Posted in culture by johnsnavely on March 15, 2010

I wanted to write more about androgyny, mentioned in that last post. I’m probably biting off much much more than I can chew, since I can tell you I know pretty much zilch about gender & queer studies.

I am not however, that interested in ambiguity, which I think is often used as a form of artistic laziness. Androgyny comes from the Greek words Andras, meaning man and Gyne, meaning woman– i.e. having male and female characteristics. In short, I prefer both to neither.

In my previous post, I called it a “current” trend in fashion, but that’s probably a bit misleading. Gender mixing/flux has been around for a while. From Greek drama to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando to David Bowie.

On the other hand, the word “unisex” has only been around since the 1960’s, a period where much of America transitioned from the fairly aggressive gender roles and stereotypes (as well as many other values) that buttressed the 1950’s to something a little more free form. I’m guessing this was when we saw androgyny really enter into pop culture, setting us up for all sorts of things like Boy George, and Tilda Swinton as Conan O’Brian.

Or this site which shows a series of clothes for men and women… using a bit of emaciation to remove secondary sex characteristics (like breasts and musculature) that might help identify gender.

What I’m interested in is not necessarily the androgen, but the moment in the viewer when they are incapable of differentiation or categorization or separation and therefore, more open to the strange and new.

Indifference is subverted for just a moment and…well, the rest is up to the designer. So I’ve been trying to round out this post with some cool examples… but, uh, I haven’t found any good ones. (A revival of shoulder-pads with short skirts?)


The addendum to all of this is the “genderlessness” of the digital world. (Of course, this is a fiction, since the majority of people on the web are white, male, heterosexual, middle class etc.) Online there’s not ambiguity not androgyny, and I think this leads to all sorts of problems as well as some of the best moments of art out there. More later…


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