Commoditizing Androgyny… What’s next?

http://www.textually.org/picturephoning/archives/images/set2/pantech_IM_S100_3.jpg

Androgyny. Existing outside the realm of “boring” contemporary or simply just another outlet for advertisers to attack and eat its glorious stigma of being different? Otherness as we have discovered through the readings of bell hooks has been exploited and commoditized as a way to spruce up the mundane and normality of the heterosexual whiteness in which we find in advertising EVERYWHERE. As we have discussed in class androgyny is a new way of complicating and challenging the binary system of gender norms. If you were worried that this was going to complicate your preconceptions and views of gender don’t you worry because Pantech has whole heartedly started to ruin this new outlet of gender interpretation for you. Androgyny is simply just an outlet for advertisers to reach us consumers in a new and exciting way. Finally someone else that agrees that Androgyny is desirable and achievable for everyone! Still confused consumers? All you need is to buy a Pantech phone and you will hold the key that unlocks all of the great pleasures and privileges that an authentic androgynous individual encompasses. Oh behold the power of advertising! 🙂

-Victoria B.

What Would Tyra Do?

Models seemed to keep coming up during discussion of the readings.  And every time we talked about models I thought of some America’s Next Top Model episode that it could relate to.  Like when we talked about the Dove beauty/women campaign and their use of “real” women and how the women on ANTM who claimed to be plus sized were just closer to the average size of the American woman.

When we discussed the articles on androgyny and we looked at images of androgynous models I kept thinking about how in nearly every cycle, Tyra will create an androgynous model during the makeover episode.  So first and foremost Tyra gets what Tyra wants (such as having one model create a gap between her front teeth) and secondly she likes to have variety on her show, which is why she comes up with different makeovers for each of the girls.  For me what is most interesting are how the girls adjust to their new styles.  Some girls take the look and run with it; they are maybe even empowered by it.  Other girls literally crumble and lose all sense of self-esteem and worth because their hair is gone.  I can remember one episode when one of the models absolutely hated her new androgynous look and she claimed that it had taken some of her (obvious) femininity away from her.  I just thought that it was really interesting that some of the ANTM models failed because of their androgynous look but now it is the “in” or “it” look to have. Maybe Tyra does know best?

— Megan Hruska

Androgyny throughout Harper’s Bazar: What Mode of Consumption is Implied?

Recently my landlord stopped by to have some forms signed and while she was at my house, decided her huge copy of the March edition of Harper’s Bazar was incidentally too heavy for her to continue to carry around. The thing’s huge. 446 pages of high fashion advertisements, spreads, and articles. Concerning our discussions on androgyny in high fashion recently in class, I decided to take a flip through the massive mag to see if I spotted any androgyny within its pages.

Unsurprisingly, androgyny was a main component of the representations of fashion found through this edition of Harper’s Bazar. The balance, however, of masculine to feminine characteristics applied to the subject modeling the androgynous fashions was quite skewed. I suppose, my knowledge of androgyny has always allowed for equal amounts of both masculine and feminine components, but in these representations of androgyny, femininity took the lead.

In my previous analysis of androgyny, I was not well versed in the idea of realist, or fantastic modes of consumption. It seems that the images of androgynous fashion found throughout this magazine were based in a fantastic mode of consumption, in that the attainability, setting, and clothing itself was quite unrealistic and simply created to be consumed artistically.

While a fantastic mode of consumption was the initial brand of consumption these fashions were molded upon, a dose of a realist mode of consumption was also applied, in that those consuming this magazine and its androgyny will be able see that it is women who are modeling the fashions. This blatant skewing of androgyny toward the feminine implies it is women who will be observing the fashions, therefore highlighting a mix of both realistic and fantastic modes of consumption.

-Sally Stempler

“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

Androgyny and the mainstream

So, I was thinking about the sort of intense conversation we had about Judith Halberstam’s view on queerness, and linked it back to our conversation about androgyny. Halberstam talks about how hipster culture and identifying as queer has become homonormative because everybody saying they are totally unique and not in a category is conventional.

