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

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In class on Thursday during our continuation of a discussion on Judith Halberstam’s In a Queer Time & Place, Hilary informed us about a quote on page 19 that, for a lack of better words, urked her. The quote states, “[m[any urban gays and lesbians of different age groups also express a humanistic sense that their uniqueness can not be captured by he application of blanket term” (19). Halberstam continues, “[t]he emergence of this liberal, indeed neo-liberal, notion of ‘uniqueness as radical sty;e’ in hip queer urban settings must be considered alongside the transmutations of capitalism in late postmodernity” (19). While I agree with Hilary’s sentiments that Halberstam attempts to discredit a legitimate, self identified, portion of the non hetero community while also sounding like a discerning parent, I can see why Halberstam may have problems with the term.

The term queer could be seen as contradictory in nature. Its use as a term designated to define resistance against the “application of a blanket term” used to describe ones identity is essentially doing what it was designed to eradicate. Queer is an identity category, whether it be by traditional or contemporary standards. Because queer is by definition an identity category, It is in some ways a blanket term, in that it is used to categorize a certain group of people. The actual signification of queer, however, separates itself from more traditional identity categories.

Queer is unique in its usage as an identity category because it describes those whose sexuality and/or gender is undefinable. The term queer is defined by the Gender Equity Resource Center of UC Berkeley’s website as “an umbrella term to refer to all LGBTIQ people” as well as “a political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid” (geneq.berkeley.edu). These definitions shows us that while queer is used as an “umbrella term” its use as such is in order to dismantle the heteronormative structures which govern sexuality and gender identity.

If Judith Halberstam had approached the dual nature of the term queer in her assessment of the usage of the term, perhaps she would have seen the term’s appeal as an alternative to subscribing to more constricting labels. And as for her inference that those who identify as queer are young and hip….who can disagree with that?

-Sally Stempler