Commoditizing Androgyny… What’s next?

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.


Restrictive Truth

While medical and scientific study and research is often viewed as the source for objective knowledge and truth in regards to the body and the sexed nature of the body, that “truth” is in its self, objective. The scientific “truth” that governs bodies, especially trans bodies, is extremely restrictive in its objectiveness.


On a material level, medio-scientific definitions of what is male and what is female dictate the lives of mostly every western nation. Clothes and other products including bath products and even furniture are categorized on the bases of one’s “sex.” Most evident within public spaces, bathrooms are completely sexed. Separate bathrooms are appropriated for female sexed bodies and male sexed bodies, leaving no space for anyone whose sex and/or gender do not lie within the medio-scientific sex/gender binary.


On a more theoretical level, the medical and scientific understanding of sex leaves no room for sex or gender fluidity. Medio-scientific ideas of what is “male” and what is “female” on a sexed and gendered level infiltrate societies subconscious so that anyone who does not legibly fit the binary of male/female is deemed deviant and unable to function fully within that society. The Youtube series “Trans Enough” highlights this idea that even trans* people, who by definition denaturalize the connection between sex and gender, are expected to transition fully from one sex/gender identity to the other (legibly male to legibly female or vice versa).


The medio-scientific realm upholds a role of authority in regards to what is deemed medical and scientific truth. This truth is one that contains a male/female sex and gender binary, however, not all people wish to fall within these categories. The medio-scientific realm has made expressing oneself outside of that binary extremely difficult.

-Sally Stempler

The Story of David Reimer

This week’s discussion about how medicine has totally interfered with gender identity. It made me think of a documentary I watched during my freshman year about the story of David Reimer.

David Reimer was born an identical twin boy in 1965. At the age of 8 months, David and his brother, Brian, each were scheduled for a circumcision, but because of the procedure used, David’s penis was burnt off. At the advice of psychologist John Money at Johns Hopkins University, David’s parents agreed to have him “sex reassigned” and “made” David into a girl via surgical, hormonal, and psychological treatments.

For many years, John Money claimed that David (known in the interim as “Brenda”) turned out to be a “real” girl with a female gender identity. Money used this case to bolster  his approach to intersex. This is an approach that is still used throughout much of the U.S. and developed world, and is one that relies on the assumption that gender identity is all about nurture (upbringing), not nature (inborn traits), and that gender assignment is the key to treating all children with atypical sex anatomies.

As it turns out, Money was lying. He knew Brenda was never happy as a girl, and he knew that as soon as David found out what happened to him, David reassumed the social identity of a boy.

The story of David Reimer taught me how much people are harmed by being lied to and treated in inhumane ways. I don’t think we can ever predict, with absolute certainty, what gender identity a person will grow up to have. What I can predict with a good degree of certainty is that children who are treated with shame, secrecy, and lies will suffer at the hands of medical providers who may think they have the best of intentions and the best of theories.

Here is a link to a website in which the full documentary can be found:

maria florencia serra

Perfomativity based on Societal Views

Performativity of Gender is sustained through social construction. The week before spring break we discussed this idea of gender being provoked by society. We discussed many different ways in which gender is constructed and almost forced upon people with specific beliefs through relationships, religion, government and many other sectors of life. This idea was especially developed when we watched the Documentary “Paris is Burning.” It represented transgender males and the formation of their pageants. Interestingly their pageants included all of the many ways they interpret women’s performance in daily activities and gestures that supposedly embody the natural characteristics of women. It really showed that just because they were men participating in something that is considered to be a woman’s forte’, they could do the same things and sometimes better. They were able to take the forms of women in many aspects of society. Although they put on a fantastic pageant in most of society’s eyes which would be everyone outside of their own, they were not normal and most likely the devil. I do not quite remember the year in which this movie was made but it appeared to be very old. Nowadays things are a little different. I don’t know if there are pageants put on by men but society is way more accepting to the idea if there are. Media is one of the main ways that society is being reconstructed in a sense. There are so many television shows out that allow men to be woman and woman to be men. This allows people to develop their own sense of who they want to be despite what their genitals say they and it also changes how people view gender roles.


Above is a link to the movie Big Momma’s House. A male undercover cop poses as a grandma to catch a thief. The idea that it is acceptable to allow a man to pose as women allows the notion of how society has changed and performance is sustained through social construction. He did not pose as a woman because he wanted to, it was his job and he had to. But where in past times would it have been acceptable for a women to even play part of role of a man’s job? In saying all of this society provokes pretty much all of the activities that we indulge in.


Shannon Dixon

Gender as a Social Construction

Above is a video that represents how some people feel about the creation of gender roles

Everything in Life is Socially Constructed!!!

It is very interesting that this was the concept of the week in many of my classes which range from criminal justice, gender studies, and sociology. In gender studies we talked about how Judith Butler distinguishes between nature and culture.  This has been a concept in many respects to gender, crime, and how we view life. In my criminal justice class we discussed how the expectations of who commits crimes is based on the socially constructed thoughts of society and how we expect man to commit more crimes because of his genitals and that women will not commit as many crimes because they may not be smart enough to successfully commit any crimes.   Under culture and nature are these separate categories. We discussed in class how having a specific body part or not having a specific body part can affect how we view others behaviors. Interesting in both classes I came to the realization that nothing actually exists and that everything in life is merely a concept. This becomes important in how we view gender which is a social concept. We assume that because a man has a penis that he is too have specific duties. We assume because a woman is without a phallus or penis as most would call it then they do not exercise the same powers or opportunities that exist for men. Based on biological parts is how we judge a person’s behavior. This becomes problematic because we create what we think is right or wrong but in actuality how can we assume what is right or wrong based on a concept from nature? This is something that will create problems for many many years because now days people do not practice the duties or activities expected of them based on the body parts. There are some many ranges of people especially when it comes to how a person defines themselves as a person and their sexuality.


Shannon Dixon

Spring 2012



Sarah Baartman

In class, we have made brief references to Sarah Baartman – the “Hottentot Venus” – and McClintock speaks of her in Imperial Leather as well. I think that Sarah Baartman and the examination she was subjected to in imperial England and France is a prime example of both scientific racism – as Westerners spent a great deal studying and observing her body/genitalia – as well as commodity racism.  So I searched the Internet to find a video that I watched in a previous class about the Hottentot Venus. Instead of finding the film I was looking for, I actually discovered that there is a French feature film about her life called “Venus Noire.” The film was made in 2010 and appeared at the New York Film Festival. I perused through some of the clips and – even though they are in French – they show how Sarah was viewed as a commodity and portrayed as an erotic, animalistic type of entertainment, as well as a scientific anomaly. I attached the trailer, 3 short clips, as well as a link to the entire feature film (which is in French). So enjoy these clips, and if you speak French and have a spare couple of hours, I think the whole film would be interesting to watch.

In addition to these clips on Sarah Baartman, I also stumbled upon a clip featuring Stuart Hall.  In this clip, Hall discusses how race acts as a signifier in society.  He very succintly relates race to one of the first discussions we had in class about symbols, signifiers, and language. I think that Hall gives a very succinct and clear illustration of how race is a signifier.

Mallory Thayer

Androgyny in Fashion: Progressive or Presenting Old Problems in a New Way?

As presented in a previous post by Lucas, androgyny in the fashion world has become a popular topic of conversation. When discussing the different forms of drag and how the act of drag functions in queer and seemingly “gender normative” societies, I immediate thought of an article I read a few months ago on the use of “gender-bending” fashion.

(Image taken from Grrrl Beat)

Last July, the fairly new online magazine Grrrl Beatpublished the article “Dude Looks Like a Lady: Why Androgyny in Fashion is a Good Thing.”  In this reflection, the author mentions that the recent surge in androgynous modeling that has surfaced before in more subtle ways.

“Flappers from the 20s pushed the limits by cutting their hair short, reducing hemlines, ditching the corset, and openly discussing sexuality. A thin, boyish physique was also associated with the flapper image. Androgyny cropped up again during the 70s when David Bowie released Ziggy Stardust and wore makeup and bodysuits for concerts. 80s metal bands such as Motley Crue and Cinderella also touted an androgynous image with their teased hair, eyeliner, and platform boots.”

Unable to point to a reason for this current exploration of gender stereotypes and fashion, the author suggests that changing frames of mind and challenging the status quo could be the cause.  However, it is then boiled down to the notion that “fashion is fashion.” Whether it has something to do with progressing standards of the fashion world or a shift in the general public’s view of gender, the author wraps her article by stating that, regardless, this resurgence will help to bring issues of gender normatively and performance to a more mainstream audience, in hopes that more people will be forced to confront how important sex is to gender, and whether gender is relevant at all.

On the whole, I agree with the author quite a bit.  I think androgyny in the fashion world has helped to bring about much discussion about gender.  Getting people talking to talk about gender performance rather than creating assumptions about the topic is a step in the right direction.  Nevertheless, and I feel Judith Bulter as well as bell hooks would agree, I think it is also necessary to recognize the connections between these androgynous models and white patriarchal ideals of beauty.  For example, the four models shown below:

Left to right: Freja Beha Erichsen, Eliza Cummings, Agyness Deyn, Stella Tennant. (Image taken from Grrrl Beat)

These “gender-bending” models, with their slender facial structures, silky hair, pouting lips, and thin noses, are all white males that portray the common view of what is considered to be “high class” or “couture” standards for fashion.  Even though each may be challenging the social ideals of gender representation, they are not pushing the limits when it comes to representations of beauty within these gender categories.

-Elizabeth Nash