December 26, 2011

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's an androgynous superhero!

Hey there gender blenders,

At 25, I still sit at the so-called kids' table (this time with the addition of an Aunt and Uncle), and it's awesome. We had a long discussion about the hypersexulization of female superheroes, which alienates women and girls who may otherwise enjoy superhero movies and comics had the writers/producers/directors/etc. included complex, strong female protagonists/heroes. My dad actually moved to our table half-way through.

An interesting question came up: If we are to change female superheroes to make them more believable, more complex, more appealing to female viewers/readers what would this new "super"-woman look like? How different from or similar to the "super"-man would she be? Would her powers be traditionally feminine OR would she be like the boys?

I think the ideal superhero would be androgynous, whether s/he is a super/woman or a super/man or something "other". This androgyny would create a greater complexity than any other personality factor could, as gender is arguably the most deeply rooted binary system we use to define people. Queering that line within a genre that is so strongly and statically gendered could have an earth-shattering result in the superhero world.

November 20, 2011

Androgynous femme fashion is looking dapper for Thanksgiving

Hey there gender blenders, it's been a while,

Are you desperately wondering what on earth you should wear to Thanksgiving/other autumn family gatherings? Are you looking for something that will say "I'm a queer one, Mr. Grinch" to your parental units and your nosy aunt who always asks you about heteronormative romantic interests? I'm about to give you a few ideas!

The "boyfriend" sweater/blazer/pant is trending in a lot of clothing stores lately--awesome, but can we please claim our own freaking sweaters? I wear these things because of how they play with gender, not because I'm a hipster who's trying to look grunge-tastic. And I wouldn't have a boyfriend, so this is not my boyfriend's sweater. Still, these "boyfriend" items are pretty readily available, and there is something to be said for that.

So, what the heck are we going to wear at Thanksgiving?

A vest paired with a sweater or blazer and some kind of a blouse/shirt (or some variation) always looks dapper. Pictured below are a vest from The Urban Apparel, a green sweater from Mod Cloth--those peek-a-boo polka-dot pockets are great for a little touch of femme, and the "I'm The Boss Boyfriend Blazer" from Poetrie.

I love trousers, especially when they come in tweed or "old man" pea green or yellow. Check out these Split Pea Trousers from Anthropologie for inspiration.

Play with color, rock lipstick and a mustache, wear a bow-tie--whatever you do, rock your gender(s) because only you can do you.

October 26, 2011

Why short hair rocks my socks

Hey there gender blenders,

I've consistently had short hair since 2005. And let me tell you a little secret--I haven't looked back. Period. I'm a total short hair junkie. Pixies, bobs, faux hawks, real hawks, partially shaved off, all shaved off--stick it on a girl with attitude, and I'm a done Thanksgiving turkey.

Short hair won't stick to your sticky name tag. It won't cramp your style when you roll the windows all the way down and rock out to Tegan and Sara. And best of all, you can create crazy hair art in your sleep that will say "hey" to you every morning in the mirror. Without even trying.

I've been asked, "Are you sure you want it this short?"

Who do you think I am? I am not having a "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair" moment.

I've been told, "I've always thought women with long hair were beautiful," by a professor after I read a feminist manifesto about cutting my hair off. This professor also thought I didn't know I was writing feminist poems, and then proceeded to give me permission to write that way. "It's okay, most feminist poets calm down after a while."

Well, you've done your part to set that date back to something beyond Never Land. Sorry Peter Pan, being a feminist forever totally has your whole being a kid forever thing beat. Then again, "Mr." Pan--you did have that whole gender bending Mary Martin episode back in 1954.

Three words:

October 12, 2011

Coming out, and femme as a genderqueer identity

Hey gender blenders,

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day in the U.S. I rather like that there is an actual day because I honestly don't have a specific anniversary for "the day I came out." I mean, it's not like we just make one announcement and "ta-da!" we're permanently out. Not even close. We could come out every day for the rest of our lives, and still be stuffed back in the closet any second, thanks to a case of mistaken identity. (You know, when people assume you're straight and/or gender conforming.) We constantly face a dance with the closet door--at work, sauntering down the street, playing hopscotch with the other kids in the neighborhood, and even with friends and family.

