Representation in Fashion/Andreja Pejic Bio

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Andreja Pejic is a transgender model from Australia who has been pushing the gender boundaries in the fashion world since she was scouted at 16. First billed as an androgynous male model, Pejic often modeled in both womenswear and menswear. Eventually as her modeling became recognized she described herself as living “in between genders.” In my belief even the smallest bit of representation matters. An aspiring model may be confronted with having to check the box of male or female, once again, when neither feels right, seeing Pejic move fluidly through the fashion world can be comforting. Most recently Andreja Pejic identifies as a transgender woman. Her fluid movements around the fashion world have opened doors for the way designers cast models, and their intentions for their fashions. Since coming out, Pejic was profiled as the first openly transgender model in Vogue, this past year.

Currently there are a handful of modeling agencies that are exclusively for, or include openly trans individuals, including Trans Models and Apple Model Management. Increasing gender non-conformity in the fashion world, is an small step to increasing gender non-conformity in other places. If there are boundaries that are pushable, they should be pushed.

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Intersex and LGBT

As an extended version of LGBT, LGBTQQIA includes the letter I for intersex. Intersex is defined as “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside,” (Intersex Society of North America). It is estimated that an intersex condition occurs in around every 1 in 2000 births.

Often, when a child is born with an intersex condition, their body is surgically changed to conform to male or female anatomical standards. Where as a trans person often has consensual surgery to confirm their gender. An intersex individual may not learn about their condition until adulthood. Each individual is different, they may decide to continue living as their assigned gender, they may have a desire to change. So, ultimately it is a personal choice as to how queer one’s identity is as an intersex person. However, as a group it is relevant for people who are intersex to be included in the LGBT umbrella, because of things like the oppressions they face based on gender, and the lack of representation and awareness about various intersex conditions.

The idea that intersex needs to be fixed is problematic and reflects the rigid gender binary that exists, especially in the medical world. Mark ad Pam Crawford give their firsthand experience with having adopted an intersex child, post-surgery, who no longer wanted to identify with their assigned gender. The medicalization of gender seems arbitrary to them as they mention “It took the trio [of doctors] about four months to decide which gender to assign [to their child]” (The Atlantic). In this article the normalcy is brought up “Most parents are disturbed by the appearance of the genitalia and request that something be done as soon as possible so that their baby looks normal.” The idea that male or female needs to be chosen, is further enforced by the fact that their is currently no other legal option for things like passports, or licenses, therefore it is not normal. The idea of normal is persistant. Cordelia Fine notes in Delusions of Gender “The developmental possibilities for an individual are neither infinitely malleable nor solely in the hands of the environment.”

three-gender-option-passportsA person is not mentally a male or a female based on their genitals. As Fine points out, “Once in the public domain these supposed facts about male and female brains become part of the culture, often lingering on well past their best-by dates.” Implying that our culture and our media has influenced our understanding of gender so strictly in the binary that it’s hard to accept things like “Intersex people exist.”

The science behind gender, is complicated. There are no pink or blue brains. Fine expresses the idea that their are differences between body, brain, genitals, chromosomes, etc, etc and any combination of male or female or other can occur, stating, “Genes don’t determine our brains (or our bodies)” She also focusses on the desire to show explicit differences between genders in scientific studies, a.k.a. the desire to enforce the binary. Which, of course, erases intersex identities, as well as trans identities as it suggests conformity between brain and body. Does an intersex person who choses to live as male or female have to identify as trans? No one has to identify as anything they don’t want to identify as. Intersex and trans are not synonymous. But does this mean intersex is inherently a queer identity? There is not one answer for this question, it is yes and no, and maybe. Queer identity is so personal that it’s unfair to dictate someone’s chromosomes or genitals in this group if they dont want to be. However, the oppressions interest people face are inline with other struggles of those other-ed in their gender and/or sexuality.

