“I see a little silhouetto of a man”, or do I?

Androgyny is currently a very hip thing in the world of fashion, as we have discussed in class and as some of us have argued in previous blog posts. Within this fashion context, androgyny can facilitate the bending of fixed understandings of what is male or female even beyond the realm of fashion. Androgynous images offer a rather ambiguous narrative of the model and the items advertized through which the spectator is free to fill up the blanks and uncertainties with whatever he or she desires. Through these blanks, the images can intermingle with any kind of fantasies of any kind of spectator and so they might appeal to a wider audience opening up more space and acceptance for deconstructing binaries within the mainstream reading of men and women.

When it comes to models, Andrej Pejic is probably the most celebrated androgynous one today. In class, we were talking a lot about him and his presence and influence, so I was interested in what he has to say himself. So, I came across an interesting statement in an interview published by the German magazine “ZEITmagazin” in Februrary, 2011.

It says:

ZEITmagazin: Wie kleiden Sie sich in Ihrer Freizeit?

Pejic: Ich trage Frauen- und Männerkleidung. Aber als Frau gut auszusehen ist wesentlich günstiger. Gute Männerkleidung ist sehr teuer.

ZEITmagazin: Tragen Sie Kleider?

Pejic: Wenn ich ein Kleid sehe, das mir gefällt, dann trage ich es, ich habe kein Problem damit. Ich trage auch High Heels.

ZEITmagazin: Make-up?

Pejic: Nicht viel. Ich bin keine Dragqueen, will mich nicht in jemand anderen verwandeln. Ich möchte natürlich bleiben.

Roughly translated:

ZEITmagazin: How do you dress in your free time?
Pejic: I wear both women’s and men’s clothing. It’s way cheapier to look well in women’s clothing though. Quality men’s wear is very expensive.
ZEITmagazin: Make-up?
Pejic: Not much. I’m not a drag queen; I don’t want to become something I’m not. I want to stay natural.

Most of the interviews I read were concerned with what kind of differences Pejic notices in his gender performances and how he portrays the one or the other. When implying that Pejic at one point in his life has to stop being neither gender, this particular interviewer of ZEITmagazin even wants him to choose his preferred gender – a choice Pejic in fact already made but won’t give away at this point.

With considering the second answer provided above however, a choice seems fairly unnecessary to me; because Pejic already knows exactly who he is regardless of what (stereotypical) gender performance he entertains. He is the dress and the tie, the suit and the make-up without conflicting his self-identified I.

While most people think or are made to think themselves in either masculine or feminine frameworks and may struggle with being kept in or escaping either category, Pejic does not think his self in this way. His self is not based on being purely male or female; he is both and neither, and that is ‘natural’ for him.

Exactly this possibility to view a, as it is often described, ‘gender bending’ as ‘natural’ is what makes me think of androgyny as a so powerful way to break up gender stereotypes. Even though mainstream gaze and media may want him to be the one thing or the other in the long run, for most of the time he is allowed be himself – without having to choose and be “something he’s not”.

The complete interview (woohoo, some more German): http://www.zeit.de/2011/08/Mode-Model/komplettansicht

– franziska krause

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