So what day counts as THE day? It's not even so easy to use the day you came out to yourself. There wasn't one day. It was/is a re-vision process that doesn't really have an ultimate endpoint. I'm not suggesting that real conclusions aren't made--they are--and I don't mean that these conclusions are any less significant or meaningful than some hypothetical endpoint would be--they are. However, I am suggesting that identity, desire, and gender are not static in how they are experienced or in how they are culturally defined.

Case and point--I recently picked up a copy of Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, and I've hit upon something that has vastly changed how I think about femme identity in regard to myself and in general. All it took was the title of one of the essays (actually more like a two-sided interview).

Femme has always been a simultaneously comfortable and troubling identity for me to carry, and if pressed, I would give the long-winded explanation that I am a radical feminist, femme queerelle with an androgynous aesthetic. Oh Sally, that is more than a little awkward and befuddling. I've tried to bookend femme so it's not read as feminine, at least not straightforwardly. Imagine my startled joy at finding what I have actually felt articulated--that femme can be genderqueer even when the one expressing it identifies as female.

I subscribe pretty closely to Butlerian (as in Judith Butler) gender/queer theory, so why wasn't the nonessential, arbitrary "connection" between femaleness/femininity/femme-ness obvious? Gender is a spectrum of performativity that materializes through actions and stylizations; a spectrum that only gains gendered meaning through culture. Meaning that if there is no essential connection between femaleness/femininity/femme-ness, if the "connection" is all fabricated and assumed by culture, why can't their connection also be queer?

October 7, 2011

My genderqueer library book tells me, "My god, you're so pretty!"

Oh hey there gender blenders,

Yesterday I went to the library and checked out a book called Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity edited by Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore. And between the pages of the essay, "'And Then You Cut Your Hair': Genderfucking on the Femme Side of the Spectrum" (the essay I was most excited to read in the first place), I found the little note in the picture over there. It kind of made my effing day. The funny thing is, I actually say "my god, you're so pretty" on a regular basis.

Have you all heard of Operation Beautiful?
"The mission of Operation Beautiful is to post anonymous notes in public places for other women to find. The point is that WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL. You are enough... just the way you are!"
I don't know if my note specifically stemmed from this project, but you get the idea. The plan is to make my own note to put in the book before I return it to the library.

In my next post I will discuss the essay "'And Then You Cut Your Hair': Genderfucking on the Femme Side of the Spectrum" that is included in Nobody Passes.

October 1, 2011

Androgynous femme fashion goes to the office

Hey there gender blenders,

I've been having a little excitement lately! Guess who will be starting two new jobs this month? Moi! So, I thought now would be a perfect time to talk about androgynous femme fashion in the office! Not only delving into some wearable goodies, but also addressing gender expression in the workplace.

Here's a page out of August's issue of Harper's Bazaar--I love the idea of menswear-inspired trousers and jackets. (Check out the suit on the woman with the red hair in the bottom right corner.)

I found a few look-alikes at Anthropologie and Modcloth. They're pretty pricey and not all that size friendly beyond a large on the jacket and 14 on the trousers. Think of them as inspirations for your own little scavenger hunt.

Dapper & Dashing Trousers
Buried in Books Blazer

Confession: Outwardly, I'm rather femme looking. While the way I "do gender" is a lot more complicated than that, I can remember very few instances in which my gender expression was questioned, challenged, or read as somehow a "problem" in terms of its so-called appropriateness. (Although femme invisibility is a whole other issue.) The relationship between my gender and female existence are generally seen as "uncomplicated," while in truth, "doing gender" is always complicated. I am interested, therefore (and for other reasons as well), in experiences of gender in the office and everywhere else. Do you "do gender" differently at work than when in other situations?

September 22, 2011

Androgynous femme nostalgia, a throwback to Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman

Hey there gender blenders,

Back when I was in elementary school, I had a very serious love affair with Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Little me was inspired by the story of a woman with brains, guts, and drive, striking it out West on her own, and surviving.

What does this have to do with androgyny, you might ask. Well, in my favorite episode, Dr. Quinn cross-dresses as a boy so she can ride her horse in a race. Cross-dressing, horses, and Dr. Quinn? Count me in! (Is it any surprise that I loved National Velvet too?)

Part of why I love "The Race" episode is that it obviously recognizes gender as a performance, something that can be acted. My favorite part, aside from the badassery of Dr. Quinn in the race itself, is the process of her "putting on" masculinity (see the clip below).

The sequence is played off as funny--as cross-dressing often is in TV land--but at the same time, she is very serious about what she wants: the equal opportunity to ride her horse in a race. Because she is perfectly capable, because she effing wants to, and because it's her horse, dammit!

September 16, 2011

Written on the non-gendered body

Hey there gender blenders,

via Goodreads
I recently finished reading Jeanette Winterson's novel, Written on the Body. It is a love story, but is light-years away from a cliched romance. The characters are realistically flawed, and the story is often painfully raw--no frills here. But the best thing of all is Winterson's deftness at never revealing the gender of the narrator.

Interestingly, I consistently saw the narrator as a woman, albeit a more androgynous one. My reasoning for this gender assignment is complicated and somewhat of a gut or subconscious reaction. Still, I want to untangle the assumptions I'm making.
  1. Because the world of the novel seems to be in our world and within our time, I assume that the narrator must have a gender.
  2. I find the narrator more relateable as an androgynous woman who is in love with a woman than as a man (androgynous or otherwise) who is in love with a woman. 
  3. A love story about two women is better/more interesting than a love story about a man and a woman because it is non-heteronormative and works against the under-representation/invisibility of woman-loving women.
I think it is important to recognize these assumptions as being rooted in my identity as a person and reader. When a novel presents itself as taking place in a world or time where a completely nongendered or other-gendered reality is possible, I am much more successful at refraining from reading gender into characters. (I'm thinking of Ursula Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness for example.) But Written on the Body isn't quite in that kind of speculative category. I also recognize that my thinking--no matter how awesomely queered it is--is still affected by societal structures.

I am invested in queer feminist culture, and I have often felt alienated by male protagonists (and their interpretations of the female characters that appear in novels with them). As a reader, I want to relate to the protagonist because "she" is very likeable (despite "her" shortcomings). Therefore, I very nearly need "her" to be a she because as a she I can feel "her" more viscerally. But at the same time, I'm also very open to the protagonist queering what it means to be gendered.

September 7, 2011

Your body doth protest too much, on Vogue Italia's recent use of the corset

Oh hey there gender blenders,

Let me tell you a little thing about corsets... My feelings about them vary greatly depending on how they are used. I love burlesque, for example, which often involves corsets. But there is a vast difference between the following two examples. The first is a photograph I took at a recent burlesque show, and the second is a photograph from Vogue of Ethel Granger.

Sammich the Tramp and Lola van Ella
Ethel Granger

Lola van Ella and other burlesque performers I've seen often wear corsets, but it's all about performance and taking off the bindings of femininity to let the body speak for itself. Ethel Granger's body tells a different story.

Granger holds the world record for the smallest waist, but she didn't there all on her own. Vogue writes the following about Granger:
Before their marriage Ethel was a plain, unsophisticated twenty-three year old girl who wore the shapeless 1920s dresses that William [her future husband] despised. William told Ethel about his appreciation for corsets, and expressed his wish to feel one around the waist of his wife. One epochal day, when William put his arm around Ethel's waist she asked "darling, can you feel any difference?" He could: a pair of corsets that tied Ethel into 24 inches, more or less her natural waist line. The process of Ethel's waist modification began. Initially Ethel was satisfied with wearing a corset only during the day, but William convinced her to keep it on while sleeping.
I find Vogue's description troubling, not just because of the story being related--although that is disturbing enough on its own--but because of the way they chose to describe Ethel and the wording they chose throughout. Describing Ethel as "a plain, unsophisticated... girl" before she started her "waist modification," indicates certain values on Vogue's part. Ethel Granger's record holding waist was 13 inches. Did you see the photograph? There is no place for her organs. That kind of waist modification actually forces the organs to shift position.

How exactly does Vogue not see how problematic this modification is? Not only that, but Granger's husband seems to have a dangerous claim to the very shape of her body.