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Sources:

Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference (New York: W.W. Norton, 2010)

“Intersex Society of North America | A World Free of Shame, Secrecy, and Unwanted Genital Surgery.” Intersex Society of North America | A World Free of Shame, Secrecy, and Unwanted Genital Surgery. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

Greenfield, Charlotte. “Should We ‘Fix’ Intersex Children?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

Capitalism Enforces The Gender Binary

By Sarah Weingarten

Razors, candles, tools, disinfecting wipes, food, beer, shampoo and tissues are all products that everyone can use but are packaged to market to two distinct genders, male and female. Gendered products are most noticeable in baby and toddler products. A baby’s sex is deemed super important to society. If people don’t know the gender, they won’t know if they should buy the blue rattle or the pink rattle. The gender binary starts strong from birth and has worked its way into adult products. Capitalism enforces the gender binary by creating products marketed to two genders, which therefore erases non-binary people.

Girl toolsets are typically pink or purple and the tools inside and slender and delicate. Guys can’t just buy regular bathroom wipes or baby wipes. They have to buy Dude Wipes to protect their masculinity. The list of gender-neutral products that are marketed to specific genders by using gender stereotypes is huge.

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But what if you don’t fit into the gender binary? You don’t identify as a female or male, or you’re a mixture of both or a different gender entirely? Then what do you do? What razor do you buy? What candle or shampoo should you purchase? When did a trip to Wal-Mart become a litmus test of what gender you are or are not? Why do companies choose to take the time and effort making different colored products and different packaging?

Gendered products and the binary reinforcement stems back to capitalism. To understand how capitalism plays a role in the binary we have to look into the pink tax.

Companies take the time to make drastic differences in the identical products because they can charge females more for the female-marketed product, which is called the pink tax. Companies can choose to charge females more for female marketed products because our economy is based on capitalism. Capitalism means that corporations are privately owned so the government can’t technically get involved. Big businesses can do what they want to maximize their profits. Capitalism created the pink tax.

The pink tax is so prominent that females are now being persuaded to buy male packaged items to save money. According to the Washington Post article, “Why you should buy the men’s version of almost anything,” by Danielle Paquette, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, said that nearly 800 products had female and male versions. The product itself was identical, but the packaging was different. The report further stated that items marketed to females cost an average 7 percent more than the similar male products.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs further delves into their study saying, “The largest price discrepancy emerged in the hair care category: Women, on average, paid 48 percent more for goods like shampoo, conditioner and gel. Razor cartridges came in second place, costing female shoppers 11 percent more,” according to Paquette.

Gender discrepancy isn’t a new capitalism chokehold. Females have been nickeled and dimed by companies for a long, long time. Female haircuts cost more, dry cleaning is priced higher for females and even life insurance prices were jacked up because females statistically live longer than males. The Affordable Care Act made it illegal for insurance companies in the United States to factor gender into their costs. But even the Affordable Care Act can’t stop all gender pricing.

Gender is the Red Sea, and Capitalism is Moses, dividing the genders into two categories to benefit themselves. Buying a gendered product is the equivalent of assimilating into that gender. John D’Emilio’s “Capitalism and Homosexuality” looks at how America’s capitalist greed has shaped gay life. I think this reading coincides with the notion that capitalism is enforcing the binary and erasing non-binaries.

D’Emilio writes about capitalism’s relationship to the gay community and how it was a positive and negative. The positive is that free-labor allowed people to live a life based on their sexual identity, therefore, letting the gay community explode. The gay community became visible in America because of free-labor. Before a capitalist economy, people’s living was made inside their home either making bread, farming, sewing, etc. etc. This economy enforced the traditional nuclear family, so a mom a dad and a whole slew of kids who helped with the labor.

Once capitalism happened and the economy moved outside of the home the nuclear family was dismantled. Having the nuclear family ideals gone it let people live their lives freely without threatening their finances. This led to the visibility of the gay community.

The negative affect capitalism had on the gay community is because the gay movement aided in the dismantling of the nuclear family.  D’Emilion writes, “Ideologically, capitalism drives people into heterosexual families: each generation comes of age having internalized a heterosexist model of intimacy and personal relationships.” The gay community became scapegoats for the social instability of families instead of capitalism.

Capitalism is doing the same thing to non-binaries at the moment. The internalized heteronormativity that capitalism and the nuclear family created drove companies to market products fiercely to specific genders, genders that don’t apply to everyone. Visibility is a major key to social acceptance and self-love. Without products that are gender neutral it makes being gender neutral an obstacle in mundane errand runs.

