With this months pages of Vogue telling us that there’s “never been a better time to dip into your boyfriends wardrobe for a bit of nonchalant masculine glamour”, we look how the fashion industry has the power to emasculate men, make women masculine and in some cases loose sight of gender entirely.
Androgyny in terms of gender identity is a person who does not fit clearly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles. This idea has been played on by the fashion industry for decades. This unconventional style that originally only appealed to the edgier members of the industry has now taken off into mainstream fashion. Hairy-armed, masculine-looking female model Jamie Bohert was featured in last months British Vogue looking neither male nor female. Nonetheless it worked and the shoot was highly praised.
On the flip side, male model Baptiste Giabiconi, who is the stereotypical image of masculinity, was completely emasculated by Karl Lagerfield and Oliver Zahm in an editorial dedicated to Helmet Newton for Purple Magazine. The defined muscular man is naked, posing in feminine positions and wearing sky high, prostitute stilettos.
French Vogue however has taken the concept a step further. Obviously known for trying to create a shock factor surrounding their editorials, in a recent shoot they reversed the traditional concepts of gender by doing a naked photo shoot with model Lea T. If you haven’t heard of Lea T, to give you some background information, the beautiful Brazilian model was in fact born a Leanodro and is a Transexual. As French Vogue boldly proved, it would be an understatement to say there’s more to her than meets the eye. The naked shoot features a totally nude Lea T, with her soft feminine face, thin frame and breasts, you wouldn’t think twice about it not being a woman. However with only her hands covering her male genitals, it does not leave much to the imagination and creates a somewhat bizarre image. The once confused, genderless individual has now rocketed to being the face of Givenchy and the darling of the fashion industry, with Vogue and Vanity Fair running features on her. Or him, whichever you’d rather. It seems that the magazines are turning her into an unusual role model.
Despite the happy ending for Lea T it is possible and has been known for people to get caught up and lost in this sexual ambiguity and changing of genders. Founder of 70s rock band Throbbing Gristle, Genesis P-orridge (Andrew Megson) and his partner Lady Jaye (Jaye Breyer) embarked on a transformation that would result in them becoming mirror images of one another. Through cosmetic surgery they wanted “to become more and more one”. Mutating themselves into the same person which they would call “Breyer P-Orridge”. They were attempting to become “Gender-Neutral” and coined the term “Pandrogyny”. Sadly Jaye Breyer lost her life due to the excessive surgery but Genisis still undertook the transformations and now has breasts but not so much the womanly features and refers to himself as a “he/she”.
Fashion magazines appear to be glamorising this concept and lifestyle. Perhaps Carine Roitfeld is trying to push the boundaries between what is acceptable and what’s not, or maybe once again she is merely trying to cause controversy. Although it seems the issue is perhaps no longer the taboo it used to be, last year transexual model and ‘adult actress’ Patricia Arauju received a standing ovation at Rio de Janiero Fashion Week and was described as a “spectacular model”. Seems strange for a transgendered porn star to be so highly praised among the fashion elite. Perhaps playing with gender roles and sexual ambiguity is becoming widely accepted in society.