WRITING FOR PUBLICATION
The idea of typical masculinity and contemporary masculinity are completely opposite ends of the spectrum. After hours of contemplation as to how one may possibly find a link between the past and the present depictions of masculinity, I came to this very conclusion. The word "masculinity" is probably the only aspect that is common between the two. Typical masculinity revolved around power, strength, formidability, toughness and the like. It represented the hierarchy of the genders and the notions of males being superior to women. Simply put, strong and testosterone filled males were preferred over the seemingly weaker gender- females.
However, in our current society, men have started to openly express themselves and that once imposing hierarchy has now slowly begun to break down. The rise of feminism and freedom of speech has broken down the barriers of the once silent, hard-to-understand and secretive men, allowing them to express and share their deepest thoughts. Females have subsequently gained a higher level of equality with men and hence there is now this equilibrium where neither gender is widely preferred than the other.
Naturally, humankind are drawn towards more aesthetic elements in their daily lives, from the way we look at the items we choose to buy. Each individual has their own sense of what an aesthetic to them is, however, expression, aesthetics and pretty things seems to have extreme connotations with females. Due to this, men have been repressed from putting effort into their appearance, in fear of being ostracized and socially ridiculed from their peers and or potential partners. Fashion and appearance are usually associated with females as an outlet for self-expression. However, with the constant emphasis on fashion in our media-rich generation, more men have been encouraged to express themselves and have subsequently turned to fashion to do exactly that. This group of men are called "Dandy" men and with the influence of social media, there has been a new wave of dandy men.
“I believe fashion tells a story and can really be a very prominent way to showcase my history. It’s a fantastic and interesting way to visually communicate my own personality. A tidy man's appearance is a fab conversation starter! I know, I was as surprised as you! When I first started, I thought others would be sceptical about my appearance so I was surprised to know that it actually bought a lot of positive attention, to say the least. Identity also plays a huge role in my fashion choices. I do generally think that when one is dealing with fashion they are then automatically dealing with identity.” -Maharu Ohta
“Currently I am a student studying Fashion Textiles. You know, having constantly been working with colours, knits and textures, you can say that I have developed many emotions for Fashion. Actually, I have always associated Fashion with emotions but not just clothing, even things such as accessories and hair count as Fashion in my eyes. I recently dyed my hair orange because, well, I was honestly just annoyed and angry with myself. I tend to experiment a lot, similar to the hair scenario, and they always turn out “interestingly”. I like to portray my mood and feelings through the way I dress. It’s a much better idea to express myself, however, I want than keeping everything bottled up. “ -Rintaro Iino
Even with this surge of encouragement for men to express themselves through fashion, there is a limit to how expressive menswear allows a man to be. On the other hand, womenswear has a much wider range of self-expression choices to choose from. Womenswear, in general, tend to be more expressive than menswear. This emphasis on pushing the boundaries of menswear to generate more emotion in the garments are reflected in the latest fashion trends and runway shows. Even designers such as Mr Porter, who prominently took key inspirations from masculinity concepts, has started to move away from the rigid forms in his garments and instead replace it with more experimental pieces exploring the movements created by the drapes of the fabric. Other fashion designers such as Nicholson has created a collection that explored the relationship between the wearer and the garment, responding to the lack of emotion and freedom of expression in menswear. We can slowly see how a grey area, between what is considered as menswear and what womenswear, is being created due to the influx of prominently feminine concepts that has crept into menswear collections within the past few seasons.
As the image of the "ideal man" is breaking away from our minds, we are met with a greater number of creatives who are eager to express themselves through more intriguing and daring fashion choices, moving on from the Dandy man and even venturing into the unexplored area of womenswear. In response to these fashion suave individuals, designers have started creating androgynous clothing that can be seen on both male and females. This new way of expression brings a new dimension to the fashion industry, giving men the platform to explore more expressive fashion choices without having to completely break out of their social comfort zone. This genre and mesh of fashion have also made it easier for people such as Suhita Kabir, a gender fluid 18-year-old, to better understand themselves. Having asked them if they thought androgyny is the same thing as gender fluidity, they responded with:
“I think they do go hand in hand. A lot of gender fluid people, I feel, start dressing up androgynously because it’s a smoother transition from when they were very hyper-feminine or hyper-masculine into a more neutral thing. I think it’s more of a comfortable zone where they can figure how they want to go on. I think androgynous style in itself is very cool. It’s very subtle, it’s very neutral but it can also be very out there and very avant-garde if it wants to be so there are lots of different sides to androgyny. That’s why I do think they do go hand in hand. In the end, it’s all very personal. Another person can see gender fluidity in a whole different way than I do but I think being androgynous does in a way make you sort of gender fluid so you are open to the idea of dressing in a way or like presenting yourself in a way that is not on gender."
