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.
storyinmypocket: ([web design] markup)
Okay, you wanna know something which really irritates me, and which I keep seeing?

People with styles that set <em> and <i> text to some ridiculous shade of pale gray/white/whatever which makes it harder to read and interrupts the flow of text. I've seen color changes in text used to great effect, but the entire purpose of <em> and <i> text in standard usuage is to emphasize.

(Okay, italics are actually used for quite a few different purposes -- I'll give you that. But this is why we have semantic markup which doesn't specify format, but rather intent. <em> emphasizes. <cite> exists for citations, and has exactly the same effect, but the semantic version lets people using screen-readers get more meaning out of the text by telling the program how to read it out, where italics tell you nothing at all. And that's a whole other rant.)

So why, pray tell, should emphasized text be harder to read? How does that make sense?

(Look! The <em> tags are coming fast and furious! Because I am worked up! And feeling the need to use emphasis!)

Even the layout I'm using now (on my Dreamwidth account, anyway, where this is being crossposted from), which I quite like, had this little gem in it:

i, em {
color: #CCCCCC;
}


Also,

b, strong {
color: #4D4A6A;
}


...which is just more color-fuckery for no reason.

...Yeah, I tossed those bits out as soon as I noticed. Because what the fuck, people? Seriously? What the everloving fuck? It lightens the text, appearing to detract from the emphasis rather than add to it, so the emphasized text appears to fade out, and what's more, it creates a distinct break in the sentence while the reader's brain shifts gears slightly, instead of rolling right along while adding the required emphasis like it's been trained to do.

I do not like things that make my brain do needless extra work in deciphering a simple sentence.

I just can't understand why anyone would do this. There's no good reason for it. Maybe if you made <em> text bright red or something, it would make sense -- it would be kind of ugly, and annoying as hell, but it would be a signal to a reader's brain that this is really deserving of emphasis, instead of making it seem less important somehow. (See me screwing with CSS? Isn't it kind of irritating? Do you really want this to happen every time I emphasize a word?)

The only explanation I can see is that this is some form of designer masturbation -- "Look at this cool thing I can do, everybody! No, it doesn't add anything to the content, or make said content easier to read, or even add any real aesthetic value, but who cares? IM IN UR CSS CONTROLLIN UR TEXT! *fapfapfap*"

Yeah. You're a special snowflake, layout designer. You have mad leet skillz. I tremble in awe at your ability to micromanage layout details to the point of utter uselessness.

Otherwise amazing designers keep doing this shit. And it makes me want to punch babies.

Here's a hint, designers: we know you're good. You make pretty, pretty layouts, and people like them. So why must you pointlessly demonstrate your CSS mastery to such an absurd degree that it impairs legibility?

Granted, I know for most of the designers out there, it's a labor of love, and no one's paying them to make layouts freely available. I'm thankful that there are people out there willing to spend time beating layout CSS into submission so I don't have to. I just don't see the point in messing with the text.

Content trumps design, and a good design doesn't fuck with the content, but merely presents it in a way that's both aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. Text-fuckery which doesn't add anything to the content means that somewhere, somehow, you FAIL.

You fail so hard.

Please stop failing, designers. I like you. I really do. I'm grateful that you're designing layouts at all, and I'm certainly not above going into the CSS and fixing things that bother me.

But when your design is getting in the way of people's content, I can't help but feel there's something wrong, and I can't for the life of me understand why it's happening.

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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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