them armpit shirts and forbids me from wearing them - perhaps because subconsciously she fears for her well-being). It is fascinating how stereotyping has led to the new name for such clothing and how it is perfectly acceptable to use the term "wife beater" so casually. None of my students picked up on this even though it fit in so well with the issues of gender we were covering.
The consequences of my not knowing this term spread to our household. As a joke, I began calling the fingerless gloves that Sara was knitting "husband beaters". And somehow the term stuck. I better watch out this winter... and I guess I should brush up on my fashion terminology.