The emerging trend of equality between men and women has created a new surge of individuals who all have one thing in common, they express themselves as "me" over choosing "she" or "he". Rather than abiding by societal constructs that demand to identify them by their birth gender, they have chosen to reject these constraints and embrace their innate nature which spans the spectrum between male and female. Albeit this advancement in society stemmed from the perspective of masculinity, it has not only liberated men in terms of self-expression but has also done so to women.
Although a fairly new concept in our society today, historically, India has been a gender-neutral society who embraced Hijras (individuals who identify as neither a male nor female) as key roles in the community. This was reflected in the contemporary fashion at the time. Men and women were treated equally and their clothing was pretty similar. As fashion reflects the current society it inhabits, the shift in more gender neutral clothing and genderless individuals tells us that we are heading from a gendered society to a genderless equivalent.
"Frank Ocean is redefining queerness in popular culture through his various creative exploits—from his enchanting albums Blonde and Endless to his highly-coveted "Boys Don't Cry" magazine—and now Toronto designer Xylk (pronounced "silk') Lorena is building a similar narrative with a new range of T-shirts he has dubbed "Bboys Don't Drive." Breaking down the notion of the stereotypical "car guy," Xylk's designs and the accompanying images showcase that all types of people can have an appreciation for cars, and (despite what we might have been led to believe in our early school days) it's not just for "boys." The second B in the collection's title is a nod to the notorious Bleecker area in Toronto's East End where Xylk is from, as well as the fact that he used to breakdance or b-boy."
"The CALM report, A Crisis in Modern Masculinity: Understanding the Causes of Male Suicide, analysed the pressures and expectations that men and women face in their daily lives, and concluded that men are failing to cope, as well as keeping their problems hidden from others."-http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11238596/A-crisis-of-masculinity-men-are-struggling-to-cope-with-life.html
“It’s not cross-dressing for me to wear a suit,” she said. “It’s cross-dressing for me to wear a dress.” -http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/11/fashion/a-masculine-silhouette-tailored-for-her.html
"Is there anything less appealing at this moment than being thought of as a ‘man’s man’? After Trump, after Weinstein, after Spacey, and after and all of the other toxic sludge that emerged over the course of the past year, it’s hard to imagine there’s anyone left in the Western world for whom masculinity is the ideal.
This is posing an interesting question for menswear designers. As the men’s shows roll on to Milan and Paris, Vogue Runway articulated it neatly last week: if fashion should mirror the cultural moment, how do you create men’s clothes when manliness itself is viewed as synonymous with exploitation, arrogance, greed and stupidity? Certainly, the fashion brands that are still clinging to an idealised vision of masculinity feel out of step with the times: even Mr Porter, which was built on an image of mid-century gentleman’s clubs and perfectly-folded pocket squares, has inched away from its former aesthetic towards something less neatly starched.
What’s more, the menswear brands that flourished in 2017 did so either by abandoning conventional ideals of manliness. Gucci’s men looked like Gucci’s women, festooned in a mish-mash of sequins, embroidery, and lurid colour. Balenciaga – the other label which dominated the cultural conversation – satirised the restrictions of traditional menswear, presenting outsized and distorted takes on shirts, ties, and tailoring, stamped with corporate logos. And the biggest breakout designers of the past year were unified by a willingness to challenge normative ideas of gender, from Grace Wales Bonner’s quietly intellectual reframing of masculinity to to Telfar Clemens’ athletic take on androgyny. Both moved beyond being media darlings, racking up stockists, winning awards, and forcing even the most conservative critics to take them seriously.
“IF FASHION SHOULD MIRROR THE CULTURAL MOMENT, HOW DO YOU CREATE MEN’S CLOTHES WHEN MANLINESS ITSELF IS VIEWED AS SYNONYMOUS WITH EXPLOITATION, ARROGANCE, GREED AND STUPIDITY?”
Alexander Fury, the fashion critic and editor of AnOther, sees a parallel between now and the gender-bending fashions of the late 1980s. “Both periods are playing against an overarching mood of political conservatism,” he says. “Boy George and the flamboyance of Westwood emerged at the height of Thatcherism, just as our current opulent moment is a counterpoint to Trump and Brexit. Perhaps it’s because men in suits are now the bad guys.” To Fury, this can only be a positive: “I don’t think that masculinity itself has become unfashionable. The more exciting thing is that its meaning is being challenged.”
Christopher Shannon, who elected not to show this season, is among the designers rethinking what masculinity signifies to him. “I’m not sure what it means any more. Traditional masculinity always feels a bit Guy Ritchie to me,” he explains. “It’s like a kind of bunting nostalgia for a time I don’t think ever really existed.” His collections, increasingly, seem at once to celebrate and parody the tropes of masculinity: baggy denim erupts into bursts of frills; tracksuits snake around the body like a cocktail dress; and sports shorts are cut to the proportions of hotpants. It’s this tension that he relishes. “I think a lot of my choices are informed by my loathing of male clichés,” he explains. “But I’m not interested in overplaying gender. For me, the interesting point is the in-between.”