The binary is rooted so deeply in capitalism it’s hard to untangle all of the causes, factors and reasons. The enforcement of the pink tax and the drive of the heterosexual family are just small factors of why gender neutral products aren’t marketed as such.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/22/women-really-do-pay-more-for-razors-and-almost-everything-else/

https://blackboard.ohio.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-5861071-dt-content-rid-37591176_1/courses/WGSS_2000_100_LEC_SPRG_2015-16/D%27Emilio-Capitalism.pdf

http://www.dudeproducts.com/

Since today is Trans Visibilty Day, I wanted to discuss a short video:

“7 Things You Should Never Ask a Trans (or Gender Non-Conforming) Person” with Hari Nef. In the video Hari Nef, a transgender actress, model, and writer, discusses her list of forbidden questions. Because this video was intended for Teen Vogue, it is very accessible to a large audience but is still educational and contains useful reflections. I would like to provide further commentary on Nef’s list.

1. Are you a boy or a girl?

This question may seem harmless, considering it could be used to determine the correct pronouns. However, if someone is non-binary, presents differently than they identify, or somehow doesn’t align with your assumptions, “Are you a boy or a girl?” reveals itself as an invasive question, targeted at putting someone into one of the two binary boxes that we have been conditioned to. With genuine respect, it is appropriate to ask someone which pronouns they use. “Which pronouns do you use?” is free of assumption. “Are you a boy or a girl” exemplifies an assumed sex-gender-pronoun correlation, which does not exist.

2. Have you had all the surgeries or will you fully transition?

Even with personal relationships and friendships asking anyone “What kind of surgeries have you had?” is usually not appropriate. This question, in simple etiquette, should not be asked. This shows how entitled people may feel to information about trans bodies. When someone is outside of the “sex = gender” binary, they do not require detailed explanation for existing.

3. So does this mean you’re gay now?

This question is equating sexuality with gender identity. The two are not correlative. A person’s sexuality is an identifier that they do not have to link to a particular gender (of their own or their partner’s).

4. What’s your real name?

Like the surgery question, this is a matter of respect. Trans and gender non-conforming people do not owe any more personal information than gender conforming people. The right to someone’s previous identity is irrelevant in almost every situation. One’s “real name” is the name they use, really. Hari Nef brings up the great point that many trans and gender non-conforming people associate their birth name with their assigned gender at birth, and changing that name can be a pivotal process in transitioning. As Julia Serano states in Performance Piece: “ I am sometimes accused of impersonation or deception when I am simply being myself.” Being asked for a “real name” is a subversive way of saying “ I know you aren’t who you say you are.”

5. When did you know?

This question is interesting. It’s implications are subtle but essentially it is implying that there is some grand (binary) revelation. Discovering gender is typically not a moment of “Oh, I’m not really a boy, I’m a GIRL!” It is more likely multiple stages occured in the process of someone realizing their current gender identity.

6. What happens if you want to go back?

This question goes along with question 5, as well. As someone is going through the process of exploring and identifying their gender, they may question their actions and their desires, but that doesn’t make them any less of a man or a woman or a gender fluid person or any other identifier they use. Gender should not be treated like an on/off switch. In reality someone can transition from a more masculine gender to a more feminine gender and back to a more masculine gender, in a fluid manner. This does not mean they were a man, became a woman, and “switched back” to a man.

7. Where to you get the strength to be so brave everyday?

Although this question seems to be supporting trans and gender non-conforming individuals as they live as an oppressed group, it can come across as infantilizing or other-ing those who are not  cisgender. As much as anyone is trying to just live in a comfortable way, trans and gender non-conforming people, are doing the same. A trans person making toast in the morning is no braver than a cis person making toast in the morning.
After watching this video, I was reminded even more of Julia Serano’s Performance Piece. She gives several reminders to her readers that you cannot view gender as a performance, meaning everyone is actively living their gender, thinking things in their own mind— and it is not our place to question it or label it. Although the video does not take a stance on gender being a performance or construction, Hari Nef speaks of gender mostly as “how you want to be in the world,” which is a nice statement regarding gender as existence, not an act. Viewing the questions above, as questioning the way someone exists, reveals how aggressive and unpleasant they can be to hear.

