24 Jan 2012

When a dude looks like a lady

This here is Andrej Pejic. If I were a builder, I'd be whistling. If I were a lesbian, I'd be carpet-munching. Unfortunately, I'm a University-educated, haplessly middle class 27 year old man-child and I'm therefore painfully short on crude metaphors that indicate sexual attraction and riddled with bullet hole-like Catholic guilt at that indomitable stirring in my groins. Because this here, ladies and gents, Andrej here, is one of the world's most successful androgynous supermodels. In the words of my confounded flatmate, "chick's got a dick?!"

Well not exactly, because Andrej -as I understand it- is a man. His gender identity is androgynous, meaning he catwalks down international runways modeling fashion clothing for both men and women. I don't mean to restrict his androgyny to one of commercial interest alone; I'll get to the lifestyle element in a bit. But I'd like to first take stock of what we have here: a beautiful specimen of the human race, his male genitalia, and my own corresponding set, responding to his virtual pheromones, picking them up, drawing them out like a satellite dish does ESPN.

My question is not one of faux-Catholic rectitude; it is one of consumer rights/ protection: do I, as a member of the perpetually sexually-inclined straight male community, have the right to be informed straight away that the image I'm ogling over is of a man in a dress? The answer, I'm afraid, is blowin' in the wind, much like Andrej's own testicles would do in the position above if they weren't impeccably tucked in to prevent the worst kind of wardrobe malfunction that could befall a female supermodel. (In a meta-tastic brainwave generally  not associated with the fashion industry, he has recently been signed up to be the face of a company selling push-up bras.)

Now I don't know what Andrej's preference is, when it comes to sexual partners. I do know however that he is something of a survivor - born in 1991 in Bosnia, his mother fled with him to Serbia to escape the war. They immigrated to Australia when he was eight, and he is now a citizen. (The same welcoming land would later nick-name him 'gender-bender'.) He now spends his time shuttling between photoshoots in Europe and America. As a serial-immigrant and writer, I'm tempted to draw parallels between the problems faced by the diaspora in finding a cultural identity, and his own decision to not choose between genders and bravely embrace them both. This would of course be sinfully pseudo-intellectual and ignorant. I choose instead to point to the great scripture of our times: pop culture.

I'm currently reading Middlesex (2002) by Jeffrey Eugenides, the story of a man with a recessive gene in his fifth chromosome that led him to be born with a perfectly normal-looking vagina and was raised as a girl till the age of fourteen. A couple of days ago, fellow-blogger Robim Moran brought to my attention the story of Sasha who is being raised by his parents to be gender-neutral and is referred to simply as 'the infant'. In 2008, the world witnessed the phenomenon of Lady Gaga, a throwback (in terms of fashion, if not music) to the glory days of  David Bowie and Annie Lennox. We were as smitten as the Bard himself with the cross-dressing Viole de Lesseps of Shakespeare in Love, and raised nary an eyebrow as  Borat flaunted his mankini in all its fluorescent gender-transcendence. In little Britain, audiences invited cross-dressing comedians David Walliams and Eddie Izzard warmly into the mainstream, and the generally homophobic football terraces in Manchester took no issue to David Beckham's sarong as long as he kept bending those long balls in.  Even conservative Singapore has an impressive array of gender-bending entertainers on tv and the live comedy/theatre circuit. And suddenly, its hep to be hairless, rudderless, gender-less.

In a way, this is natural modern day progression. Pampered by central heating and microwave ovens and 24/7 connectivity, we're all less and less capable of dealing with adulthood, with reality. That little window in the timelines of our lives -that innocent time before the onslaught of pubic hair and menstrual cramps, when it was enough to just be human- is beginning to appeal more and more. I don't wish to imply that androgyny is infantile, or intellectually inferior, or -God forbid- immoral. Social scientists in fact claim that it may be the logical approach to daily life - some parts of it are better dealt with from a woman's perspective, and some from a man's. I only insist that if I've just bought you a drink, I did so under the sincere impression that you are the somewhat salacious owner of definitive lady-parts. And I humbly request that if in my drunken stupor I have made a mistake on that count, I'd like to be informed about it before I put on my poker face.    

            Dude (Looks like a lady) - Aerosmith          



Shimmy said...

Andrej is amazing.
Nothing more to say about the subject.

Anonymous said...

If the YA market was looking for an original idea I think this would be it. In this day I think more and more people are taking in the idea of experimentation and being androgynous in their identity. Gender-bending has been everywhere through the centuries from Shakespeare to Rocky Horror to Bowie and now Lady Gaga. I'd love to read about a teenager choosing to experiment like that. Would be fantastic and really interesting.

red dirt girl said...

Personally, I just think it is a fad. One that gets recycled every third or so generation (who can forget the boyish girls of the roaring twenties and their counterparts, the cone breasted sweater girls of the fifties ??)