“BOY GEORGE AND THE FLAMBOYANCE OF WESTWOOD EMERGED AT THE HEIGHT OF THATCHERISM, JUST AS OUR CURRENT OPULENT MOMENT IS A COUNTERPOINT TO TRUMP AND BREXIT” – ALEXANDER FURY
Is there a risk, though, that setting traditional masculinity afloat could make the men’s collections themselves redundant? Already, ever-increasing numbers of fashion brands (including Calvin Klein, Burberry and Bottega Veneta) are scrapping their dedicated men’s shows, choosing instead to elide their women’s and men’s collections into a joint catwalk. And, though the concept of ‘gender-neutral’ clothing has been overused to the point of meaninglessness, it showed that there is a market for less obviously gendered clothing. Simon Chilvers, men’s style director at MATCHESFASHION.COM, has seen unisex clothing meet a strong reaction from consumers. “Brands like Gucci have shown that clothes no longer have to be aimed at only one gender,” he says. “And their success shows that there’s a generation who no longer care about traditional gender codes when it comes to fashion.” So isn’t it possible that the aesthetics of traditional menswear could fade into irrelevance?
Personally, I’d like to see more designers prod, probe and play with the stereotypes of manliness. The Milan shows are next, and many of the city’s designers have followed Gucci into ever-increasing embellishment and opulence in their recent men’s collections. But I’m nostalgic for the Milanese shows of the early noughties, which presented a thrumming, virile vision of full-blooded testosterone. It was masculinity, as presented through prism of gay male desire. It turned the straight man into a sex object. It felt raunchy, and almost subversive. Versace, in particular, was once notorious for its unabashed celebration of male flesh. Perhaps Donatella could be the one to show us how to enjoy masculinity again: by giving it all the irreverence it deserves.
Kenneth Nicholson's third menswear collection comes at a peculiar moment in the American zeitgeist. His spring/summer 2017 lookbook of tweed tunics and denim flares, debuting exclusively here on VICE, stands in stark contrast to the hyper-masculine, aggressive culture that currently has a chokehold on the nation. Nicholson is one of a few talented, young menswear designers who are redefining how the Western man is expected to dress. With gender-neutral silhouettes and elaborate finishes like velvet buttons and ruffled trim, his clothes blur the boundaries between classic menswear tailoring and the elegant flourishes found in high-end womenswear.
"I don't want to be forceful about it. I'm aware that I can't just jolt people," the designer says to me over the phone from his Los Angeles studio. "There's a story—people have to come along. I start off from a point of familiarity, where people can recognize certain elements, but then also see how some of it might be challenging conventional menswear." The tunic, for example, has been a constant in each of his three collections: first in linen last spring, then in velvet brocade for fall 2016, and now sleeveless and denim. While Nicholson's precise tailoring is typical of menswear, the tunic's hip-length hem is less traditional—at least on this side of the world. "I spent a little bit of time in Afghanistan, so I was introduced to their common ways of dress," Nicholson says. The Texas native, who graduated from the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, worked abroad after four years in the Navy. "To see the notion of movement in their clothing as a culture, and to see it on the men, was inspiring."
The rigidity in design and function of modern menswear is part of Nicholson's frustration with the current options available for guys. "In womenswear, they're allowed to experience the romance of just a simple movement of walking down the street," he says, noting the differences in silhouettes and fabrics that allow for greater physical self-expression between the genders. "Men don't really have that option. I want my clothes to allow men to engage in an emotional way when it comes to the way they dress and how they self-present."
Nicholson's aesthetic is deferential to the 1970s, when even the hardest guy wore bell bottoms and a flamboyant button down. Though these are sartorial qualities we'd consider more feminine today, consider Richard Roundtree or Prince, who proved that there's something about the swing of a wide-legged pant hem or the gentle folds of a tucked-in waist that can heighten a man's swag, sex appeal, and sense of self. Pulling off these softer silhouettes today requires a similar gutsiness, says Nicholson. He cites Young Thug as an example. "I'm really inspired by what he's doing with his fashion choices," he says. "I think his bravado and his vibe fit that bold fashion choice."
Still, Nicholson realizes that everyone is not an androgynous, superstar rapper. So he is gingerly nudging fashion-forward men awake, challenging them to take back their sartorial independence in a culture that lamely celebrates sameness. Kenneth Nicholson's plaid linen dress shirt isn't necessarily radical—it's versatile enough to be worn with just about anything. But when its paired with Nicholson's denim maritime swishers, it's elevated into a look that would make people turn heads. "When people dress and make those deliberate sartorial options, they're doing it because they're finding joy in it," he says. "In a political climate like this, joy is essential. And I think that is the revolution: to dare to be joyous in the face of adversity."
