Paging through a collection of one small seed magazines, I came across a rather tickling photo shoot entitled South Beach, featured in issue 17, “The Wild Issue”. There is no mistaking its sexual undertone that defies all traditional sense of masculinity.
To be more candid, the narrative is a screaming homophile manifestation; typified by the model’s oiled body glossing the pages and a fluffy rat-like companion complementing the pink midriffs and sailor paraphernalia. This man drenched in feminine inflections got me thinking about the androgynous nature of pop culture and the first iconic gender-benders who upset the conservatives in the early ’70s.
We have moved into an age that transcends the onset of metrosexuality, past the point of David Beckham assuring everyone that it is cool to frost their hair and decorate their ears. I’m talking about the engagement of boy/girl and the fading distinction that still makes the backline of first-team rugby shudder.
One can trace the infiltration of androgyny quite simply throughout the decades. It was first hinted at during the cultural revolution of the ’60s – that era where flowers had powers and we had our first glimpses of long-haired men in flared pants. The general mood of the day was in keeping kaleidoscopes in your eyes, anti-war protests and loving thy neighbour as thoroughly as possible. It wasn’t until the ’70s came swinging in through the svelte hips of Prince and Michael Jackson that new meaning attached itself to the idea of androgyny. Even David Bowie was reincarnated in the form of his androgynous exemplar, Ziggy Stardust. Bowie’s biographer David Buckley declared that Ziggy Stardust ‘created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture’.
As one would expect, the mainstream puppet masters of the ’70s and ’80s tried to rally the population into a climate of fear – in the name of national interest, of course – as their normative values of gender role and behaviour were being challenged. This new league of expressionists were criticised for emulating offensive, communist and even demonic values. And when the folly of those claims were overshadowed by the avalanche of success and popularity of these icons, people felt uncomfortable and quickly eased their awkward selves by equating high-pitched notes and lacy attire with homosexuality.
Isn’t irony the best? Its timely smugness points out that these ‘homosexuals’ have been linked or married to a catalogue of some of the most beautiful women in the world such as Iman, Carmen Electra and Brooke Shields – not to mention the legions of female fans that go to bed at night wishing their love would be requited.
Despite sexy being a word that can no longer be thrown around too liberally (since its decimation as the tagline of advertisers and the C-rate songstress), this celebration of the human is an exception. It has been proven that people who embrace the natural features of masculine (instrumental) and feminine (expressive) traits are more mentally healthy then those who invest solely on one end of the spectrum. Neither manhood nor the idealisation of the lady is under threat. There is simply a shift on consciousness as we begin to realise that emotion has no gender.
words by: Megan King