So, essentially, being unique and not identifying as gay, lesbian, or straight is common. As androgyny is on the rise in high fashion as the new trendy and edgy look, will it at some point be able to be argued in the same way? At this point it is considered a critique of heteronormativity. I find it a little ironic, because cross dressing (especially for men) is looked down upon in mainstream culture, and using an androgyne in high fashion as both a male and female is doing exactly that. It’s a little mind fuck to see if the mainstream viewers notice or even question the gender. Will androgyny become something queers aspire for? To have flexibility and to further their cause to be without labels? I don’t see it happening soon. I know androgynous clothing is popular, but being an androgyne would be hard to pull off for the average bodied person. The chances of the average person passing as the opposite gender is not high. For now, androgyny is something exotic, and I don’t believe it will become homonormative any time soon as hipster and queer culture is becoming.

-Sara Asher

Androgyny: The Future of Gender?

This week we talked a lot about androgyny in high fashion and reasoning as to it’s marketability and popularity. One of the articles asked us to, “anachronize the present,” to realize, “that our own ways of seeing the world are contingent, curious, and changeable” (Meyerowitz, 103), which struck me as really interesting. It’s so easy to forget that the present norms and hegemonic ideals are not concrete, and the discussion on high-fashion androgyny really made me consider the instability of culturally formulated norms. Will the growing marketability of androgynous bodies and fashion lead us to a future with radically different gender presentations than our own?

A friend of mine recently sent me an article (here) that discussed some of the current changes in gender-based policies that could be the a sign of an alleged “end of gender.” While I don’t necessarily believe an end to gender difference is coming ’round the corner, I do find the idea of anachronizing the present and considering the possibilities in the future fascinating. Just in reading the short list presented in this article and the emerging commodification of androgyny, it’s perhaps too easy for me to get excited as I imagine a future where the gender binary is far less meaningful than the present allows.

Then again, maybe I’m just getting all excited over nothing. I’d like to be optimistic about the growing protections and embrace of gender variance and androgyny, but perhaps there’s a hint of naivete in my rant. But… perhaps not

-Lucas Zigler

Urban Outfitters: Spice Merchant

Our class discussions on Tuesday and Thursday about androgyny in fashion and the way fashion was constructed post-9/11 as a symbol of American freedom (in contrast to the image of the silent, veiled, “oppressed” Muslim woman) sent me back to our discussion of bell hooks and ethnicity as “the spice” that livens up “the otherwise bland dish” of whiteness.  In search of a way to tie these three concepts together more neatly, I combed through my Tumblr archive in search of these posters, which made the rounds on social justice blogs just before last Halloween:

 

I wanted to include these posters in my blog post because I think they’re highly effective at summarizing a complex discourse on appropriating cultures as Halloween costumes and also because the looks on the models’ faces are just so perfect.  However, before I found them, I actually stumbled upon an example which is even better at tying together the concepts of androgyny and racial appropriation:  Urban Outfitters.

Urban Outfitters hires models who are almost stereotypically androgynous:

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(Yeah, I don’t really know what s/he’s supposed to be selling, either.)

Their clothing almost requires such a wearer, as it is frequently shapeless, industrial, and tattered-looking, making the average wearer resemble a bulky, figureless homeless stereotype:

They also seem to make a significant portion of their profits from cultural appropriation, particularly Native American-inspired headdresses, feathered hairclips, and underwear:

Urban Outfitters, it seems, is the current spice merchant of choice for “livening up” the bodies of cisgendered white folks with the fragrances of androgyny and ethnicity.

I can’t help but add, as a final note, that this is all in addition to a slew of other unsavory business tactics.  My criticisms of the company range from the sale of shirts promoting eating disorders to large fiscal  donations to Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign.  But that’s another post entirely.

– Jazzi Kelley