DESIGNERS TO RESEARCH
- Mr Porter
- Gucci's men collection
- Balenciaga- satire restriction of traditional menswear- making fun
- Grace Wales Bonner's
- Telfar Clemens athletic take on androgyny
- Calvin Klein
- bottega veneta - joint catwalk
Transcription of interview
When did you decide to call yourself gender fluid?
“In around 2013/2014 I saw this video on Tumblr of Ruby Rose, who’s like really famous now. I saw this video, it’s
called break-free and she was like dressed up in a wig and everything. She cut her hair off and foundation covering
her tattoos and she ended the video as a, as a guy and I was like *boom* that’s what I want to be in life like I felt so
connected to that. I was like this is. This looks like it Ould be me. Because I really liked being girly and stuff but I also
really liked being very masculine like a tomboy. All my family would be like you’re such a tomboy and stuff. So I guess
I called myself a tomboy for a really long time. Then I found the term gender fluid and I was like this is more like me
because I don’t see myself as one gender and stuff. I kind off go between both.
So you don’t define yourself.
“ I don’t yeah, I don’t. I guess that term really stuck when people on the street would call me Sir and “Young man” and
stuff and I didn’t feel offended by that. I thought it was really comforting. Then I thought it was the right term for me.”
Is there a side that you are more connected with?
“I think it really depends on what my outward appearance looks like so for when I had my short hair, I would feel very
masculine. I would always come into school with a mens suit and a tie and I would be differently and I would walk
differently and I would do my makeup differently but then there are times like now, where I have pigtails. I do feel very
feminine. There were occasional times when I would come into school in a dress and everyone would be like “what
are you doing?” And it’s just what I want to do. So umm it does fluctuate between how I am feeling in the year and
stuff but there are times where I feel mainly masculine and mainly feminine. I do really represent that with the way I
look outside. I know a lot of people who do identify as gender fluid don’t necessarily associate outward appearance to
what they feel but to me it is that. I feel like I have to display the way I feel by how I look. So it does fluctuate a lot.
There are times where I do feel more one than the other.
When you said you dress up more manly you said you wear makeup. Makeup isn’t really seen as manly in
the view of mass media.
“Yeah, kind off but I just make my eyebrows a bit thicker, I draw a bit more and stuff maybe just put some shadow in
my eyes to make them more darker and hollow but that’s about it really and like because I don’t wear makeup on a
regular basis for when I want to look really feminine I would like a winged eyeliner, eyeshadow and contour and stuff
but that’s very occasionally. My normal everyday, I don’t really feel anything. I just kind of feel normal but like I don’t
mind people calling me she and stuff or like he. I just kind of go with it. There are times when I do want to be like “yes
I’m a girl today’ because I’ve got my makeup on and there are times when I’m like “yes, I’m a boy today because I’ve
got my suit and tie on. I do have those kind of defining objects in my life.
When you first came out as gender fluid, what did other people around you say?
“It was weird, I didn’t really come out to say. I kind of just clumsily went, I’m dressing like a boy now and people were
like “okay… cool”. Most of my friends were pretty calm with it, everyone was like yeah that’s fine that’s you. “
“We went to the same school. I think it wasn’t drastic. People didn’t think it was over the top or it was completely 360
degrees change because it suited her from the start. So it just felt natural.”
“It was weird, no one really had a big reaction like “OMG why?’”. It was more just family that was kind of, what is
going on. But with my family, that was another story. My dad was uummm so I started buying mens clothing and stuff
and I would come home from collage I would still be in my school uniform. We had a dress code so II was in a shirt
and tie and stuff. I was making a cup of tea and went back to my room. My dad walks in and he’s like “what are you
wearing?!”. “Why is it a a mens shirt. Why is it so baggy,. Why is it so big?” And I was like “because I want to.” And
then he gave me this whole lecture where he was like “how would it look like if I walked around in a sari and I wore
asian dresses.” And I was like “I wouldn’t care.” I looked at his face and was like, I wouldn’t care. Why do you care
about this? You realise you’re not getting anywhere with me. So like he really didn’t wasn’t me to cut my hair.
Because I did most of my short hair myself, I was standing in front of my mirror and was cutting my hair and the door
opens and he walks in and I was mid-way into cutting all my hair off. I was like “well, it’s gone now.”. Yeah, he’s
always hated the whole that side of me. He hasn’t tried to hide it or anything.”
Is he more accepting now, as time has passed?