Sources:

Julia Serano, “Performance Piece,” in Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive (Berkeley: Seal Press, 2013), 105–8

F*ck Your Dichotomy

In this Refinery29 video, gender nonconforming performer and activist Alok Vaid-Menon speaks (rather cynically) about the origins of the gendered binary and the issues that accompany it. While the video is fun, there are harsh truths embedded within it.

“We tend to associate things that are similar to us as good and things that are different from us as bad.”

These harmful habits of thought are egocentric and exclusive. Rather than praise what we personally are, we should embrace difference that surrounds us.

they/them/their

by Blair Morton

A wave of social announcements have hit Facebook and social scenes across the globe: the preferred pronoun. While these four letter identifiers may seem like a small step towards gender equality and rights of recognition, they are causing a storm of confusion. To many non-binary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer folks, pronouns like they/them/their, sie/hir, xe, ze/hir, are a gateway to language that better represents them in a cisnormative world. The use of gender neutral language is an inclusive way to divest from a gendered binary that leaves many feeling unwelcome, but in a world where we are socialized to put gender in the forefront of descriptions and conversations, is it possible — or even right — to remove gender from our social script?

While they/them pronouns have given gender nonconforming folks a home, it leaves some feeling othered. For those in the trans community, gender neutrality can be seen as isolating. When all they want is to fit into a box of woman or man, being represented in the “they” collum can be insulting to who they truly are and identify as such. There is privilege in the desire to deconstruct the gendered binary; when you don’t fit, you can either make room or find a way in. Some are born into a body they do not want and are socialized in a gender they do not feel comfortable in. We can’t close up the woman box if others are trying so desperately to break in.

“My gender is a work of nonfiction” exclaims Julia Serano in her book Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive. In chapter 11 of her work, she deconstructs the idea that gender is a construct. If someone is born into a body and socialized in a way in which they feel uncomfortable, how can their gender be constructed by their dissent? Gender is not simply drag or a performance, Serano explains. Gender is a loaded idea that means something different to everyone; it who we are — not who we are trying to be.

I try to use they/them for everyone, but is it offensive to un-gender someone who wants to be gendered?

I am a cisgender woman who prefers to be referred to as they/them, but I recognize my pronouns are she/her. I am empowered by being a woman. I am connected to the gender and I have never felt like I was something other than girl. (Except when I was 10 years old and wore the same camo cargo shorts and an oversized Air Force t-shirt — I would share pictures if I hadn’t destroyed them all years ago.) That being said, however, I recognize that gender is a construct and my idea of being a woman is totally subjective. When those around me who identify as something outside of cis get misgendered through the use of language, I see the disappointment in their faces. I use gender neutral language for them. My preference of gender neutral language is an attempt to reinforce the unnecessary gender descriptors. If using gender neutral language is a propelled attempt to normalize queerness,  I want nothing but. The use of gender neutral language is difficult, especially due to the way many of us were socialized to communicate. We are so quick to assign gender to people we do not know and to say “she” or “him” that saying “they/them” is something we must condition ourselves to do.

It’s not a preference, it’s a pronoun

Many people are becoming more aware of nonconforming pronouns, but calling them a “preferred pronouns” is problematic. If someone is genderqueer, their pronoun is as much xe or em as a cisgendered man would be he/him. It is not assumed that a cis person prefer cis pronouns, rather those pronouns are considered to belong to him.

In the realm of customer service, gender neutral language may seem like a social roadblock. Service workers are expected to address customers in a polite fashion, and to hegemonic social standards, what is polite is complementary to cisnormativity. Saying something like “hey you!” May not be considered polite in a supervisor’s eyes, but addressing someone as “sir” when they do not identity as male can be triggering. Below are infographics that help maneuver away from gendered language.

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While some of these may seem awkward, remember that language is fluid. We have evolved from speaking in ye olde English, so calling someone “partner” can’t be too hard, can it? Maybe this is just the southerner in me wanting to popularize “y’all”.

Julia Serano: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive. p. 105-108