Tag Archive | gender

The Model A-Gender

When it comes to the modelling industry I sometimes think the stereotypes and connections with extreme weight loss, dieting and eating disorders probably outweighs my general appreciation for some of the contributions it is making to identity.

I’m definitely not someone who follows fashion – my friends can vouch for that as I own one pair of jeans and they were purchased in the 90’s…say no more. What I am interested in is how models are finding ways to blur gender or what is commonly called androgyny. Male models modelling as Female and vice versa and even modelling themselves as both! Our sense of what makes someone fit a particular gender is challenged and there might be a few certainties about what guides our visual references but overall androgyny has kind of emerged from the shadows to help us question what we think we know.

Two models stand out for me, Andrej/Andreja Pejic and Erica Linder blend masculine and feminine with their bodies and body language perhaps indicating the subtle ways gender is communicated. When I looked through photos I noticed the role hair had in shifting my perception. Facial expressions and poses struck me as interesting ways of representing gender. So what did you notice about the picture at the start of this? It is the same person (Erica Linder)

I think women passing for men generally slips under the cultural radar –  we don’t even have a special name for women who like to dress in men’s clothing, we aren’t called ‘cross dressers’ or trannies. But for guys to be more feminine or try to embrace aspects of femininity into their identity it is seen as a threat and something to be concerned about. Guys have to be seen in guys clothes and any remote ‘feminine’ touches are rejected outright – for some guys (not all) it’s like some form of contagion that could see them forever mistaken as female…as though that is the worst thing that could happen to them. So this is where I think we need to ask questions about gender – why is ‘feminine’ still such a scary concept?

Androgyny is a unique intersection to explore ‘genderdness’. The body becomes kind of a neutral zone of gender but parts of femaleness and maleness have to be ‘dialled down’ to create the effect, particularly body hair. It is hard to pass as female with a good crop of facial hair, no matter how well manicured. Lumps and bumps in particular places also require ‘flattening out’. In some ways some athletes and dancers bodies also morph into androgyny and this is probably to do a bit with body fat and why maybe it can be a bit of a mixed message around body image and acceptance. What we find attractive in someone is sometimes a bit mysterious but our anxiety about gender identity might be more to do with finding someone of the same gender attractive because that what androgyny invites us to consider.

And as for shopping for jeans? Well…maybe it is about time I braved the shopping mall. But you won’t catch me in skinny jeans any time soon.

Celebrating diversity by looking the same?

Most New Zealand secondary schools have a uniform of some kind or other. They have evolved over time (thank goodness) but they essentially do the same thing – identify students with a school and are way to ensure discipline. Some might say they help foster pride and help ‘erase’ inequality. Another idea is that wearing a uniform helps prepare people for work where you might have to wear the same thing every day. Uniform doesn’t stop there though, hair length and colour can be ‘uniformed’ as with jewellery and make up. A lot of schools will have a boys and girls uniform or if you are at a single sex school, more than likely you have one uniform option.

So where did the idea for school uniform come from? I’ve done a bit of superficial research on the history of school uniforms. Essentially they came about to bring ‘order’ to perceived chaos in English schools but quickly became a way of showing educational status through what school you went to. The Blazer evolved to give status to Public Grammar schools as they emulated private schools.  Read More…

Hair – the long and short of it

Hair. It has to be one of the most defining features of human beings. We are virtually hairless as a species. But the hair on our heads definitely seems to be one of the most significant ways we identify each other. Schools seem to have incorporated hair into the realm of uniform. I’m not sure about all schools, but most that have a school uniform probably have some rules about hair styles and colours. Two examples have come to the media in New Zealand over the last week both involving young men.

Hair length definitely seems to be a bit of a gender definer. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that boys generally have short hair and girls have long hair or at least that is the most common expression of difference related to hair, especially before facial hair appears thanks to testosterone. But that is pretty limiting right? Hair is a wonderful medium to express your individuality, cultural or religious identity or your affinity to music.

Being ‘clean cut with a neat, short, hair’ probably fits best with a military style of discipline. Discipline is something schools take seriously. However I am wondering, if in the year 2014 we could shift our understanding of what it means to show respect and reflect school pride beyond requiring students look the same. It does seem to contradict the idea of valuing diversity a little bit.  Read More…

Divide and conquer or come together

venus and mars symbols - red

I went to an interesting talk titled The Gender Divide yesterday. When I think of ‘divide’ I think of division, maths and scary formulas marching in front of my face with an ‘equals’ sign at the end and a magic answer. Equality features strongly in talk about diversity but have we oversimplified the formula? Time to have a bit of fun with maths I think and blow up some assumptions both about what we divide and make things equal.

If we are talking about division with people we don’t seem to past dividing by 2. It might seem obvious to just put male and female as a reasonable assumption, I’ll come back to it, but lets go deeper. What about culture or ethnicity? Thinking about my own family and history this is kind of complex but looking at me I fit nicely into 2.  Read More…

Why do we need to say girls can do anything?

It’s a curious saying yet it was one I grew up with and always remember wondering ‘but what do you mean?’ I can’t remember where I saw it (most likely facebook) but someone pointed out the problem with saying this implants the idea for girls that they couldn’t do anything in the first place.

I wonder if there are more examples of these slogans and statements that whilst trying to develop a positive sense of identity have an unintended effect of casting doubt or implying some deficit for being female. Of course history tells us there have been significant barriers and some very interesting ideas about what women and men can/can’t do.

I’m grateful for all those who broke moulds on both sides of the gender divide. I know our reproductive systems are different and body hair tends to distribute itself differently but how on earth did that translate into dividing almost everything in life by gender?  Read More…