Remembering My Hat

10th March 2010

More about the picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 16:49
Tags: , , ,

A reader commented that they didn’t like the picture I’d used in the last entry:

Women in a tuxedo

Their point (I hope I’m not misrepresenting) was that it’s a stereotype of what a lesbian looks like, and that it marginalises lesbians who do not identify with that sort of image. 

I can entirely see where they are coming from. The person in the picture has short hair and seems to be wearing what is conventionally seen as men’s clothing. This is entirely consonant with the idea that lesbians are masculine, an idea with a genealogy in sexology back to Inverts and doubtless beyond.

There are reasons I like the picture which aren’t so much to do with gender/sexuality politics (I like her grin, I like the colour contrasts of the black-and-white and the bright pink, although pink to denote (presumably) female gender is a bit obvious, I like it as a positive representation of an older person). But the commenter made me think about why I do also like it for political reasons.

I read the person in the picture as playing with/queering/performing gender (Judith Butler would be proud of me). With that sort of lens, a (presumed) woman wearing men’s clothes is transgressive, rather than stereotypical.

But of course that’s a classic problem with that sort of take – to what extent is it possible to play with gender without ending up perpetuating exactly the stereotypes you are wanting to challenge?

How do you deal with the possible gap between the reader/viewer’s perceptions and the player/do-ers intentions and meanings?

And what difference does the person’s claimed and perceived identities make?  I don’t know the person in the picture’s sexual and gender identity, but my guess, from what was being taken-for-granted at the seminar, is that she identifies as lesbian and female. If I imagine her to be bi and/or some type of trans, that style of dressing reads differently and more clearly as transgressive, to my mind.

But other people might not read it like that, and then what do you do?

(I have no answers, I’m just interested in the dilemmas.)

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