“He really isn’t more accepting as I haven’t seen him in ages. He’s still in Bangladesh but when he does video chat
me because my hair is like this now (longer), he goes, it looks better now so I know he’s still not accepting of it. Most
of my aunts and uncles go, oh your hair looks better like this now but what they don’t realise is that it’s like this
because I go to work and I’m not allowed to have purple hair. So the fact that they say that I look better like hits, I
know that they’re not accepting of me having purple hair and stuff like that. I don’t find that that really affects me
because the people who don’t really care about that, the people who matter more in my life because they know who I
am. What I look like outside shouldn’t really affect that.
Do you think starting off as a girl was easier to become gender fluid than starting off as a male?
Yeah, I do think of that a lot, I always think what if I was born a boy, would I still be like this? I want to say that I would
be but I don’t know because I would definitely been brought up differently- if I was a boy. Even as a young kid, as a 3
year old kid, I would always have that thought, what if I was born a boy, I wish I was born a boy and I never knew why
I had that thought. I am also just very curious and I would always question what would life be like if I was born like
this. I want to say that, yes, I would probably, I probably wouldn’t be as sort off drastic as it is now. I say it now as if
like it is drastic, I think it is easier when a girl dresses up as a guy in our society so I feel like if I was brought up the
way I was. If I was born a boy in this kind of society, it would have been hard but I think I would have tried with maybe
small things. You know how guys wear makeup nowadays, I probably would have just something like that. I would
probably wear sort off more androgynous clothing rather than very feminine clothing. Like, I don’t think I would have
the confidence to go out in a skirt if I was born a boy. I also had very severe anxiety so that doesn’t help. I think, I
want to say that I hope I would still like defy the gender roles by wearing makeup, getting my eyebrows done and stuff
I guess that’s true, because right now, in fashion we (as females) can wear anything the males wear but it’s
not vice versa.
“I saw a post somewhere on the internet and it was like “Women can wear what how men dress and its’s okay, but
men can’t dress as women as society thinks it’s degrading to be a women. When men dress as women they see it as
a degrading thing. I think that should really change. It’s just annoying sometimes.”
Recently in the news, females are being sexually harassed in the fashion industry, male models are now
saying the same thing about a particular photographer. More feminine male models are coming out because women
are as well. How, do you feel about that?
“I think it’s great that they’re doing that and they finally have the courage because a lot of men, I believe, are scared
to say that they have been attacked or harassed because it kind of looks like their masculinity has been taken down.
It’s a big thing, especially in America.n Being, hyper masculine, if your’e not masculine enough, you’re not “man”
enough. What is “man” enough to be honest, you know. I fully believe in the Mulan song: I’ll make a man out of you.
You must be swift as a coursing river, be as strong as the great typhoon and as mysterious as the dark said moon. If
you have those three things, you are a man, you are a man enough. You don’t need a penis. You don’t need
testosterone. I f you have those three things, you are man enough and is what I go with.
Do you think dressing up as androgynous is the same as gender fluidity?
“I think they do go hand in hand. A lot of gender fluid people, I feel, start dressing up androgynously because it’s a
smoother transition from when they were very hyper feminine or hyper masculine into a more neutral thing. I think it’s
more of a comfortable zone where they can figure how they want to go on. I think androgynous style in itself is very
cool. It’s very subtle, it’s very neutral but it can also be very out there and very avant-garde if it wants to be so there
are lots of different sides to androgyny. That’s why I do think they do go hand in hand. In the end, it’s all very
personal. Another person can see gender fluidity in a whole different way than I do but I think being androgynous
does in a way make you sort of gender fluid so you are open to the idea of dressing in a way or like presenting
yourself in a way that is not on gender.
Are you more comfortable now that your are gender fluid?
Yeah, I am. I mean, I don’t sort of post it everywhere and not everyone sees me as gender fluid and stuff and I don’t
go out screaming to the world. I feel like it’s easier when I had my short hair and I dressed more masculine but I a still
had a very sort of babyish for a boys face because it was still kind of feminine so for a boy I looked like a baby. I feel
like when I dressed like that it was easier to be comfortable because then people, the public would kind of see that I
was trying to be different. I’m someone who does kind of, not like to make people feel comfortable, but kind of likes to
make people question their sort of normal views. When I went back home to Bangladesh. The last time I went, I had
bright bluefish purplish hair. It looked a lot like sunny from monsters inc. It was great, I felt amazing going back their.
Everybody was so uncomfortable, not uncomfortable but so weirded out that I short blue hair. No-one else did and I
was walking around on the streets and people would just look and be like “what the f is going on”. I remember one
time, we were driving in a car and people were staring in through the window as I was sitting at the window seat
staring out and they had little kids going “?”. I thought I would find it more… I thought I would be weird out by that, but
I wasn’t. I enjoyed it so I guess being myself is making me feel a lot more comfortable.
What do you think masculinity is?
I think that masculinity is those three things from the Mulan song but I feel like it’s also, I mean, stereotypically its
being strong and chivalrous and manly and stuff. Often being able to lift a tonne of things. I don’t want to say I’m
totally against that because I like to kind of stick to those stereotypes. Be like very feminine and dainty and small and
stuff and I like to have those boundaries. I feel like without those boundaries everyone would kind of be the same. I
feel like the masculinity kind of does help make an individual I guess. When I do dress up as manly, I do try to put a
more masculine face like walking differently, not having this lighter voice I guess. So I do kind of think that
stereotypical masculine trends are what defines masculinity. So I’m not going to be a hypocrite and be like everyone
should be the sea and stuff and masculinity doesn’t exist. I do think it.does exist and I’m kind of glad it does.
Media now hates the “manly man image”. What do you think of designers moving away from this “manly
man” image and bringing in feminine elements to they menswear collections?
I think it’s great, but I also think that if you’re someone who wants to try it out, you should be confident in trying out
because it can get quite obvious. Not obvious but like not very comfortable trying to that but just, just wearing it to
defy it. It get’s in the way, it does look kind of wrong, their like dressing up as a girl. They’re doing it to like mock
something But I feel like if you’re doing it in the sort of way that it’s comfortable for you and it’s really what you want
to do and it speaks to you in a way. In your mind, you think it’s right and not in a funny way. If you were born male,
you should totally go for it. If you’re doing it purely to just like mock other people like “oh I’m dressing up as a woman
because they’re so small and frail and easy to break” then I that okay… what are you doing? I don’t know, what is
masculinity is a very hard question. It’s whatever you want it to be. Just do what you want.
Are you religious? And if so does this affect/influence your experience being gender-fluid?
I was brought up in a Muslim family. I always thought I would be quite religious but then I kind of broke away from
that. Because, in a sense I was brought up as a muslim and in Islam there are a lot off specific things you must do,
whether you are male or female. Even the way you pray, you stand differently and you have different positions
whether you are a male or female. Because I really just didn’t want to be one or the other, like I wanted too be both. I
kind of stopped doing all those practices. I don’t want to say that, I’m not like hyper Muslim, I do still believe in higher
powers. I believe more in like the Roman/Greek sense, like god of war and light and thunder and whatever. I do kind
of sort off had that spiritual sense more than the religious sense. I like to follow the morals of my religion not the rules.
Islam is a very peaceful religion and I do fully believe that. Hate is what’s breaking us apart. It’s not religion, it’s not
understanding one another. I’m not going to say it like I love everyone and stuff because there are people who I don’t
like. I feel like you doughnut hate someone for one single aspect. It shouldn’t be because of what they believe in and
what they look like
THOUGHTS ON MASCULINITY- TRYING TO SORT OUT THOUGHTS
Having been stuck on how I perceived masculinity for a long time, I discussed the topic with a non-fashion communication friend. We just generally had a conversation about the topic at hand which helped me to start sorting out my thoughts and ideas about"masculinity" and "contemporary masculinity". After a while, I realised that my brain was frazzled due to the polar opposites of the meanings of masculinity and contemporary masculinity. While explaining my thoughts on both these themes at the same time, I realised I was trying to create some sort of link between the two contrasting themes. Going along with this theme, I ventured into some recent articles that touched on the subject of masculinity, I avidly looked for the reasons for why the concept of masculinity and contemporary masculinity was so obviously different. In doing so, I found very recent articles on how the image of a manly man is completed hated on and how we do not want to associate ourselves with this image due to Trump being pro "manly". Fashion designers such as Mr Porter, who originally always took inspiration from traditional masculinity has started to move away from the rigid structures of the garments and in its stead brought more expressive, free-er flowing clothing. Designers have started to change the way they look at the actual form and sway off menswear garments. This ties in with how men tend to not express themselves which hinders their chances of creating a truly strong, meaningful relationship with their friends and thus leaves them more vulnerable than when they first started off with. Research has shown that this has lead to a rise in male suicides and is the leading contributor to this. This appalled me. In a society that is lead by feminism, we much remember that feminism is the EQUALITY of males and females. In the job market, females may have this advantage which is currently being addressed. However, in just focusing on women we have neglected the urgent need to give males the emotional support needed to live in this harsh life. Instead of facing this problem face on, designers have tacked this issue through fashion, creating swaying and looser fitting forms and losing the rigidness of traditional menswear in order to create more emotion within the strides of the men. In this sense, we can see where the notion of contemporary masculinity has come from. However, I have a sense that the perceptions of masculinity are not just shifting but are getting overtaken by femininity, leaving many men confused on what they should be- a flower boy or a macho man. For example, in the London Fashion Week Mens, I was surprised to see how women were cast to walk down the runway. Originally I wanted to base my project on the concept of femininity completely taking over masculinity. For my visuals, I wanted to create a series of photos. The photos would start off with a female wearing very masculine clothes and then as the publication progresses, the model adds on clothing that is much more feminine in nature. By the end of the publication, the females;e model would be wearing a feminine outfit. This could also be done the opposite way where a male starts from the back of the publication (wearing feminine clothes) and then shifting into more masculine outfits. Or this idea completely reversed.
Ardhanarishwara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर, Ardhanārīśwara) is a composite androgynous form of the Hindu God Shiva and his consort Parvati (also known as Devi, Shakti and Uma in this icon). Ardhanarishvara is depicted as half male and half female, split down the middle. The right half is usually the male Shiva, illustrating his traditional attributes.
The earliest Ardhanarishvara images are dated to the Kushan period, starting from the first century CE. Its iconography evolved and was perfected in the Gupta era. The Puranas and various iconographic treatises write about the mythology and iconography of Ardhanarishvara. While Ardhanarishvara remains a popular iconographic form found in most Shiva temples throughout India, very few temples are dedicated to this deity.
Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as, according to some interpretations) Shiva, the male principle of God. The union of these principles is exalted as the root and womb of all creation. Another view is that Ardhanarishvara is a symbol of Shiva's all-pervasive nature."
"The name Ardhanarishvara means "the Lord Who is half woman." Ardhanarishvara is also known by other names like Ardhanaranari ("the half man-woman"), Ardhanarisha ("the Lord who is half woman"), Ardhanarinateshvara ("the Lord of Dance Who is half-woman"), Parangada, Naranari ("man-woman"), Ammiappan (a Tamil Name meaning "Mother-Father"), and Ardhayuvatishvara (in Assam, "the Lord whose half is a young woman or girl"). The Gupta-era writer Pushpadanta in his Mahimnastavarefers to this form as dehardhaghatana ("Thou and She art each the half of one body"). Utpala, commenting on the Brihat Samhita, calls this form Ardha-gaurishvara ("the Lord whose half is the fair one"; the fair one – Gauri – is an attribute of Parvati). The Vishnudharmottara Purana simply calls this form Gaurishvara ("The Lord/husband of Gauri)."
Traditionally, hijras were employed as singers and dancers, often serving the retinues of rulers both Hindu and Muslim. Additionally, they were, and are, seen as agents of fertility and attend births and weddings and bless the occasions in return for payment. They are an undeniable part of the country's social landscape and enjoy high visibility, with most Indians encountering them regularly while going about their lives.
In 1871, the British colonial government passed a sweeping law that criminalized entire sections of society, including hijras, who they said were "addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences." From then on, hijras and other "third-gender" communities could be arrested on the spot. Hijras have since been "denotified," but the legacy of that law, and the discrimination it spawned, haunts them to this day. In post-colonial India, hijras have been locked out of most professions, and it is common to see them begging on trains and at stoplights. A great many participate in the sex industry, and the rate of HIV among hijras is more than 100 times the national average. Recent studies document a wide range in prevalence, from 17.5 percent to 41 percent.
With greater access to information, some hijras have opted to identify as transgender. Others have taken advantage of sex-reassignment and breast-enlargement surgery. There have been steps toward greater participation in public life — India recently saw its first hijra mayor and school principal. The definition of India's "third gender" is necessarily in flux.
In public settings — such as when one encounters hijras asking for money on a train or blessing a wedding — many are boisterous and engaging. Much of Indian society stigmatizes them, but hijras typically clap as they approach passersby: a demand for recognition of their existence.
Hijras are officially recognized as third gender in South Asian countries, being considered neither completely male nor female. Hijras have a recorded history in the Indian subcontinent from antiquity onwards as suggested by the Kama Sutra period.
Many hijras live in well-defined and organised all-hijra communities, led by a guru. These communities have sustained themselves over generations by "adopting" boys who are in abject poverty, rejected by, or flee, their family of origin. Many work as sex workers for survival.
The word "hijra" is a Hindi-Urdu word, derived from the Semitic Arabic root hjr in its sense of "leaving one's tribe". The Indian usage has traditionally been translated into English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite", where "the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition." However, in general hijras are born male, only a few having been born with intersexvariations. Some Hijras undergo an initiation rite into the hijra community called nirwaan, which refers to the removal of the penis, scrotum and testicles.
Since the late 20th century, some hijra activists and Western non-government organizations (NGOs) have lobbied for official recognition of the hijra as a kind of "third sex" or "third gender", as neither man nor woman. Hijras have successfully gained this recognition in Bangladesh and are eligible for priority in education. In India, the Supreme Court in April 2014 recognised hijra and transgender, eunuchs, intersex people as a 'third gender' in law. Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have all legally accepted the existence of a third gender, with India including an option for them on passports and certain official documents.
