Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sexiest Women in the World...Is a Man?

I think just about everything in this article is fascinating from a gender perspective. The URL pretty much tells you the gist of the story--a male womenswear model is forced to starve himself in order to maintain his figure. I loved his quote: "Let's be honest. You can't eat much if you want to do this." Obviously Andrej is forced to conform to the societal-imposed standard of thinness=beauty. The strange thing is that one typically thinks of that standard as patriarchical in nature, but here we have a man that's forced to conform to it--and as a result Kate Moss calls him "beautiful"! She's not the only one that thinks he does a good job of it. Not only does he make a good living looking like a woman, but Barnes and Noble actually censored a topless image of him! This of course brings up a whole range of issues. B&N said they did it because they were afraid that someone might think he's a woman.
I can imagine a conversation going something like:

Concerned Parent: "I can't believe they let my kids see this! That's a half-naked woman! This is terrible!"

B&N Worker: "Actually that person is biologically male"

Concerned Parent: "Oh, then that's fine"

There's also an interesting comment in the story about women in his line of work don't like him all that much--because he's too good of a competitor! Besides these larger issues of what society thinks, however, I also thought it was really interesting how Andrej himself thinks about his unique gender-bending role. He is biologically male, and his body is "normal" in that respect. He creates his image through a combination of cosmetics and a strict dietary/exercise regimen. For him, gender is understandably a very fluid concept. He describes how can feel like one and then the other. Interestingly, he doesn't argue that gender is arbitrary or some kind of "spectrum" on which he falls near the middle. He sees it still it as a binary, just one which he may cross over at any time. Yet, at the very end of the article, he says, "I don't want to be a girl, but I like to dress like one." Thus, although Andrej may at times "feel" like a woman, he still clings to his personal identity as a man.

You might also find this link interesting, where FHM listed Andrej as the 98th sexiest "women" in the world...oops!:

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