Friday, September 17, 2010

Heteronormativity, and lack thereof

Tonight's Project Runway delighted me in several ways: Tim Gunn firmly insisting that Jackie Kennedy would NOT have camel toe was a definite highlight. I was also quite pleased to see Mondo win, and I enjoyed Ivy's design -- great to see that she's returning to the neutral, ethereal, and yet sharply cut. I liked the idea of Andy's pants (execution and styling were, admittedly, lacking). Most of all, I enjoyed Mondo's own outfit: short shorts and a white tank top, with suspenders, knee socks, and tons of eyeliner. When asked, Mondo said that he was inspired by Cotton Club, and did a little tap dance. This is also the same person who put a mustache on his model during the Treacy challenge.

This is where it struck me: I do love Mondo's design, but I also adore his refusal to behave in heteronormative ways -- much like I enjoy the same trait in Johnny Weir (who recently made an appearance on Rachel Zoe, OMG). And really, having people like them on national TV is a big deal -- it is important to see the diversity of gender presentation (and people happily adopting behaviors usually associated with the opposite gender) in order for this diversity to become normalized. Interestingly enough, it seems more normalized in fashion industry: in last week's Rachel Zoe Project episode, there was a fashion crisis involving Johnny Weir showing up to an event and finding out that someone else wore the exact same outfit. Zoe's staffer, Brad, flies to the rescue, and asks Johnny if he'd seen that episode of 90210 where the two girls wear the same dress to the prom. "Of course," Weir replied. "What kind of man would I be if I haven't seen that episode?" "Not a very good one," Brad says.

Both had a jocular manner during that exchange, but it still struck me -- the way these two redefined masculinity rather than refused it. Redefined it to include watching 90210 and caring about prom dresses and high heels as masculine behaviors. This reclaiming and widening of mainstream gender roles strikes me as quite a bit more constructive than simply rejecting the mainstream and retreating into an invisible niche. And what's more mainstream than TV?

Finally, On the Road with Austin and Santino is a hilarious and sweet series. This week's episode started with Austin getting out of the car in his straw hat and carrying a parasol, and shaking hands with a female truck driver. And you know, we need that -- rather than calling this woman 'masculine' or labeling Austin as 'effeminate', we need to see that their gender is not defined by what the mainstream deems gender-appropriate. We don't get to boot people out of their gender for the things they do.

I'm thrilled to see all these things on TV: of course, most of them are on Lifetime, which is commonly dismissed as a chick network. Oh gender normativity, how you vex me.

No comments: