Everyone Wants a Piece of This


While the mulling over the concept of modeling is its own juggernaut that I don’t feel I know enough about to take on in this venue, I did want to take a look at an article that I’ve noticed circulating online lately.

It’s subject is Andrej Pejic, a Serbian model from Australia who happens to be transgender. Evidently his transgendered look has seized the fascination of the fashion world, which has become all the rage as he models both men’s and women’s fashion and model agencies have experienced an influx of transgendered hopefuls.

His success has been chalked up to the novelty of his “guys look like girls” look. Or as stylist Kyle Anderson puts it, “He’s just this beautiful thing that everyone wants a piece of.”

Which is where the novelty suddenly ends. Usually the objectification and commodification of a human body is not put so bluntly, but that basically sums the culture of the fashion world and all who freely partake of it: “beautiful things” available for mass consumption by a voyeuristic audience. And this is normal and acceptable, and people willingly subject themselves to it.

Yet Pejic’s uniqueness (which probably won’t last long if the “transgendered look” becomes all the rage– androgyny has long been cherished as beautiful in “high fashion”), as a fashion model, as a human being, is subjected to the same processes which turn all models into generic, harmless, accessible, and consumable “beauty fodder”. hook’s “pornographic gaze” (in this case both male and female) can partake of Pejic in the same way they partake of all other reduced, even formless, personalities in fashion.

Perhaps the only novelty here is the increasing normality of the hypersexualization of males (from what I could glean, Pejic self-identifies as male), including the cooption of male sexuality– though it is, in fairness, often portrayed as feminine/female and hetero- sexuality.

Even a glance at Pejic’s portfolio reveals to us that while this is the hypersexualization of male entities, it is not masculine hypersexualization. Rather it is the hypersexualization of feminine sexuality as portrayed by a male entity. Nothing new there, either.

According to the article, Pejic’s status and beauty have likewise been appropriated by the LGBT community, under the premise of celebrating the diversification and increasing tolerance of difference within the realm of fashion. I see this as misguided: must we settle for the exploitative commodification of our gendered (whatever that may be) selves to gain “acceptance” or tolerance?

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4 thoughts on “Everyone Wants a Piece of This

  1. Despite what I agree to be a more fundamental issue of the objectification/commodification of the human body, I think that the growing popularity of models with the “transgendered” look is actually a very good thing.

    I had never seen the actual pictures until I read your post, but one of my friends once mentioned that a transgendered model was one of “the most beautiful things [they] had ever seen”. This friend was a guy who found themselves attracted to this model (or one like him), and was inspired enough to further pursue the topic of gender. It challenged his perception of his own sexuality. It may not masculine hypersexualization, but that is exactly the point. Challenging ideas of sexuality makes it easier to challenge the idea of sexuality itself.

    I think you’re right to suggest that simply moving past commodification would be best, but that goal seems far off. It would be wrong to imagine that the rise of transgendered fashion is a satisfactory endpoint. It is simply a step along the way. I believe that a world with models such as this is more diverse and accepting than a world dominated by models that fit within traditional gender roles.

    Just to clarify, I despise pretty much everything that the fashion world embraces. That said, I believe the LGBT community to be right in embracing this as a step towards furthering acceptance and diversification.

    Do I believe this to be enough? No.

    I will, however, also embrace this as a step in the right direction.

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    • Hey! Sorry for the late reply.

      Your point is absolutely well-taken, although I would disagree that transgendered models challenge traditional gender roles. This is because they are not shaped or depicted in a way that “feminizes” masculinity, or “masculinizes” femininity, or otherwise portrays gender modes in a way that is different from the status quo. Rather, Pejic and other “guys look like girls” models are still being dressed up (literally and figuratively) as girls when they are intended to look feminine, and like boys when they are intended to look masculine. For instance, from the article: “In the Gaultier men’s show, a pistol-packing, bare-chested Pejic wore a sleek black suit as “James Blonde. That was in stark contrast with the women’s show, where Gaultier crowned Pejic with the prized piece in the women’s wear collection: a couture bride’s dress.” Even ‘Out’ (the LGBT magazine) featured him on their cover in a bridal veil, looking womanly and feminine.

      On the other hand, your story about your friend gives me a lot of food for thought. Thanks for the brain fodder! ;)

      (And, really? You despise the fashion world’s ideals? Gee, I took you for someone who watched America’s Next Top Model marathons. Just kidddiiinngg!!) :P

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      • Well, the effect that I think it has on gender roles is that it challenges the way we interact with them. I think our interaction with gender roles is as fundamental as the roles themselves. If someone can accept a man demonstrating feminine sexuality, or a woman demonstrating masculine sexuality, then it’s much easier to accept other forms of “role reversal.”

        I guess I’m approaching it as more of a step-by-step process. I would predict that the acceptance that any given individual need not be pigeon-holed into a given category is a step towards the acceptance that gender roles are a bullshit social construct and can be discarded. This may not challenge the nature of the roles themselves, but I believe this to be a catalyst towards that end.

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      • My friend Eileen was just talking to me about something related to this. She was saying that you can’t teach Square One people at a Square Five level… I see her point, and I see yours, I think it’s just difficult for me to accept. Five or six years ago, when I was just starting to think seriously about gender and race and so forth instead of just daydreaming in the classroom about it, Square Five people were a rough reality. But if Square Five people hadn’t started challenging me, I would never have gone beyond the daydream. That’s sound arrogant, I suppose, but I think progress is subjective– progress is only progress if it fits your desired agenda. So, to many people, I’ve taken steps backwards. Anyway, I see what you’re saying, I just dispute that the ends justifies the means, and I also fear that people will accept Square Two as all the farther they desire to go.

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