Evolution beats Androgyny
Why modern identities make you feel bad
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Let’s remember one of the greatest scenes in American Cinematography circa 2006.
In The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) scoffs when Emily Charlton (Emily Blunt) holds up two seemingly identical belts for Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Priestly’s following monologue speaks to how ideas move throughout society.
“You think this has nothing to do with you.
You go to your closet, and you select I don’t know that lumpy blue sweater for instance because you’re trying to tell the world you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back.
But what you don’t know is that sweater is not just blue, it’s not tuquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s cerulean.
You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002 Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns
And I think it was Yves Saint Laurent was it? Who showed cerulean military jackets? (I think we need a jacket here)
And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collection of eight different designers, and then it filtered down through the department stores. And then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you no doubt fished it out of some clearance bin.
However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs. It’s sort of comical how you think you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when in fact you’re wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room.”
What is fashionable will always change, in part because fashion (like so much else) is a signaling method. Making something as fleeting as fashionable look become a part of your identity therefore is not advised.
Androgyny is defined by Merriam Webster as “the quality or state of being neither specifically feminine or masculine : the combination of feminine and masculine characteristics.”
Some people make Androgyny their identity, here’s how Cosmopolitan magazine explains it:
Androgyny refers to the gender expression of someone with both significant masculine and significant feminine characteristics, as Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, explains. It’s important to note though, that each person’s definition of androgynous can and will vary — what one person considers to be significantly masculine or feminine characteristics may be different than what another person considers.
Androgyny is not defined by the societal boundaries of “looking like a girl,” or “looking like a boy,” as Shawnnell Batiste, licensed therapist in Texas and Louisiana, explains, but rather a “pure self-expression.”
As if that didn’t seem complicated enough:
“Is being androgynous the same as sexual orientation?
Nope! “While often confused, gender identity, gender expression, sex, and sexual orientation are each distinct,” Elliot explains. Gender identity is how you feel, gender expression is how you express yourself, and sexual orientation refers to the gender(s) you’re attracted to. Androgyny is a gender expression, so it’s separate from gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation. You can be androgynous and be straight, gay, asexual, or any other orientation, as being androgynous has nothing to do with your sexual preferences, adds Katherin Winnick, sex coach at LetsTalkSex.net.”
This kind of overburdensome language comes to us from Queer Studies and other forms of “scholarship” found in Universities and elsewhere. If you weren’t clear “gender expression” means the clothes you wear. This brings us to a recent post on Instagram’s main account.
I just want people to feel heard and understood when they hear my music. I want to celebrate imperfections and all those thoughts that make us feel crazy.” —Addison Grace (@graceful.addison)
The queer 20-year-old singer-songwriter started making music “to cope with life” after getting inspired by artists they watched online and picking up their brother's ukulele. “Songwriting has become my perfect diary and my main comfort,” says Addison, who describes their music as indie pop.
Addison began posting covers and original music to Instagram at 15 — videos that channel their authentic personal journey through their infectious, effervescent personality. Their debut song, “Sugar Rush,” is their most popular track, and still the song they feel closest to. “It’s the song I wrote about discovering my sexuality. It’s the song I played at coffee shops when no one knew me. There’s so much to that cute little song that makes me hold it so dear to my heart. I think I’ll always love it no matter how much I play it.
I’ve always strived to be my genuine soft self. It’s why I’m so open about the things that matter to me, like LGBTQ+, mental health, etc., because they’re a part of who I am. I think people have always needed that from their favorite artists and creators — for them to say, ‘Hey, I understand you, you aren’t alone in this.’”
Reel by @graceful.addison
Music by @iamquvenzhane
In the video, you watch Ms. Grace walk up to the camera wearing a baseball jersey over a t-shirt with words on the screen reading
“feeling like you’re androgynous presenting and then. . .”
As she attempts to shake hands with invisible people their words flash across the screen to the sound of “A Hard Knock Life” from the musical Annie
“what a nice young WOMAN you are!”
“excuse me little LADY”
what’s up GIRL?”
Each time Ms. Grace reacts with a shake of her head as if to say, “really? can’t you tell that I’m presenting androgynous?”
Evolution beats Androgyny
As the video clearly demonstrates, when Addison Grace tries to look “Androgynous” everyone still sees a young woman. This is because Ms. Grace (and I’m trying to say this kindly) looks like a young woman. Millions of years of evolution have made sure that when in doubt we can distinguish between basic categories like man and woman. While what it means to be (or look) “masculine” or ”feminine” varies cross-culturally, we instinctually can distinguish biological differences between a man and woman.
You can’t “queer” your way out of this basic categorization, but that’s exactly what the Queer “Scholars” attempt to do.
Gender Expression as Fashion
When I sold suits, I would tell my clients “fashion is cyclical, but style is eternal.” It was a useful framing device so when someone walked in asking for the “most fashionable thing” they walked out with a suit they weren’t going to hate in two years. It made for happier customers because I wasn’t interested in having them “be” what was “in” I wanted them to look as good as they could.
It would be my contention that Androgyny and other “gender expressions” have more to do with fashion than anyone’s identity. What Queerness sets out to do is turn every categorization in on itself. It’s not enough to be a beautiful man or an intelligent woman, you must break down these categories to discover the true queerness that lies underneath or some other such argument. For Queer “Scholars,” being Queer is an “identity without an essence.”
Addison Grace is no different that Anne Hathaway’s character thinking that her fashion choices (or the lack thereof) were decisions she arrived at independently. Androgynous dress is just another iteration of people in a room deciding what is. In a previous post, I discussed how the concept of “personal pronouns” isn’t about really about connecting people with their “true selves” it’s meant to make well-intentioned people feel bad they can’t keep up with the latest fashion.
Addison Grace is not the creator, she is merely the puppet of forces beyond her control. She has been told “presenting Androgynous” is about more than cultivating a style, it is an immutable portion of her identity.
The consequence of this “identity without an essence” is that “they” look like a “she” which makes “them” feel bad.