jadensmith My eyebrow arched with considerable alacrity while reading the title of this opinion piece from The Independent

(‘Jaden Smith as a new face of womenswear might seem progressive – but he’s on transgender territory.’)  While reading and fighting the loss of my irony meter (boundaries not being respected…) said brow remained frozen in place at how amazingly silly the authors points are.  Let’s get started.

   “So, it’s been announced that 17-year-old Jaden Smith, son of American actor Will Smith, is to be the new face of Louis Vuitton clothes. To be more specific, the womenswear section. And  I didn’t even know they had an old face – clearly I’m out of the fashion loop.”

[…]

“Jaden seems to be up for this gender-neutral, equal clothing rights thing which allows men to wear women’s clothes without any fear of ridicule.  But there is another, more important issue afoot.”

Another important issue?  Hmmm… Considering that a major fashion label is promoting gender non-conforming behaviour, this issue must be very important indeed.

“There’s a reason why men wear men’s clothes and women wear women’s clothes, and why they are generally so different.  OK, I know women have been wearing trousers for decades but they’re usually a femme version of the male equivalent – and I’m not talking about unisex clothes like jeans and t-shirts. 

I’m talking about basic clothes norms that depict which gender is wearing them, even in the modern world.  Stereotypically, men wear trousers and women wear dresses and skirts.  That’s the ‘norm’ and it’s more than that – it’s a uniform.”

The argument for why gender norms are good for you is about to be made.  Please keep in mind that gender is a hierarchy designed to distinguish the dominant class from the submissive class and that said gender hierarchy is toxic for both women and men.

So the author states that clothes have a normative value in distinguishing between the two biological sexes.

“When you get out of bed in the morning the most important thing you have to do all day is tell the world what your gender is, because from that, everything else flows.”

Really?  I thought the most important thing in the world is my first cup of coffee.  Coffee addiction aside, I might suggest that the most important thing in the world is agreeing to be kind to those around you, and trying to a creative, productive member of society.  Following a codified notion of gender would seem to be in sync with the sexist stereotyping feminists have fought against (and continue to fight against) for decades.

“You may think that your job is to be an office supervisor or a stockbroker or police officer but these are all human constructs.  Deep down your real job is to reproduce, and showing other humans your gender is the first step on that path.”

Wow.  Gender essentialism for $500 please Alex.  Reproduction takes place on the idea of sexual attraction – specifically heterosexual attraction.  We invented this thing we call gender on this basis and from this sprang the constructed societal norms we expect women and men to perform.  These constructed roles are not written in stone, nor are they necessarily correct.

“So, to help make it plain for anyone to see which gender you are, you put on a uniform.  Men put on trousers and have men’s haircuts, and women put on dresses and skirts, feminine tops and tights and women’s shoes to show their femininity and declare to the world that they are female.”

None of these ‘declarations’ are necessary.  Society, as a whole, can generally identify male bodies and female bodies without the gendered stereotypes mentioned here.  Again, the author sounds as if perpetuating these stereotypes is somehow beneficial to society.

“They have women’s hair-dos and they put use cosmetics to make themselves look nicer and more presentable and to reinforce the female uniform a bit more.”

Really?  Compulsory femininity for the winz?  I can’t even…

“Male-to-female transgender people rely on props like clothes, shoes, make-up and hairstyles to create the gender identity they want to portray to the world because most of the time their bodies alone are unable to do that.  There are a few lucky ones who don’t have to do a thing to put across a female persona, but most trans women have to work hard at it.

The danger for trans women is that if wearing what are traditionally women’s clothes becomes the norm for men too, then trans women will no longer be able to rely on these props to help them display a female gender identity – and for many, that could be a serious problem.”

Read those two paragraphs carefully.  The author is defending the harmful hierarchical system of gender and gender roles.  Quite the conservative stance, no?  Gender non-conforming behaviour (going against the system that is bad for all of us) is being portrayed as a threat to those rely on traditional gendered roles to express themselves.

If your inner rad-fem isn’t blowing a lobe by now, then Huston, we have a problem.  But wait, it gets better.

“But trans people should be aware that well-known faces like Jaden Smith are starting to encroach on our territory.  They’re starting to wear the trans uniform without actually stating that they are transgender, and they’re claiming it for themselves under the guise of gender-neutral fashion.”

Yep, Jaden Smith is encroaching on trans territory because he’s not conforming to the gender hierarchy.  His gender non-conforming behaviour challenges the socially constructed norms of what is for men, and what is for women a.k.a actions that subvert the norm as opposed to the author’s defence of supporting the toxic gender hierarchy.

“All of which begs the question: where does that leave us?”

Reading further that question is quite clearly answered in the article from the ‘other side’ of the story:

“Jaden Smith isn’t wearing a dress because he wants to identify as female; he’s wearing a dress because he rejects strict gender norms. And if someone identifies as something other than ‘male’ or ‘female’, and they feel comfortable and happy in doing so, then I struggle to see why we should support that sort of expression being stifled.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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