If only you hadn’t ended up with an ad campaign that actually features (mostly) White women wearing stereotypical racial and cultural drag to depict all those exotic non-Westernized countries.
Tell us: what do you think of Attorney-General George Brandis’ statement that people “have a right to be bigots”?
The Attorney-General’s Department is seeking submissions and feedback on the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. Read more & share your thoughts here: http://bit.ly/1gkWxW0
Comic with thanks to Cathy Wilcox!
FEMININITY IN MEN IS A FORM OF POWER
BY DIRIYE OSMAN
When I first told my friends that I would be wearing a pearl-studded mock-Elizabethan gown for the cover of my book, “Fairytales For Lost Children”, they were doubtful. In the past I had flirted with androgyny by wearing women’s jewellery and a dash of perfume but I had never worn a dress. To my friends, though the notion of a man wearing a dress meant having an extra pair of balls, it seemed essentially perverse. But to me the idea made perfect sense. My book was about gay Somalis exploring their sexual identities and gender roles, so why not riff on these motifs by donning a jewel-encrusted queen’s dress?
I liked the flamboyant cheekiness of the concept, but when I went to the costumier for my first fitting that sense of cheekiness gave way to something more dynamic and surprising. As the costumier strapped me into the corset I didn’t feel constricted. Instead, I felt – and looked - ice-cool, sensual, striking, powerful, virile.
In ‘Against Interpretation and Other Essays,’ Susan Sontag argues that, “What is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.” To me, this is the most elegant breakdown of the Jungian theory of anima and animus – the feminine principle within men and the masculine principle within women.
Some of our most influential cultural figures – David Bowie, Grace Jones and Prince in particular – have straddled this dichotomy for decades. Miles Davis summed up Prince’s visceral sex appeal as such: “He’s got that raunchy thing, almost like a pimp and a bitch all wrapped up in one image, that transvestite thing.”
In Somali culture hyper-masculinity is the most desired attribute in men. Femininity signifies softness, a lightness of touch: qualities which are aggressively pressed onto young girls and women. When a woman does not possess feminine traits it is considered an act of mild social resistance. This applies equally to men who are not overtly masculine but the stakes are considerably amplified. If a Somali man is considered feminine he is deemed weak, helpless, pitiful: the underlying message being that femininity is inherently inferior to masculinity.
Variants of this thinking extend across most cultures, belief systems, races and sexualities: Western gay culture is as obsessed with exaggerated masculine traits as the patriarchs of Somali clans. Femininity is predominantly perceived as an unappealing quality, a cancelling-out of hyper-valorised masculine traits, with effemiphobia reaching its natural end-point on the online gay dating circuit with the infamous ‘No fems’ or ‘be straight-acting’ tags that pop up on most profiles.
In the case of gay men one could argue that decades if not centuries of stigmatization have created a culture of conformity fuelled by internalized homophobia: the accusation – and it is framed as an accusation – that same-sex-attracted men fail to be authentically masculine has left an enduring mark. But where does that leave everyone else who doesn’t fit the ‘straight-acting’ tag? After all weren’t the Stonewall riots, the birth of the gay civil rights movement, kick-started by the transgender community, drag queens and effeminate young men – the most outcast members of the gay community? Shouldn’t they be our heroes?
The case for effemiphobia often hinges on a threadbare argument against ‘camp’ overexposure. Prominent and popular performers like Paul O’ Grady, Graham Norton and Alan Carr are constantly cited as stereotypes of what an imagined mainstream society wants from their gay performers: flamboyant, with outsized, unthreatening and mostly desexualised personalities. But it takes a tremendous amount of chutzpah to be as charming, cheeky and exuberant as O’Grady, Norton and Carr have been throughout their careers. Each of these performers has mined his experience as an effeminate gay man into comedic gold, and each one is now giggling all the way to the bank.
The position of these men as wealthy performers, however, obscures their outlier statuses, and their success is not an accurate representation of the daily stigma and abuse that many feminine men, whether gay, bisexual, asexual or straight, have had to endure from the straight community and certain sections of the LGBT community.
The American writer, Dan Savage, who co-created the “It Gets Better Campaign” to tackle the issue of suicides amongst gay teenagers who were being bullied because of their sexual orientation, put it succinctly: “It’s often the effeminate boys and the masculine girls, the ones who violate gender norms and expectations, who get bullied.“
I contemplated these issues as I toiled with my dress to the photographer’s studio. The outfit was heavier than I expected and I was sweating by the time I arrived. After I mopped myself down and gathered myself together the makeup artist helped me get into the dress. As she laced my corset I thought how strange it was that I, an African man living in the 21st century, would willingly strap myself into the kind of constricting garments that European women had fought so hard to resist a hundred years ago. I remained ambivalent until my makeup was done, until I glanced in the mirror and saw something I had never seen within myself before: a sense of poise, daring even. I had morphed from a shy, timid young man into someone who was bold, unafraid to take risks. I stood before the camera and gazed directly at the lens. There was no need for validation. The photographer didn’t have to give me directions. I knew what I was doing. I struck confident pose after pose, proud of the fact that there was a hard-won sense of power in my femininity.
Diriye Osman is photographed by Boris Mitkov.
RISE, "Australia day" and boats -
RISE does not endorse any movement that claims to be pro-refugee but celebrates “Australia day”. To link our community to such events and white-wash this history is not just insensitive to the indigenous communities of Australia but also to most of us from refugee/asylum seeker communities who…
Beautifully curated hearts, here’s just a small selection:
50 PRIVILEGES I HAVE AS A MINORITY -
Some people say I have “Minority Privilege.” Here is a list I complied of 50 Black Male Minority Privileges I’ve experienced in the twenty-four years of my life. Feel free to pick and choose from the ones you would like to possibly incorporate. There is enough to go around for everyone.
Stay with us.
We say these words as rituals. But never casually. For to be disposable means we can never be casual about our ongoing vulnerability. We can never be casual about our disposability. About the ease with which a killing world hunts for killable bodies and relishes the killing.
They make you ashamed of your rage.
They call you the angry black man,
The hysterical woman,
The paranoid Jew.
They make you stand in fire,
Then complain when you yell about the heat.
“What are you playing the race card for?” -
But I have never known a membership card
That has closed so many doors.
They cause or prolong your pain,
Then tell you how it should be expressed;
If you don’t do so politely,
Then your case will be dismissed -
They talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you,
Talk over you -
Then get surprised when you shout.
They don’t think:
“We ignored them,
So they had to scream it out.”
For this is what The First Law of Privilege dictates:
That what to you is daily strife
Is, to them, mere debate.
"Black bodies in America continue to be reduced to their surfaces and to stereotypes that are constricting and false, that often force those black bodies to move through social spaces in ways that put white people at ease. We fear that our black bodies incite an accusation. We move in ways that help us to survive the procrustean gazes of white people. We dread that those who see us might feel the irrational fear to stand their ground rather than “finding common ground,” a reference that was made by Bernice King as she spoke about the legacy of her father at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
The white gaze is also hegemonic, historically grounded in material relations of white power: it was deemed disrespectful for a black person to violate the white gaze by looking directly into the eyes of someone white. The white gaze is also ethically solipsistic: within it only whites have the capacity of making valid moral judgments.”