If you aren’t already an avid follower of her mesmerizing tumblr, her super cute style blog, or her YouTube channel, then maybe you remember her feature in our inaugural issue of First Time. Or maybe you don’t know her at all, and that’s fine. It was her love of The Simpsons and her ever changing hair color that first drew me to the Canadian bombshell, but it was her indisputable view on Feminism and her approach to style through it that kept me coming back.
Personal style is something that’s constantly evolving and inspiring new concepts in fashion, so we asked Celia to blog about her semi-recent experience with androgyny and what it actually means. Check it out below!
Last week I wore a dress with nylons, I curled my hair and wore fake lashes. This week I’ve been wearing boyfriend jeans and snapbacks. I’ve been tucking my hair up in my hat, and wearing t-shirts without a bra. This is completely unremarkable, and merely an expression of my desired appearance, but by removing almost all feminine aspects of the way I dress, I have somehow been interpreted as a combination of genders, or as the “neutral” place between them. This is, I think, because there is much more room for masculinity than femininity in the standard understanding of androgyny.
So, let’s get clear on what androgyny really means. By definition, it is the combination of masculine and feminine traits. It is an existence that does not concern itself with rigid gender roles; it is a blurring of the division between male and female. To be/look/act androgynous is to straddle the gender binary, like existing in two places at once. And yet, when a male model wears lipstick he is considered androgynous while I only get there once I’ve stripped myself of almost all typically-feminine traits. Men are considered the neutral.
Style is not removed from the politics of gender. When I dress a certain way, I am treated accordingly. When I dress “masculine,” I am placed in a category of androgyny. I must admit – this is a nice place; it’s somewhere in the middle, it’s neutral, I can express aspects of both masculinity and femininity here. I feel like myself here, but sometimes I feel like myself in a dress and heels, and almost always I finish my look, androgynous or not, with a thick swipe of eyeliner or bright lipstick. My expression of gender is an important channel for my self-expression because it allows me to play with, and challenge, the rules we’ve been taught about what’s appropriate and for whom.
However, when men dress “feminine,” they are often treated differently. Men in dresses, in lipstick, in heels; they often find that their label skips right over androgyny into femininity. They are “trying to look like girls” as opposed to existing in that comfy spot in between where I often find myself. I think this is because society seems to have assigned much more room for male-ness in androgyny than female-ness. I am, as a female, already the Other. I am Ms. Pac Man. So when I wander to the masculine side of the binary, I am considered more neutral, while a man who dons a dress is immediately labeled feminine.
This kind of gender polarity is not natural, and it is not necessary. It harms people of all genders, including those who identify as genderless. I do not wish to inhabit any rigid labels, and I do not want them placed on others. I play with the way I express my gender because I am trying to determine where I’d like to be, and when I want to move I want to feel I have the flexibility to do so. I think we all do!