Evolution Revolution: An "Androgynous" Teach-In
essietee: Here’s a little know fact about me: I’m secretly in love with fashion and beauty. I love that a person can put on one outfit one day to reflect their mood or a certain personal ideal, then completely change that image whenever they please. I struggled with this fluidity of fashion as a teen living in an environment where you had to declare yourself as one thing or another (ie: jock, cheerleader, theatre nerd, etc.). It’s been a long road, but I’m finally comfortable wearing a dress and heels to go out on a Friday night, then switching into cargo shorts and an old t-shirt for Saturday evening. This proved to be a point that I thought about while taking and posing for these pictures: we started out with photographs of our individual faces and body parts, then moved on to clothing and makeup. I felt like a paper doll, grabbing different options from my closet; some of my clothes were things that I haven’t worn since my first year of college, while others are staples that I usually wear at least once a week. Though changing multiple times in a common space where anyone could view me (sorry, housekeeping!), I was very comfortable in my presence with my group-mates and with the clothing choices I made. They reflect who I am: a multifaceted incidivual who believes in expression of self and personal creativity. It’s like the lyrics for the song featured in our video, “Androgynous” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – “She's happy with the way she looks / She's happy with her gender.”
jfwright: This project was pretty different from anything else I’ve ever done before: here, I was given the opportunity to stand out as a genderqueer person and to show how my body and style did or did not blend with those of my peers. But you might notice that for many of the shots of bodies, there are four people instead of five: more often than not, I’m the body that remains out of the frame. That was intentional: I’m exercising my right to disappear. I have an eating disorder, and I know myself well enough to know that had a picture of my back or stomach and chest been displayed in front of the class, I would have been incredibly uncomfortable. What I found most interesting about this was the intersection between my own psychology and the gender I was presenting in the clip: especially in the media, eating disorders are most frequently referred to as conditions that affect women. However, I’m not a woman, and I have an eating disorder; those are the first things that jump out at me when I see the pictures of myself in this representation of the appearance or disappearance of difference in gender presentation.
Kim K: I have always been interested in how gender can be portrayed through clothing and similarly intrigued by the ways that certain body parts can be “un-gendered” if taken out of context. In contributing to this project, I had a vague idea of what I thought the final product would look like; however, after viewing the finished video, I found that I was much more moved by the images than I assumed I would be. I think one of the most interesting things is that the video portrays separated body parts and entangles them together. Feet, hands, mouths, and eyes are disconnected, yet entangled. Our different bodies came together to represent and diffract concepts of gender, femininity, masculinity, power, and, most importantly, individuality.
lwacker: While preparing to rush over to Merion common room bright and early Saturday morning at 9am I realized I hadn’t fully thought through what types of costumes I would be needing in order to dress myself up for our group photography/video project. I knew that we were roughly aiming to demonstrate butch, femme, and neutral gendered identities but what sorts of clothing did I own, wear, have that demonstrated/projected/displayed or communicated those specific presentations. I immediately tore into my closet for my flannel, skinny jeans, a sequin appliqué sweater and grey wool dress pants. I thought I would be able to make it to a lacrosse practice after our group work (which didn’t end up happening) so I wore athletic clothing and a sports bra over to the shoot. It’s amusing because the process of dressing myself is always a big to-do in the morning. It involves creating atmosphere with music and lighting, checking the weather and switching outfits at least twice from what was originally put on. But for our group project so much of what gendered identity I was displaying was inherently dependant on the clothing articles other members of group chose.
rachelr: Gender stereotypes abound in our culture, where women and men are hyper sexualized and “the norm” is what is broadcasted. Fashion magazines and our media flash edited images in our faces and anorexic models strut the catwalk in clothes that cost as much as a house, wearing enough makeup to paint a canvas. But what about these billboard men and women make us identify them as male or female? Why are they all one or the other? What about a person makes them male or female, and how is our definition of the “gender norm” changing with the evolution of our society? The classic female: subordinate, thin, beautiful, quiet, demure, breasts, vagina, estrogen. The classic male: dominate, muscular, handsome, aggressive, confrontational, tall, penis, testosterone. But this gender picture is composed of the whole, a whole person. What happens when you look at parts of the whole individually? That is what this performance is examining. What can you tell about a person from a hand, a leg, a nose, an eye? What human features are androgynous? It was a completely different experience taking the photos and then looking at the finished video. Looking at myself I have a very clear image of who I am, and it was so different to look at pieces of myself, some of which were very androgynous, others that, to me at least, looked more feminine. I really hadn’t broken myself down in that way before. This performance has made me look at myself and my identity in a new light, and smile at how society boxes in gender constructs that are really quite arbitrary, if you really look at all the little pieces.