May. 25th, 2009

storyinmypocket: ([hedwig - anthony rapp] we call it love)
I'm thinking about gender again. And how most people I know who enjoy a bit of genderfuck seem to be drawn to the androgynous ideal: slim, pretty, almost childlike in that all secondary sexual characteristics are hidden. And that's a lot more socially acceptable than the other side of genderfuck: combining distinct sexual characteristics in unexpected ways.

Obviously, I don't know enough awesome folks.

Where are the people who can pull off a full beard, pretty makeup, and cleavage?

I mean, I love the slippery, subtle androgyny where you really can't tell one way or the other. I do. But I'd like to see more people who go to the opposite extreme. And society really doesn't have room for those people. The androgynous waif thing has been trendy, it's been openly fetishized by certain segments of society, and that, to some extent is a good thing, because anything that plays with what's expected of gender is a step forward. But those people who don't pass, those male-bodied people who, even if they put on a dress and makeup, will still read to the average citizen as a "man in a dress"...

They're considered freakish. They're played for comedy. There seems to be a bias that says that a mix of traditionally 'masculine' and 'feminine' is ugly. If you want to do genderfuck right, you want to be this lovely, romantic image... a still-pretty tomboy or a pretty girly man who doesn't look TOO much like a guy... That's fine. But someone who has obvious male characteristics and adds female trappings to those, it's something to mock or to pity. "Oh, he'll never pass." "She looks androgynous, but in the BAD way." Or, about Anthony Rapp as Hedwig, "It's ugly, and I'm completely unconvinced. I don't want to look at it anymore." (See the icon I'm using for this post -- and for Hedwig, being convincing as a woman isn't really the point, anyway.)

And I'd say there's something very wrong with society's standards of beauty, but even people who've rejected other aspects of society's rather limited ideas of what beautiful is will come down on more aggressive aspects of genderfuck.

Listen: sometimes, the point isn't to "pass" as anything. Sometimes the point is to upset someone's expectations, to broaden horizons, to bend gender over the nearest object and fuck it 'til it's bloody and screaming.

And that can be beautiful.

And not just Anthony's Hedwig, who isn't passing, and who is garish and over the top, in a way which I consider absolutely awesome. How about Lila from Carnivàle? Just watch her in the show -- she makes that beard seem perfectly natural, and perfectly feminine. She could shave it, but she shouldn't have to, and not just because a bearded lady can find good work in a carnival. (Also, I think she's lovely.)

Hell, let's go classical. Aphrodite Urania, occasionally depicted with a beard in Cyprus. Accounts may vary as to whether or not a the source for that was mistranslated, but the bearded Aphrodite has gained some devoted followers in the modern age.

Or Baphomet, portrayed with full breasts, an erect phallus, and the head of a goat -- big scary genderfuck, big scary speciesfuck, and, given the attitudes prevalent at the time, is it any wonder S/He was the perfect bogeyman for Inquisitors to use in order to bring down the Templars?

It makes me start to wonder if perhaps the androgynous waifs get some measure of acceptance because their appearance is so very nonthreatening. The general appearance is one of sexual immaturity -- no breasts, no body hair, none of the signals that make someone adult and therefore threating. (This could, in fact, be part of why so many women, myself included, are drawn to pretty, girly boys -- because they're boys. They're not men, they're not threatening. There are none of the scary things that signal 'big dangerous man who might hurt me'. Not saying it's the only reason, but it's food for thought.) The androgynous waif is symbolically trapped in an eternal childhood, powerless and pretty. Se will never be a father or a mother, never be anything but a symbol of perpetual early adolescence.

But someone with characteristics that we associate with 'man' and 'woman', instead of 'boy' and 'girl', with the trappings of power and adulthood... That's dangerous. That's scary. Easier to tear something down than to let it use that implied power to seriously fuck with the status quo.

So here's a homework assignment, for those so inclined: think about your ideals of beauty, and why you hold those ideals. No saying, "Well, this is pretty and that isn't, and anyone with taste can see that." What most people consider good taste is the product of social conditioning. Individual tastes may vary, but they all come from somewhere. Pale skin was beautiful for centuries in Western culture because it implied that someone didn't have to work. Full-figured women were considered beautiful because they were well-fed and healthy enough to make lots of babies. These days, it's all about looking tanned and 'healthy', by which we mean thin. (Never mind that most of the people we hold up as ideals in those circumstances are thin to an unhealthy extent... Though for people who naturally have trouble keeping on weight, the backlash against that ideal can be just as bad.)

There is no overarching ideal of beauty, just things that inspire positive or negative reactions in individuals. And underneath those reactions lies an endless font of association and prejudice. Yes, prejudice. I said it. You are prejudiced. And so am I, and so is everyone else on the planet. It's the human condition.

But by questioning those prejudices, we learn to see beauty in things we'd have disregarded before. And I sincerely believe that to be a good thing.

Note: This ramble got away from me a bit, and more than that, it's completely unresearched and spur-of-the-moment. By all means, feel free to correct any factual inaccuracies, and point me at examples of genderfuck which actually includes secondary sexual characteristics.

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Jaqui Lokadottir

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I've got a story in my pocket and a bag full of apples; I'm rewriting this fairy tale whether you like it or not.

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