Franciscan travelers in the 1650s noted the presence of "Men and boys who dress like women" roaming the streets of Thatta, in modern Pakistan. The presence of these individuals was taken to be a sign of the city's depravity. During the era of the British Raj, authorities attempted to eradicate hijras, whom they saw as "a breach of public decency." Anti-hijra laws were repealed; but a law outlawing castration, a central part of the hijra community, was left intact, though rarely enforced. Also during British rule in India they were placed under the Criminal Tribes Act 1871 and labelled a "criminal tribe", hence subjected to compulsory registration, strict monitoring and stigmatized for a long time; after independence however they were denotified in 1952, though the centuries-old stigma continues.
The word kothi (or koti) is common across India, similar to the Kathoey of Thailand, although kothis are often distinguished from hijras. Kothis are regarded as feminine men or boys who take a feminine role in sex with men, but do not live in the kind of intentional communities that hijras usually live in. Additionally, not all kothis have undergone initiation rites or the body modification steps to become a hijra. Local equivalents include durani (Kolkata), menaka (Cochin),meti (Nepal), and zenana (Pakistan).
In some versions of the Ramayana, when Rama leaves Ayodhya for his 14-year exile, a crowd of his subjects follow him into the forest because of their devotion to him. Soon Rama notices this, and gathers them to tell them not to mourn, and that all the "men and women" of his kingdom should return to their places in Ayodhya. Rama then leaves and has adventures for 14 years. When he returns to Ayodhya, he finds that the hijras, being neither men nor women, have not moved from the place where he gave his speech. Impressed with their devotion, Rama grants hijras the boon to confer blessings on people during auspicious inaugural occasions like childbirth and weddings. This boon is the origin of badhai in which hijras sing, dance, and give blessings.
Mahabharata includes an episode in which Arjun, a hero of the epic, is sent into an exile. There he assumes an identity of a eunuch-transvestite and performs rituals during weddings and childbirths that are now performed by hijras.
In the Mahabharata, before the Kurukshetra War, Iravan offers his lifeblood to goddess Kali to ensure the victory of the Pandavas, and Kali agrees to grant him power. On the night before the battle, Iravan expresses a desire to get married before he dies. No woman was willing to marry a man doomed to die in a few hours, so Arjuna as Brihinala marries him. In South India, hijras claim Iravan as their progenitor and call themselves "aravanis".
Each year in Tamil Nadu, during April and May, hijras celebrate an eighteen-day religious festival. The aravani temple is located in the village Koovagam in the Ulundurpet taluk in Villupuram district, and is devoted to the deity Koothandavar, who is identified with Aravan. During the festival, the aravanis reenact a story of the wedding of Lord Krishna and Lord Aravan, followed by Aravan's subsequent sacrifice. They then mourn Aravan's death through ritualistic dances and by breaking their bangles. An annual beauty pageant is also held, as well as various health and HIV or AIDS seminars. Hijras from all over the country travel to this festival. A personal experience of the hijras in this festival is shown in the BBC Three documentary India's Ladyboys and also in the National Geographic Channel television series Taboo.
CASUAL TALK WITH DAD ABOUT THE TOPIC OF MASCULINITY IN INDIA
At first, he did describe masculinity in India and it sounded exactly the same as the stereotypical macho-man. However I started digging deeper into Indian traditions and our gods...
Inspired by the findings of her MA fashion research, Saunders’ project will unpack the complicated relationship gender and race – something she considers “deeply important”.
“With all the people we’ve spoken to there was an explicit link between slight nuances of perceived femininity, like maybe like a gold earring and reactions from their friends saying: “You’re gay,” she explained.
“It’s really weird how masculinity gets entwined with sexuality that is why the guys in my collection look vulnerable. They’re almost scared to talk about it ‘incorrectly’. That’s why I called the project Personal Politics because it was all these silent conversations you’re having through style and behaviour”
The marriage of mediums paints a much fuller picture than her fashion show. Her exhibition includes a look at the collection shot by rising star Adama Jalloh, a research film entitled Permission in collaboration with Akinola Davies JR (Crack Stevens), and a zine containing poetry by Seye Isikalu and Dazed 100 alumni Caleb Femi and James Massiah.
Her take on the sartorial choices of West Indian men is set against an urban backdrop of high-rises and supermarket car parks. She aptly contrasts the streetwear with heavy blush to illustrate the poems like ‘God save the gully’, in her zine. Abondance Matanda’s words ask for deliverance from ‘misdirected testosterone of young black men in her community, and echo the intimate conversations displayed in Davies Jr’s short.