I don't find Andrej particular attractive as a male or female. I, myself, am thoroughly and enjoyably feminine, prefer men as lovers, and find women to be incredibly erotic.

I don't see progression here, Icy. Just recycling. Gender neutrality theory isn't new, but was developed in the 1950's by Dr. John Money. You can read about it here.

And, as fads go, if you were a lesbian, you wouldn't be carpet munching as carpets are no longer in fashion, having given way to the high maintenance imitation of smooth prepubescent pubes. A fad I find much more disturbing, psychologically, than androgyny.


red dirt girl said...

ps. With my first child, a boy, I decided he would not be allowed to play with any 'weapons' - toy guns, sabers, light swords etc. Being the inventive child that he is, he created his own weapons out of legos, tree branches, rocks ... and proceeded killing the 'bad guys' regardless of my misguided good intentions.

Thank god for that!

icyhighs said...

Ooh, can of worms there, Red. I will read the link you posted (looking forward to it) but gender-neutrality as a lifestyle has been around much longer than since the 50s anyway. Its not just dressing up gender-contrarily, its attitudes and temperament as well. Take a gay couple - there's always a man and a woman (in terms of social norms).

The fad distinction only works with respect to fashion, I think. Surely, there's more acceptance of androgyny as a lifestyle now? Ten years ago, people in India would question the masculinity of stay-at-home dads. (Not that its androgynous, just a softening of gender definitions) Maybe a few hipsters will jump on the bandwagon for the hell of it, but if that makes it easier for the real folk to be themselves, it can only be a good thing. The flash will disappear, but I think there will be a much healthier understanding between genders.

As for the carpet, I can see the infant-connection but beauty is subjective, surely? I prefer a clean shave, or a landing strip at best- I don't see it as male tyranny, just something special being done for me by somebody I love. Just like I'd keep myself in shape or whatever for her. Why's that so bad?

Funny about your boy - my dad was always real nervous around me 'coz I preferred books to playing outside in the summer. It was the bloody tropics, and I just don't like sunlight - what's a boy to do?!

icyhighs said...

Hi Robin, I agree it would make an interesting read. We could call it 'Chaneling Andrej'! I'm incapable of writing YA though - think you're up for it?

red dirt girl said...

I suggest you review the definitions of the terms you are using. Gender neutrality theory is not a lifestyle but a psychological theory regarding nature vs. nurture in the formation of gender identity (the link explains it much better than I.)

Physical androgyny, which deals with physical traits, is distinct from behavioral androgyny which deals with personal and social anomalies in gender, and from psychological androgyny, which is a matter of gender identity.

Take a gay couple - there's always a man and a woman (in terms of social norms). You are patently wrong in this assertion. It is a popular (yet erroneous) 'belief' amongst heterosexuals when describing gay relationships.

I have yet to read in your post what your definition of an androgynous lifestyle is. Instead, you cite current pop cultural trends (insert fad or fashion as you wish here) as your points of reference.

I certainly agreed that androgyny as a trend has made its rounds in history time and again.

As for pubic hair: I prefer a clean shave, or a landing strip at best- I don't see it as male tyranny, just something special being done for me by somebody I love. Just like I'd keep myself in shape or whatever for her.

I'm not sure whether you are being disingenuous here or just ridiculously naive !!

I'm going to avoid the politics of it; the psychology of it (you've already pointed out that it looks like the vulva of a child); I'll send you to a short history of this trend here for your 'enlightenment'. And instead, I wish to focus on what one does special for the sake of one's love ....

Really, Icy? Are you truly ready and willing to spread your legs wide open and have all your pubic hair ripped off with hot wax? And no, not just the hair around your cock, but the hair on your testicles and in your butt crack as well? Are you willing to pay good money, twice a month, to maintain the smooth, hairless sex of a prepubescent child for the one you love ??? because it will make her feel special ??

Where does acceptance and unconditional love enter in to this construct? Where are you learning to love another, flaws and all, accepting another's imperfections, learning to love 'as she is' rather than as you wish her to be? Where are you learning to give of yourself - your heart, your soul, your trust, your love - not based on whether she meets your mythical ideal criteria, but by the simple fact that she moves your heart? your soul? she excites your mind?

Man-child are you simply that shallow?


icyhighs said...


Seriously though, I'm going to go read up and learn. Always been fascinated by it, and never got round to it.
Red, that was some telling off. I feel like I've just been spanked silly.

red dirt girl said...

Because if I could, I'd reach through this computer and box your ears!


Now go back to your 'Dragon' post comments and soothe your wounded self.

Siddhartha Joshi said...

The post is interesting, but the comments are way more interesting...and I might add, informative.

icyHighs said...

No argument there, Siddhartha. Read up a fair bit on the topic after this post; was a very informative experience.