But that still isn't the whole story. Vogue Italia's September 2011 cover features a model whose tiny waist they say is inspired by Ethel Granger.

I am extremely troubled by the way Vogue is presenting the fiercely modified female waist as beautiful, sexy, and as a possibility. It would be different if the images clearly expressed the pain of this kind of modification, and the history of societal control over the female body. But Vogue didn't choose that route, and instead subscribes to a much more sinister aesthetic--that women's bodies must be forced into submission, that their organs must move out of the way so they won't be considered "plain, unsophisticated girls."

I choose androgyny over the long history of stylizing, controlling, modifying, and taming the female body. Female androgyny splits from these traditions by breaking down the gender binaries that created them, and formulating a new, freer aesthetic.

August 29, 2011

Melding and splicing our way to gender utopia, Lady Gaga as Jo Calderone at the VMAs

"I want her to be real, but she says, Jo, I'm not real, I'm theater, and you and I, this is just rehearsal."
-Jo Calderone

Hey there gender blenders,

Last night, Lady Gaga performed as Jo Calderone at the VMAs. A few weeks ago, we met Jo on the You and I single album cover. At the time, it was clear that Gaga recognized gender as a performance. But during Jo's monologue before his performance of "You and I," he reveals his desire for Gaga to be real, at least with him. He also relays Gaga's response, "Jo, I'm not real, I'm theater, and you and I, this is just rehearsal." Because Jo is literally part of Gaga's persona and not a separate person, the voicing of Jo's desire for Gaga to be "real" and Gaga's response become really interesting in terms of gender fluidity and identity, and their relation to performance.

Gaga's proclamation, "You and I, this is just rehearsal," is key. Not only does it indicate performance and a relational connection between "you" and "I" (the two genders of Jo and Gaga), it also indicates that this performance is just practice, that something else will come of it. I don't mean to suggest that Gaga has plans in the works that would produce some kind of finalized "product" of gender melding or splicing. A finalized "product" is not the point, and is also contemporarily more utopian than realistic.

What I am suggesting, however, is that in labeling this performance as a "rehearsal," Gaga/Jo recognizes the potential for new formulations in the future of gender performance/production that press/shift boundaries in ways we can't begin to estimate.

What do you think of Gaga/Jo's performance and monologue? Did you notice the close-ups of some of the audience members? What do you think their impressions were? How are they the same or different from your own?

August 24, 2011

How fashion makes us visible as "Gender Outlaws"

Hey there gender blenders,

Do you consider yourself a gender outlaw? Today I was browsing through Kate Bornstein's book, Gender Outlaws: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, and I stumbled on something in the first paragraph that gave me one of those, "omigod, you just articulated the exact thoughts I've been trying to sort out!" moments.

via Goodreads
I've felt kind of silly posting about fashion because, at first glance, it seems so trivial. But beyond the culture of "omigod-prom-dresses-weddings-look-hetero-cute-for-your-boyfriend-Glamour-Cosmo-bullshit-Magazine-skinny-body-ideal," we have a lot more to work with.

Besides, I'm talking about how Kate Bornstein sees fashion, "as a proclamation or manifestation of identity," especially gender identity: "The link between fashion and identity begins to get real interesting... in the case of people who don't fall clearly into a culturally-recognized identity." Has anyone heard of gender as a performance? Yeah, fashion is all about that, even in Glamour-Cosmo-bullshit-Magazine it's pretty obvious, not that they would EVER admit to anything like that--"let's perform traditional hetero-femininity without questioning it."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on straight, feminine (or otherwise) girls/women. I don't question the validity of femininity as a gender performance or straight as an orientation. I do question the indoctrination of femininity (and masculinity in the case of boys/men) and heterosexuality as normal/more natural than other identifications (or even non-identifications).

How does fashion make us visible as gender outlaws? We can change/shift how our gender(s) is/are "read" based on how we perform said gender(s). Just like in a theater performance, costumes, makeup (or lack there of), and accessories/props (read this however you want) are involved, in addition to voice, movement, and social interaction.

Again I ask, are you a gender outlaw? What role does fashion play in making you visible as a gender non-conformer?

August 21, 2011

I want to tell you a little thing about love: "Love Poem to a Butch Woman"

Oh hi there gender blenders,

Today I found a poem for you--an androgynous femme love poem! I have a romantic streak, sure, but let me tell you, it's queer as all get-out. So, Deborah A. Miranda's "Love Poem to a Butch Woman" had me at hello.

Love Poem to a Butch Woman
Deborah A. Miranda

This is how it is with me:
so strong, I want to draw the egg
from your womb and nourish it in my own.
I want to mother your child made only
of us, of me, you: no borrowed seed
from any man. I want to re-fashion
the matrix of creation, make a human being
from the human love that passes between
our bodies. Sweetheart, this is how it is:
when you emerge from the bedroom
in a clean cotton shirt, sleeves pushed back
over forearms, scented with cologne
from an amber bottle--I want to open
my heart, the brightest aching slit
of my soul, receive your pearl.
I watch your hands, wait for the sign
that means you'll touch me,
open me, fill me; wait for that moment
when your desire leaps inside me.

From The Poetry Foundation.

The speaker desires to "mother [her lover's] child made only / of [the two of them]." While she doesn't "make a human being," she does "re-fashion / the matrix of creation" in the body of her poem--the offspring of her love. The poem-as-love-child is able to permanently capture something an actual child never could--a moment in time, an emotion as the speaker herself experiences it.

Queer love works toward the (r)evolution of how love is represented culturally, as we become more vocal and visible. As we speak our narratives of love and desire, we validate each other in a largely hetero-centric culture. Our love-children don't have to be flesh, they just need a voice to speak our names.

August 16, 2011

Andrej Pejic, because male androgyny is beautiful too

Hey there gender blenders,

Yesterday, Autostraddle posted an article about the androgynous model, Andrej Pejic, asking "where is the love for men who fuck with gender on their own terms?" I felt like it was necessary for me to address this question directly because, while this blog focuses on female androgyny, I wholeheartedly believe that male androgyny is just as beautiful and just as important in challenging gender binaries.

There have been some negative reactions to Pejic in article comment threads, and the magazine FHM even referred to him as a "thing." These reactions are a result of a sort of gender panic. The term, "thing," that FHM attached to Pejic acts to alienate him from definitions of "humanness." This alienation is not at all the alien-like androgyny performed by Lady Gaga and Tilda Swinton, as being called a "thing" is not the same as performing something existential on one's own terms.

While Pejic has, in his own words, "left [his] gender open to artistic interpretation," he is not a thing, nor should his image, self, or body be experienced as an object of feared desire without challenging the root of that fear that ultimately has nothing to do with Pejic. It is the fear of the gray areas of gender and sexuality as they exist within the self. As an androgynous person, Pejic's beauty and desirability challenge clear designations of  sexuality. For this challenge, I find him all the more beautiful.

August 12, 2011

Real Life Androgynous Femmes: Tilda Swinton

Hey there gender blenders,

Today I spotted Tilda Swinton on the cover of W Magazine, and holy andrytastic, extraterrestrial androgyny is actually a thing! (That is, Lady Gaga and Tilda Swinton both pull it off gloriously.) Look at Tilda! 

There are two small articles that go along with a collection of amazing photographs of Swinton, one of which is an interview about her latest film We Need to Talk About Kevin. The other article--by Diane Solway--discusses Swinton's style, something that encapsulates more than just her fashion sense. Swinton says, "For someone to know what you need to make you comfortable, they need to know who you are. Having them [designers she is friends with] make clothes for me is like being cooked for by someone who knows what you like to eat." For her, fashion is about a lot more than what one is wearing, it is about expression. And expression for Swinton often involves varying degrees of androgyny, from mild to near alien.

Swinton tells Solway, "People talk about androgyny in all sorts of dull ways. Cahun looked at the limitlessness of an androgynous gesture, which I've always been interested in." (Claude Cahun was a French artist famous in the 1920s and is an inspiration for her "explorations of gender role play.")

It is clear that Swinton recognizes gender as something that is performed and that can constantly be played with without ever exhausting the possibilities. It is fitting then, that she has played such roles as Orlando in the adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel by the same name (about an androgynous time traveler), and Gabriel, the gender ambiguous angel in Constantine.

In some ways, I think, the more alien aspects of some of Swinton's gender performances makes it more difficult for us to force her gender presentation into something more familiar, comfortable, and intelligible to us as viewers. What do you think of the alien/extraterrestrial component?

Did you like the first edition of Real Life Androgynous Femmes? You can leave a comment and suggest who you would like to see featured here!

August 9, 2011

Androgynous Femme Fashion a la Deconstructed Menswear

Oh hey there gender blenders,

Today I bring you some androgynous femme fashion thanks to the October 2010 issue of Elle Magazine that I nabbed from the library cast offs for collage purposes. AND BONUS! A whole page featuring deconstructed menswear!

I don't know about you, but I'm not rolling around in piles of gold, so I probably could never afford these goodies. And let's be honest, those threads are not going to fit some of us curvier lovelies. So let's try to find some look-alikes shall we?

Those sassy-dapper man shoes are pretty fab if I say so myself. Our first look-alike comes from Modcloth and are the least expensive of our two options at $63.99. Gotta love the feminine touch of the ribbon laces. (Click the images for the links.)

Ink with the New Shoe
The next pair of shoes is probably the most like Marc Jacobs pair in the magazine. They come in the lighter brown/tan as shown below, and a very nice deep brown. You can find them at for $69.

Kimchi Blue Leather Heeled Oxford
The jacket from Antonio Berardi totally reminds me of those snappy equestrian show jackets. I took English riding lessons for eight years, so it's a plus that this jacket is both androgynous and reminiscent of my riding days. Let's start with our bargain jacket that comes in sizes 1x to 4x available at in gray for $44.94 and in black for $36.50. 

Women's Plus Double-Weave Blazer
Our other jacket is from Modcloth, it comes in sizes S-M-L, and is $73.99. I'm loving the angles and the collar.

Style Trail-Blazer
Do you have favorite menswear items gone femme? Shoot me a line in the comments section and I'll add it here or save it for future editions of androgynous femme fashion.

August 7, 2011

Gaga gone Drag and the release of the "You and I" album cover

Hey there gender blenders,

Lady Gaga recently released the album cover for her "You and I" single. So, who is this guy?

Isn't Gaga always on her album covers? Well, yes. And she is in this case too. This Jo Calderone fellow is actually Gaga gone all boy-tastic on us. Want some more?

When Gaga announced the album cover release on Twitter she wrote, "You will never find what you are looking for in love, if you don't love yourself." Because Gaga is simultaneously giving us images of herself performing gender as a man, she is more clearly defining self-acceptance to include a fluid vision of gender.

What do you think of this new incarnation of Gaga? I have spent a good deal of time wondering about her private versus public identities, and have realized that I am probably most fascinated with the reality that I'll never know what the "real" difference and/or similarities between them are.

August 6, 2011

Kirchner and the Pink Lady's Arm Candy

Hey there gender blenders,

I was recently involved in a gallery talk series at my local art museum, which brought View of Basel and the Rhine by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to my attention.

View of Basel and the Rhine
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Take a look at the pink lady's arm candy. Is that man or lady candy? Are we talking blueberry or strawberry flavor? Mixed berries? I think yes.

There is something about the slumped shoulders, the too big clothes, and the soft and rounded features that exudes gender ambiguity. I don't know what Kirchner intended, but I'll admit he probably didn't really intend genderqueerness necessarily. However, the painting exhibits a lot of ambiguity, so what I'm noticing isn't that far fetched. I mean, what is that animal? A horse-dog? What time of day is it? Why is the water all choppy? If it is about to storm why are the people not in a hurry to get inside? What angle is the light coming from? And the people aren't very defined either, especially their expressions. The pink on the sidewalk is really puzzling as well. One of the gallery talk participants suggested that it represents shadow.

What do you think? Does the same figure that I keep coming back to fascinate you too? If so, is it for the same reason--because his/her gender is hard to read? What do you think of the colors?

August 4, 2011

I am a Feminist, Bitch Magazine does that too

Hi there gender blenders,

Ya'll have heard of Bitch Magazine, right?

"Bitch Media is the nonprofit organization best known for publishing the magazine Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Bitch Media’s mission is to provide and encourage an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream media and popular culture."

They are currently in need of subscribers to keep them in print! Oh shiz, we better effing do something! For those of us in a position that allows us the ability to purchase a subscription, please do.

Bitch is a pretty fab mag, and it is called bitch, so come on.

Get your femniz on! SUBSCRIBE!

August 3, 2011

Of Centaurs, May Swenson, and Androgyny

Oh hi there gender blenders,

I'll admit to being a total poetry junkie. A recent post by femme on a mission about a May Swenson poem reminded me of my love for another Swenson poem that involves gender bending. The poem is a bit long, but well worth it, I promise.

The Centaur
via The Poetry Foundation
The summer that I was ten--
Can it be there was only one
summer that I was ten? It must

have been a long one then--
each day I'd go out to choose
a fresh horse from my stable

which was a willow grove
down by the old canal.
I'd go on my two bare feet.

But when, with my brother's jack-knife,
I had cut me a long limber horse
with a good thick knob for a head,

and peeled him slick and clean
except a few leaves for the tail,
and cinched my brother's belt

around his head for a rein,
I'd straddle and canter him fast
up the grass bank to the path,

via Utah State UP
trot along in the lovely dust
that talcumed over his hoofs,
hiding my toes, and turning

his feet to swift half-moons.
The willow knob with the strap
jouncing between my thighs

was the pommel and yet the poll
of my nickering pony's head.
My head and my neck were mine,

yet they were shaped like a horse.
My hair flopped to the side
like the mane of a horse in the wind.

via Utah State Magazine
My forelock swung in my eyes,
my neck arched and I snorted.
I shied and skittered and reared,

stopped and raised my knees,
pawed at the ground  and quivered.
My teeth bared as we wheeled

and swished through the dust again.
I was the horse and the rider,
and the leather I slapped to his rump

via Goodreads
spanked my own behind.
Doubled, my two hoofs beat
a gallop along the bank,

the wind twanged in my mane,
my mouth squared to the bit.
And yet I sat on my steed

quiet, negligent riding,
my toes standing the stirrups,
my thighs hugging his ribs.

At a walk we drew up to the porch.
I tethered him to a paling.
Dismounting, I smoothed my skirt

via Goodreads
and entered the dusky hall.
My feet on the clean linoleum
left ghostly toes in the hall.

Where have you been? said my mother.
Been riding, I said from the sink,
and filled me a glass of water.

What's that in your pocket? she said.
Just my knife. It weighted my pocket
and stretched my dress awry.

Go tie back your hair, said my mother,
and Why is your mouth all green?
Rob Roy, he pulled some clover 
as we crossed the field, I told her.

("The Centaur" as it appears in Nature: Poems Old and New, 1994.)

The speaker imagines she is a a horse/human hybrid, which also highlights the amorphism of  her gender identity. As the poem moves forward, it becomes clear that her hybrid gender identity finds its most free expression in the way that she transposes it into her imaginative play. The speaker straddles the border of feminine/masculine and human/animal.

It is the confrontation with her mother that forces the speaker to stabilize her identity and force it into binaries. She claims the knife as hers, but at the same time, negates the possibility that its form could be mistaken for a part of her body--it is phallic, but it only belongs to her rather than being part of her. The exchange with her mother forces the speaker to position herself in a more stable way, which proves somewhat impossible for her.

July 30, 2011

Lady Gaga's Extraterrestrial Androgyny

Oh hi there gender blenders,

Let's talk about... LADY GAGA!

Not only is she the coolest extraterrestrial on the block, she plays with androgyny... like... a lot, especially in her videos. We're talking Lady Gaga wearing a tux and skull makeup, Gaga with an androgyne body and zippers in her skin, the monsters/dancers in white coming out of coffins, etc.

Video time!

