Trickle Down, Pt. 2 of One Runway

By Sarah Weingarten

This is essentially a part two to my post “One Runway” talking about how high-end fashion confronting the binary head on by having non-binary clothing and all gender runways is affecting smaller fashion

The best explanation of trickle down fashion is from the movie The Devil Wears Prada. In this clip Miranda Priestly, Meryl Steep, so gloriously and harshly explains to her newbie assistant Andy Sachs, Anne Hathaway, how fashion affects everyone.

Once the big-wig designers start showing non-binary fashion it’s only a matter of time before it’s being filtered down into the more reasonably priced stores that the masses shop at.

According to The New York Times article “In Fashion, Gender Lines Are Blurring,” the NYT thinks that non-gender clothes are gaining traction because the current young adults want labels without the logo. A uniform they can wear every day that is stylish but isn’t distracting. It’s an odd theory, but one I can agree with because I have a uniform of black jeans, black boots, a t-shirt and my leather jacket.

Going back to the NYT article, they make a strong point about how women are more comfortable buying men’s clothes than men wearing women’s clothes. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, a fashion historian and the author said that “[Men] have traditionally been immune to gender-neutral fashion trends.”

Chrisman-Campbell begs to differ that trickle down fashion for gender-neutral clothing is happening. She says that we aren’t necessarily in a new phase in fashion just because the higher up fashion houses are blurring gender lines, “What we’re talking about is the leading edge of fashion, not what you’re going to find at J. Crew.” But then she goes on to say, “Still every time these trends come up they push the boundaries a little bit more.”

Around the same time, the NYT published that piece Racked had a feature titled “Fashion’s Bold New Future Has No Gender.” Racked’s feature is very important to understand how non-binary fashion is reaching a mass audience because finally the rise of athleisure clothing is talked about.

Athleisure clothing is athletic clothes that you don’t have to work out in. Yes, you can work out in them, but if they’re so cool and stylish that wearing them daily outside the gym is acceptable. If you need a visual of what athleisure is a link to Beyoncé’s line Ivy Park is linked.

Athleisure is the most unisex form of clothing that has been around. Joggers, sweatpants that are cinched at the ankle, became a trendy comfortable wardrobe staple within the last year. My 13-year-old brother and I have the same pair of joggers and we jokingly wear them together with our Nike sneakers.

The rise of athleisure lines has normalized the idea of successful and trendy unisex clothing. If wearing Adidas three stripe sweatpants and a trefoil hoodie isn’t your style don’t worry. Athleisure wear was the jumping off point, but not the end game of trickle down unisex clothing.

Bustle published an article “7 Gender Non Conformist & Gender Neutral Clothing Brands To Support Right Now.” The seven lines featured are very cool and trendy.

Basically, what I’m getting at is Chrisman-Campbell’s doubts about unisex fashion rippling down to the masses are unqualified. Yes, there are some brands that will not break way from the gender binary, but non-binary lines keep popping up and non-binary clothing trends are picking up traction. I know the ripple down effect is working because I just ordered new t-shirts from my favorite t-shirt shop and had them sent to my house in Cleveland and I had to text my brother not to open my package and wear my new clothes.


One Runway

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.



Transgender TV

By Sarah Weingarten


Transgender characters are becoming more common on popular TV shows than ever before. Orange Is the New Black, Transparent, Glee, I Am Cait, Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, etc. etc. GLAAD has catalogued 102 TV episodes with non-recurring storylines of scripted television that contained transgender characters since 2002. But over half of those episodes portrayed negative stereotypes of trans people. Only 12% of the episodes were considered accurate and fair according to GLAAD’s standards. Trans characters were the victim 40% of the time and the killers or villains in 21% of episodes recorded.

On top of not accurately displaying trans people on TV not all trans roles go to trans actors. Some people think this isn’t a big deal, but I am not one of those people. A lot of individuals argue that trans actors don’t exist, which is wrong, or that trans roles shouldn’t exclusively be available to trans actors.

A TV show I want to look more closely at is Transparent. Jeffrey Tambor plays the lead Maura Pfefferman, who is a trans women transitioning in her later years. I haven’t watched the show yet because I’m very torn. I love Tambor and don’t want to fall in love with a show that conflict with my personal beliefs. But Tambor is not a trans woman and is playing one on TV. I just don’t understand how Tambor can accurately portray a trans person without knowing what it’s like to be one in real life.

This conflict brings me to Julia Serano’s work “Performance Piece” where she talks about all gender being a performance. In this writing, Serano eloquently vents that saying gender is performance is a “crass oversimplification” and that in reality it’s a confusing mess like a junior high school mixer. She then goes on to write about her struggle being a trans women and how saying gender is performance erases her experience. Serano compares that erasure to Stephen Colbert’s skit where he insists he doesn’t see race, “It’s easy to fictionalize an issue when you are not fully in touch with all the ways in which you are privileged by it.”

Tambor and other non-trans actors playing trans people on TV don’t understand that one of their privileges of being a cis actor is being able to be more successful in Hollywood, therefore, having more opportunities to take roles that are trans. A cis actor taking a trans role is gender performance.

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.


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.