Angryasianman Homework Sheets

In my post on washroom signs, I noticed that one of the variations on the male-as-universal/female as specific trope was, men are people and women are people with waists.

 

I was reminded of that the other day when I was walking downtown and passed this sculpture, "The Pillars of Justice" in front of a courthouse:


Again the male figures do not have waists and hips.

Then I saw photos from this fashion show, the theme of which was, "men's wardrobe meets women's bodies". Apparently, this is from the designer's ready to wear collection.




The line didn't just consist of stylized menswear - there were a number of skirts and dresses as well


It seems like the idea was to make women look like actual wardrobes.

All of these images illustrate that the construction of gender as a binary extends to the way we think about men's and women's bodies. Men's bodies are hard and angular; women's bodies are soft and curvy.

The thing is, men's and women's bodies aren't all that different. There are differences, yes. But they aren't as different as, say, the fashion show pictured above would have you believe.

Bodies are socially constructed. The hard-and-angular vs. soft-and-curvy dichotomy in particular is socially constructed. In popular images women are dressed, posed, dieted, surgically altered and photoshopped to emphasized curviness.

 

How often do you see guys posed with their hips jutting out? You don't. Men in popular images are dressed, trained, dieted, posed, and photoshopped to look solid, and rectangular.


When we have so many images of photoshopped models apparently illustrating the differences between men's and women's bodies, it can be easy to forget that there is tremendous overlap between the two, and that our bodies are what we make them. Our notions of what gendered bodies ought to look like don't reflect the full range of possibilities.

Both men and women can be "flat" and skinny...

 

... well-toned and broad-shouldered...

 

... muscular and built-up...

 

... heavy...

"Getting ready for the show" by ch3rlie

... or more "average" looking. 

Some cis men can be "curvier" than some cis women.

 

Men's bodies have curves of their own. 

Before anyone starts explaining to me why women's bodies are described as "curvier" than men's, why  abstract representations of men and women are designed they way they are, or anything elses: I already know.

I am suggesting this: The nature of our bodies ought not be taken for granted. To some degree we are born with our bodies. But it is too often overlooked that our bodies are shaped by societal expectations, lifestyle, and individual agency. The supposedly innate difference between men and women in terms of strength and physical capability is constructed. The way we code bodies by sex and gender - soft and hard, curvy and solid - is constructed. In actuality those qualities are not exclusive of each other, and are not exclusive to either sex. There is much more diversity and overlap between men and women than the gender binary allows for. We are the same in many more ways than we are different.

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