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 urbanoutfitters.com 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 oldnavy.com 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
via slam.org

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.

via poets.org
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.