Last week, I stuck a highly subversive poster on the bulletin board over my desk.
At first glance, you might think the poster is a joke. It includes three photos of a man wearing a lovely blue dress and carrying a handbag (Lady Dior, as it turns out). In the centre photo, he stands tall and deadpan, facing the camera head-on as though daring us to laugh. In the others, his stringy blond hair swings as he skips and leaps with abandon.
The man is Iggy Pop, former front-man for a band called the Stooges. At 66, Iggy is considered the grandfather of punk. He still performs—in fact, I saw him a while ago on the Colbert Report. He burst onto the stage wearing jeans and a fluorescent yellow construction vest, which he tore off halfway through the first verse. The audience went crazy for his lean naked torso, the way he twisted and jerked, his raspy voice, his I’ve-done-way-too-much-partying face, and his characteristically rude lyrics. The chorus got stuck in my head for hours afterwards: “I got a job and it don’t pay shit/ I got a job and I’m sick of it.”
Of course, Iggy isn’t the first guy to dress in women’s clothes. There’s the long and glorious reign of drag queens, a flurry of recent projects designed to question gender stereotypes or make political statements, and a new generation that is increasingly gender creative.
Click on the image for the full-size version.
All of these images are powerful, but it’s the caption on Iggy’s poster that makes it truly subversive: “I’m not ashamed to dress ‘like a woman’ because I don’t think it’s shameful to be a woman.”
Sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, and other forms of oppression are fundamentally weak ideas – easily destroyed when we refuse to play the game. Scraped down to their essence, each of these ‘isms’ is built upon the notion of better/worse. According to this infantile view of the world, male is better than female, white is better than black, straight is better than gay, young is better than old, and doesn’t everybody at heart really think the best kind of human is young, straight, white, and male? C’mon you can admit it.
Actually, I think the best kind of human is someone who understands the current stomp-em-dead, hyper-competitive view of the world is dangerous and based upon a distorted view of masculinity that should insult the intelligence of every guy out there. I think the so-called ‘feminine’ traits of collaboration, co-operation, sharing, and listening should be recognized for what they are: basic human skills that are not only equally possible for both men and women, but also essential to our survival.
Because I found it online, I don’t know whether the poster/caption combo is genuine and Iggy is the most unexpected feminist ever, or whether the thing is merely feminist wishful-thinking (as some have said). I don’t care.
I love this poster because it openly laughs at the invisible assumption that drives sexism, and because it reminds me the old ways will vanish in an instant – the moment we choose to be as fearless as Iggy.
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