By Sarah Weingarten
Androgyny has been sweeping the high fashion world. Blending gender and combining the womenswear and menswear runway is a growing trend among high-end designers. In 2015, Prada made what should have been their fall menswear runway show an all gender show. On everyone’s seat was a printed note saying “Gender is a context and context is often gendered.”
Hood By Air, HBA, had a gender mixed runway for their Fall 2015 menswear collection. HBA’s models were masked, and the clothes distorted, leaving an odd feeling of not knowing what is what. In the Vogue review critic, Maya Singer said that the distorted clothes and hiding the models genders read as a “rejection of the binaries.”
HBA’s rejection of the binary and making it difficult to gender the models goes against a societal instinct of American’s to categorize and label everything and everyone. I can only speak based on American society because I’ve never been part of another culture, but I have a pretty solid feeling that American’s are not the only one’s who put everything and everyone into a box.
American’s feel confused when they can’t label or understand someone, especially their gender. From experience, I find that people use labels, specifically gender labels because it helps them understand that person. Not being able to label someone’s gender confuses and frightens some people because they don’t know how to behave around someone who isn’t gendered.
The need to clarify and label genders is related to our intersex readings. Intersex people are an enigma to those who can’t grasp that gender is a spectrum and that genitalia and gender identity are separate.
In “Claudia Is Intersex,” Claudia writes about everything I just mentioned, about people being scared if they can’t label someone’s gender right away. Claudia thinks the need to gender everyone into two categories is because “there’s this idea out there that based on the body parts that a person has, their sex, gender, and sexual orientation are all inherently linked in one of two pre-determined sets.”
Claudia then writes that because there aren’t set guidelines for how intersex people are supposed to act or be treated in society people freak out. So then intersex people must be fixed to be “normal,” normal being either female anatomy or male anatomy. A lot of intersex surgeries that happen aren’t for medical care, or because intersex people’s health are in danger. The surgeries happen so other people feel more comfortable knowing they can correctly gender them.
The gender and biology confusion that intersex people face is parallel to the ones that non-binary face. A lot of people can’t wrap their heads around someone with a penis not identifying as a male or as a female, and vice versa. They’re just a genderless person.
My mom who is a relatively socially progressive person has trouble disassociating gender from genitalia. When Caitlyn Jenner came out and changed their pronouns my mom asked me if Caitlyn could technically change their pronouns to she/her if she still had a penis, because wouldn’t that make her a man still? Needless to say, we had a very long conversation about gender identity, pronouns and the gender spectrum.
There are still times when she doesn’t understand how gender or non-binary isn’t related to genitalia, but she’s trying hard to educate herself. Seeing big name fashion houses have non-binary or all gender runway shows may be baby steps, but it most likely start a trickle down effect of nonbinary clothing. Clothing is a huge gender identifier so blurring the lines of what certain genders and non-binary people should wear is a big step to erase the binary.