This post complements the ‘Welcome to the Sex Stereotype Clinic‘ piece published on 4W.pub. It is based on a speech delivered in front of the UN CEDAW expert committee. In previous presentations, I had looked at how speech is used by men to define womanhood, in this one I’m looking at how sight and images are used to define womanhood, hence the supplement.
The disease is growing, it’s epidemic
I’m scared that there ain’t a cure
The world believes it, and I’m going crazy
I cannot take anymore
I’m so glad that I’ll never fit in
That will never be me
Outcasts and girls with ambition
That’s what I wanna see
A man is a man.
Dese yankee girl give me big scare,
Is black de root, is blonde de hair.
Her eyelash false, her face is paint,
And pads are where de girl she ain’t
She jitterbug when she should waltz,
I even think her name is false.
But calypso girl is good a lot,
Is what you see, is what she got.
Don George / Nat King Cole
[In the scene where D’Angelo Barksdale teaches Bodie and Wallace how to play chess]
Bodie: So how do you get to be the king?
D’angelo Barksdale: It ain’t like that. See, the king stay the king. Everything stay who he is.
The first picture is a screenshot from Ariana Grande’s ‘7 rings‘ clip. The cat ears are reminecent of the puppy or cat filter used on snapchat (see second photo). The third photo is a screenshot from a Vogue article on celebrities’ best animal filters. The ad on the right of the screen direct readers to a video to learn how to wear make up to look like filters. The final picture is a screenshot from the TV series Years and Years. In that scene the teenage girl announces to her parents that she is ‘transhuman’ and that she is going to ‘become digital’, by living in the cloud.
From hysteria to dysphoria
It’s not stereotypes that are under attack but women. This inversion is reminiscent of hysteria where women reacting to the unjust political order were told they were ill — when it was a perfectly sane reaction to a completely sick world. Yesterday, women diagnosed with hysteria underwent ‘uterine massages‘; today, girls dissatisfied with women’s condition are referred to “gender identity clinics” which are nothing but sex stereotype clinics that try to cure with the disease. Imaginary cures for an imaginary disease, all the while leaving stereotypes unfettered.
(Source image 1, image 2)
Images above (in order): Eurovision legends at the 2019 show, from left to right: Conchita Wurst (2014 winner, Austria), Måns Zelmerlöw (2015 winner, Sweden), Gali Atari (1979 winner, Israel), Eleni Foureira (2007 runner-up, Greece) and Verka Serduchka (2007 runner-up, Ukraine); ‘The Gender Spectrum‘.
Above: Screenshots from the ‘Confetti‘ videoclip featuring drag queens, stereotypes and displays of wealth.
Spot the difference
Previous image: screenshot from Cardi B’s ‘WAP‘ clip. Above: image from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
In Beauty and Misogyny, Sheila Jeffreys had shown how pastel colours were used more often for women than men in fashion. Liliana Ricci considers Barbie pink (see Paris Hilton below) as a symbol of artificiality as it is a colour tone that does not exist in nature: women are fake, so it is easy to fake a woman.
The ‘gender revolution’ is led by the fashion industry.
Clockwise from left: covers of the special National Geographic issue on gender; the ironic campaign by UN against stereotypes, “UNstereotype”, featuring a man, Munroe Bergdorf, claiming womanhood by resorting to stereotypes associated to women; a screenshot of Munroe Bergdorf’s essay on how fashion helps him define his identity.
Spot the difference 3
While in the US or the UK, chest binding is a tool of expression, in parts of Cameroon, it is associated to breast ironing. The first picture is a screenshot from a “gender expression and affirming” store, the second a photo of a very young girl who underwent breast ironing, the third is a screenshot of a young teenage girl binding her breasts.
When sex stereotypes are a source of creation or even recreation as queer theory argues, these harmful practices become the only way to define sex, no longer perceived as primordial. In other words, if women today wear heels, then wearing heels is the way to become a woman. Practices makes sex.
It is then easy to argue that since women are raped, rape defines women and whomever is raped is a woman. Andrea Long-Chu: ‘Getting fucked makes you female because fucked is what a female is’. Ergo men define women. So good to have travelled a long way to stay home.
Spot the difference 4
On the left, type III female sexual mutilation. On the right, ‘nullification‘ surgery to become ‘non-binary’.
Ben böyle kalsam? (Can I stay like this?)
After telling her she looks like she came from a gulag, Turkish drag star Huysuz Virjin (grumpy virgin) forces singer Yıldız Tilbe, who was scouted at a pavyon (a mix between a bar and a brothel) to wear wigs and jewels, in an attempt to get her to fit stereotypes attributed to women. She does so unwillingly, asking if she just couldn’t be as she is, but the male presenter proceeds anyway. Her distress is visible in the first picture. In the end, Yıldız Tilbe removes her wig with the public’s wide acclaim (‘We like you however you look like!’) and says in her soft beautiful voice: ‘I can’t sing with this on’.
Video from 1997 available here.