Cross-Dressing and Androgyny:
How Fashion Is Furthering Gender Fluidity
Have you, as a woman, ever bought men's perfume? Do you love wearing boyfriend blazers, and baggy T-shirts? Have you, lovely men, ever felt annoyed by the lack of vanilla, raspberry, and cocoa butter in men's bath products? Does the lack of baby pink in your wardrobe sadden you, gentlemen?
If yes, now is the time to be alive, because regardless of their sexuality, people are increasingly mimicking the style of the opposite sex these days. And getting away with it.
In a world where all markets are rigid organisations, such that gendering helps sell their products better, gender fluidity is a huge threat because it breaks down the hierarchies that support patriarchy. Reinforcing existing stereotypes, and confining people to gender roles, is an age-old gimmick, and we are forced to comply with it. Not doing so would break down a structure that is designed to exploit differences.
A pioneer in such androgynous fashion is Andreja Pejic, the world's most famous transgender supermodel, who has now fully transitioned into a female. Pejic famously closed a Jean Paul Gaultier show in a wedding dress, when she still identified as a man and had no intentions of becoming a woman.
This makes one wonder what might happen if the world starts defining style in a more androgynous sense, incorporating both genders. What if everybody takes metrosexuality a step further, and starts wearing pants, skirts, and bangles at the same time? Such a celebration would turn our conveniently simplistic system on its head, as demonstrated by Jaden Smith. Fashion is slowly catching up with this trend, and these images by photographer Bikramjit Bose for Elle India, featured by Buzzfeed, are a fitting example.
While the Elle article shows a man in a dress, it also emphasizes the man's 'manliness' with a beard and body hair. The woman, similarly, is smooth-skinned and hairless, as women are 'supposed' to be.
The problem with mainstream gender fluidity in India, and the West, is evident. Androgyny has become a one-way street, because most androgynous fashion involves dressing women like men, but not vice versa. Often called 'power dressing,' this is highly problematic because the idea equates to power, strength, and superior social status with the male gender. If you 'wear the pants,' you are going to be taken more seriously. The female gender, and everything associated with it, is considered lower than the male. This is why 'gay' is hurled at people who are not masculine, as insults. It works out well for this sexist, gendered society, to tell a woman she is not attractive and needs a host of products to be attractive. All this, only to call her frivolous when she does rub on some lipstick to make herself feel better. It's a cycle that can only end when the stigma associated with everything female ends.
A ray of hope here is Korean fashion, because mainstream South Korean celebrities, known as KPop stars, are fast entering the global scene, and bringing their gender-positive, androgynous style to the fore.
These male celebrities are using things traditionally associated with females, such as contouring, long hair, manicures, eyeliner, and a host of other techniques to express their individuality as ungendered human beings.
Male and female stars not only wear identical clothes and accessories, but also sport similar cat-eyes, pink lip stains, flawless skin, and hairstyles. What is most delightful about this is that these mainstream superstars are the norm there, not an exception. Case in point, all the pictures: the one above the ones which are featured below, are all men dressing up the way they want, regardless of gender and popular perception.
The best thing about gender-neutral fashion is that you can't decide the gender label that one may want to attach with them, just by looking at them. True androgyny, NOT to be confused with homosexuality, seeks to unify genders, and dissolve their differences to express themselves. Think Jared Leto, but minus the beard, and not a care in the world about conformity. For instance, this picture you see below does NOT feature a woman. It is that of a man, with no fucks to give for gender-specific priming.
We shouldn’t be scared. Across a range of important fields of life, we can accept that our original identity and status shouldn’t be regarded as decisive; and know the value of extending our sympathies through art, travel, and the work of the imagination. The transvestite is doing nothing more than practicing some basic empathetic moves with which we are already very comfortable in many areas. Although we haven’t fully recognized it yet, cross dressing is a very normal thing to do.
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