Readings, and Related Inspirations

Who Doesn’t Love Androgyny?

1 Comment

When I was a teenager on the West Coast (really Arizona, but it’s really West from here), the goth craze hit. All the girls I hung out with had big posters of Robert Smith from the Cure,

Or David Bowie from… well – it’s David Bowie

Androgyny, especially in men, was hot. And it kind of still is – but now includes… wait for it… women. Gasp!

The funny thing is that it’s still pretty scandalous for a woman to appear publicly androgynous.

The article we read for this coming Tuesday’s class is called “Adah Isaacs Menken: Race and Transgendered Performance in the Nineteenth Century,” by Dane Barca. I think he could have left the race part out of the title though since he addresses it, but doesn’t give it the same space or time that he gives the transgendered issue. Whatever. In the article, as you all hopefully know, Barca discusses the gender-bending tendencies of a once-live actress who called herself Adah Isaacs Menken. Barca argues that critics of Menken focus (hyper-focus, even) on Menken’s sexual allure, and not her use of sexual multiplicity as she successfully (as we can see in her huge popularity) slips between races and genders. And I tend to agree with Baca here. Sure,, androgyny is alluring – but is it purely sexual? I think not. Who wouldn’t have fun slipping in and out of identities? And Menken seemed to have it all – racially obscured identity, sexually obscured identity, AND no one even knows her real name! What fun.

Guess who she reminds me of:

That’s right – This guy:

Or should I say… this girl?

Gaga is arguably our modern Menken – and just as popular. Except when you add in the number of people on the planet and multiply it exponentially to the number of new mediums since the 1850’s. Barca… meet Gaga… how about a follow-up essay? What do you say?

One last thing I do want to say is, Hey Judith Butler! Who ever said that man and woman have to be binary? Can we not be… um… two not necessarily straight lines on the same graph? Maybe if we stop telling people that our constructs are ‘binary’, we could think about them differently. Or maybe I just haven’t read enough of Butler. That’s probably the case.

Now… I will leave you with some lovely androgyny for your viewing pleasure. Please welcome… the 1990’s: Or what you get when you google androgyny:























One last thing –

I put on a little Gaga in the background to inspire my androgyny commentary here and it made me think about something a little different. What about our obsession with life ambiguity. You know… is he alive or dead? Or both?

Vampires, anyone?

Or how about this screen shot I took from the Lady Gaga video – Gaga makes ‘death’ and ‘disfigurement’ hot.

Not sure? Watch the Bad Romance video. That should clear things up.

Bad Romance


One thought on “Who Doesn’t Love Androgyny?

  1. I think you’ve hit on something improtant here with the relationship between androgyny and sexualization. Many of the images you include abover are clearly sexual, even if some of them are more subtle than others. In our Menken discussion, Jeannie mentioned that Menken was a very sexualized figure in her day, which the Barca article touched on. It seems that what we get is this interesting tension whereby androgyny simultaneously subverts socially constructed notions of gender and upholds socially constructed notions of sex.

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