I’m NC Eakin and I write a blog called Genderqueer Fashionista over on Tumblr. I mostly write advice for people who are both fashion and gender curious. A word I come across very often in my writing and being part of the gender/queer community on Tumblr is the idea of androgyny.
First, to define what I see as a troubling definition of androgyny, I’d like to point to this screen capture of Google image results for “androgynous fashion”:
The results here point out a lot of my contentions with the generally associated idea of androgyny. Androgynous is most often used to describe a person who is FAAB (female assigned at birth, who may or may not identify as female), is white, thin (flat-chested and doesn’t have hips), has short hair, wears masculine clothes, applies little to no makeup, and has no body hair.
I’m surprised to see the number of long-haired people that are visible in this screen capture but I think it’s notable that “Men’s” and “Male” are both separate categories one can browse in this search- showing that androgyny is usually used to describe people we might call women who look less than feminine.
The #androgyny tag on Tumblr highlights this familiar association and I often see posts that comment “The perfect picture of androgyny” with a photo like the ones above and below here.
It’s obvious that this definition is limiting for so many reasons- upholding the single beauty standard of a white/ person of European descent who is thin, hairless, and doesn’t have breasts or hips is something that is well-documented within feminist literature as harmful to developing healthy body image and self-concept. I believe it’s particularly harmful in queer spaces online and off to see that these same ideals are being passed off without question when called androgyny.
I think the solution is to shift our idea about what we can call androgyny. I believe queer people can and do rally around beautiful humans who live their gender in unique and authentic ways that help create new gender options for more than just female-bodied individuals, and that’s is a direction we should aim for. Especially when gender variety is celebrated in tandem with body diversity and racial/ethnic diversity and we all aren’t just trying to fit our wide spectrum of bodies into a single box. Even when that box is constructed to describe a blending of identities, the word itself can hold a limiting meaning. I want to work on talking about something as binary as fashion (where men’s and women’s clothes are a given in any retail outlet) in a less binary way, and I believe that conversation starts with “androgyny.”
I’ll leave you with some beautifully androgynous folks of a wide spectrum of identities who regularly inspire me: