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?