Thursday 17 November 2011
I have cross-dressed only once. It was for a social awareness project that one of my graphic designer friends had chosen. It was a horrifying experience. I was a horrifying experience. Stockings, high heels, hideous skirts and tarty tops aside, I could barely breathe. I fell off my platforms down a flight of stairs and felt like Tori in Playboy Mommy.
With the added benefit of a sprained ankle (and the terribly restrictive clothes) I hobbled almost like Courtney Love to the location of the photo shoot. I didn’t have to be in front of the camera to feel like I was on display. Everything I wore felt like a display item. I had to be terribly careful of how I sat, walked, the way I conducted myself. I had to make sure makeup didn’t smudge. I was for the first time acutely aware that unless you dress in a curtain just draping over everything, that you really have to be mindful to avoid wardrobe malfunctions and exposing yourself unladylike (for whatever that means).
Last shot was taken of me, concussed drag queen, lying in a bath with my legs dangling out, sort of like I was thrown in, like a deadweight large and uncomfortable mess. One of the assistants shouted something along the lines of “maak toe meisie!”
Despite the obvious disturbing nuances of gender-based violence and identity-based hate crimes, which was the theme of the social awareness project by the way, I realised there was another evil at play: the Patriarchy enforcing itself on the female with something as simple as clothes.
We take clothes for granted. We obsess about this matching that and fashion and other practicalities, but we never or hardly ever examine clothes as a social construct. We take for granted the rules clothes impose on us, maintaining the status quo and keeping the masses submissive.
I could feel, tangibly, how the male gaze and the accompanying sexist mind-set was imposed upon me. I realise on a daily basis how the power asymmetry is enforced by fashion, de rigueur, norms, traditions, heterosexism and an array of prejudices. I can see women subverting themselves by projecting gender norms and patriarchal structures upon other women, while feeling superior doing so. It never ceases to amaze.
Take a look at what you are wearing. Now stop thinking of it as a fashion statement. Think of it as an employment uniform of sorts, like a doctor’s scrubs, like a prison jumpsuit, like a curtain. These “garments” each have its own social significance and connotations. It is not by chance that doctors are required to dress formally, it is all about perception.
I feel rather restricted in formal wear required for work and cannot wait to get out of it each day. Why do we do that? If I were a woman I would have scoffed at the patriarchal hegemony and its requirements and impositions. Alas I am not. I am writing as an outsider. Women out there, you really know what it is like, why don’t we discuss this more? Will we be relinquished if we at least know and are aware but nevertheless remain oppressed? Something to think about…
[picture: copyright © Simoni Crause 2002]
An amazing evening of music, hosted by Mr Gay South Africa ™ 2011 finalist AleXander Steyn, titled Artists Against Hate Speech was held at Thaba Ya Batswana on Wednesday 9 November 2011. The serenity of the scenic venue opposite the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in Johannesburg South matched the event’s inherent message of love and peace.
Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Samantha Cowen from 94.7 Highveld Stereo. The line-up featured poignant performances by NX, The Brunettes, aleXander Steyn, Andre Smuts, Belinda van Zwijndrecht, Tessa Denton, Ferdi & Dihan, Ansua and E3N.
The event was organised by AleXander as a fundraiser for the South African Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SA GLAAD) to promote an environment of respect for human rights and equality.
“My wish is to put together a variety concert for this cause, to make people aware of what our rainbow nation needs – peace, love and respect for all races, genders and sexualities,” said AleXander just before the event.
“Many artists throughout the years, from Live Aid onwards have used their unique status to promote causes such as famine-prevention, human rights advancement; to advocate for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi or to work for a more just society,” said Cobus Fourie of SA GLAAD.
“The current state of public discourse in South Africa especially regarding freedom of speech has been pushed in an unfortunate direction and the public has to be made aware that rights need to be constantly and jealously guarded. Jefferson famously said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Fourie continued.
[picture: copyright aleXander Steyn 2011]