Archives for posts with tag: androgyny

I wanted to discuss Janelle Monae’s contribution to gender studies further, and I think the best possible way is through this blog post. Monae’s music, lyrics, and presentation all ignore boundaries set for sex and gender, even sexuality. Her androgynous look with coiffed fro, tuxedo, and the most amazing fucking dance moves on stage anyone has seen since Michael Jackson have put her in not-quite-woman and yet not-quite-man. Although her female sex seems to be very present in her feminine facial features and small frame, she still demands attention equal to that of her male counterparts in the music industry. When I went to see Janelle Monae this past Fall at the IU Auditorium, her messages of free love and understanding were very apparent. Her band, backup singers, and small orchestra all matched her tuxedo-themed show, but nobody seemed to be designated as wearing masculine or feminine clothing. When she sang “Mushrooms and Roses”, she painted a distinctive female body with accentuated curves to maybe hint at sexuality. Her ambiguous sexuality, to me, is the most shocking. She is signed to Bad Boy Records, the hip-hop label started by Diddy (That’s his name still, right?), which is many times very homophobic. The show only became even better after it was over and I looked over at what I got out of it.

Before the show, people were handing out flyers that contained “The Ten Droid Commandments”, which I read once I got home. The sixth, and most realistic commandment states “Abandon your expectations about art, race, gender, culture and gravity.” I believe in this commandment and others, as well as in her songs, that she is confessing that freedom is only found when one breaks free from sociocultural constraints. It’s obvious she has done so through her actual freedom when moving through people’s minds by way of her lyrics and visuals.

-Eleanor Stevenson


One of my fraternity brothers reserved the Collins Cinema this past weekend and we prepped ourselves for a movie marathon, starting with Mean Girls. Unfortunately, the plans went from marathon to just watching Mean Girls because more than half of us started to complain about food. Hunger ravaged my brotherhood, so we decided to ravage the local Steak n Shake. We piled into a few cars, sang with the radio, and soon enough arrived at our greasy destination. Our group of ten gathered inside next to the “please wait to be seated” sign and continued in our giggled conversations as we patiently waited. The mood of one of my brothers made a quick turn for the worse when he noticed a table of guys talking about us. More specifically, they were taking photos of him and debating whether he was a man or a woman. This whole situation was incredibly uncomfortable because they were talking about him as if he was an object, just a material they wanted to decipher. He wasn’t a person to them, and I didn’t want to know how this larger group would treat us had we confronted them.

This situation wasn’t completely new to me. I had experienced homophobia growing up; at one point a group of guys bashed in every window on my car because I was just a fag in their eyes, but I thought we had grown out of that when people went to college. The newness of the situation wasn’t from homophobia, but their reaction was for his androgynous gender. I had never had to deal with people unless they knew I was gay. My brother just stood out where I didn’t.

I started to connect this to other friends and their reaction to androgyny. Even the most open minded gay friends will turn to me, giggling, and ask if I think someone is a man or a woman. Looking back on these seemingly-harmless comments made by my close friends in comparison to the group of guys deciphering my brother, the same type of comments that reduce a person to their gender presentation coming from two very different groups really concerns me. Anxieties related to gender variation are very real and far more common than most would like to think, which tells me that only a small group of people have noticed the consequences these anxieties produce.

The pathologization of gender variance has yet to draw mainstream concern. Unlike past movements related to people of color or the gay and lesbian communities, the transmovement has yet to garner enough attention to concern a majority of problems with gender policing. Even a great deal of gay, lesbian, and bi individuals don’t notice this issue unless they face gender androgyny on a daily basis. This is surprising because you would think queer individuals would be more in tune with this, but somehow this slips under the radar.


-Lucas Zigler