Yeah okay, let's get the "born this way" thing out of the way. So maybe Lady Gaga isn't so up to date on the whole "eff using the 'born this way' defense to shut up the 'you can choose/change sexuality' blockheads, because sexuality/desire/love is beautiful (you know, between consenting adults) regardless of orientation and gender identity" movement. We shouldn't have to defend the how/why of orientation, because ultimately, it doesn't matter why. It just is. And it is wonderful. But guess what kids? I don't really care that Lady Gaga is still using "born this way." What I do care about is her message--love yourself because you are beautiful in your bones.

Now for the androgyny. We see Gaga's shape slightly neutralized, zippers cutting through all her "bits" making them indeterminate, her neck yoked into a line of inert, doppelganger Gagas. There is also Gaga in a tux with skull makeup. She has a lot of hair in this instance, but she looks like a skeleton wearing a tux, not a woman semi-cross-dressed.  And, shocker, long hair does not have to equal female by any means.

Lady Gaga performs, literally, an uncanny form of androgyny that not only defamiliarizes gender, but also defamiliarizes the body performing gender. We see dreamscape structures--bones written on flesh, zippers suggesting we can look inside of ourselves on a whim--beyond bodily realities, that perhaps destabilize us in a way that expands what we recognize as real-life body and gender experiences. What do you think about Gaga's gender play? Or theatrics in general?

Also see the "Bad Romance" video for the monsters/dancers in white coming out of coffins mentioned earlier.

July 26, 2011

The Gender Apocalypse? A response to NPR

Oh hey gender blenders,

Back in June, Linton Weeks published an article via NPR called The End of Gender? examining evidence that the gender system is becoming obsolete. According to Weeks, androgyny means an end of gender-- "Everywhere you turn, it seems, there is talk of gender-neutral this and gender-free that."

Umm.... what?

Like Emerson Whitney points out in hir recent response to the NPR article, the whole "gender-neutral"/"gender-free" thing doesn't make sense. Whitney asks, "since when is androgyny not an overt expression of gender?" and explains that hir gender identity "looks like a blender full of glam rockers, Shakespearean fairies, and Beat poets." Androgyny and gender b(l)ending are not the same as genderlessness, and just because it doesn't express gender in a binary way doesn't mean it isn't gendered. "The conversation is not about creating a neutered 'gender neutral' existence, rather, developing an acceptance for people living their chosen gender, loud and happy."

Gender play/performance/identity involve areas we've never really had a suitable map for, and just because the topography is changing doesn't mean that it is going to dissolve like the mystical land of Avalon. We are up to our knees in it, and we each have our own unique pair of galoshes to go traipsing through the marsh, that don't fit binaries.

July 25, 2011

To be a Woman-Manly

Oh hey there gender blenders,

Have you ever read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own? Well, I found this little gem:
"It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. ... Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated."
Nice eh? There's even consummating going on--that always makes things more... exciting. Genders are sexing each other up! Okay, so I'm being a little literal, but it sort of works with the movement toward gender-effing, and it just extends Woolf's argument toward physical androgyny in addition to an androgynous persona. These two aspects of androgyny--the androgynous body and the androgynous soul/mind/persona--are essentially what I intend to discuss in this here mcbloggy.

Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

Uh oh... It's definition time!

Androgyny is a so-called contradictory or indistinguishable presentation of socially constructed gender "differences" expressed in behavior or appearance. More simply, we're talking gender ambiguity. Think Annie Lennox, David Bowie, and the Pat character from "Saturday Night Live."

You guys remember Pat right?

See? It's ambiguous! And I bet you are desperately curious. Don't be ashamed. We're probably of the sort who tries to be enlightened beyond caring about gender identifications, and in some ways we are. Just because it doesn't matter to us in theory doesn't mean we aren't festering a little in our guilty curiosity. Let's just be up front about it--we kinda sorta want to know which part of the gray area we are looking at. Because, let's face it, gray areas make us feel a little funny... in the pants... ahem. It has something to do with that gender consummating stuff--Virginia Woolf knows all about it.

What about this whole femme thing? Come on my lovelies, don't you know I want to talk about female androgyny? My love affair with girls breaking gender norms started when I started reading young adult feminist fantasy books as a preteen (ex. Tanith Lee and Tamora Pierce). And I just never got over it, I am in love.

What got you interested in androgyny? What do you want to see me talk about?