In 2011 are boys girls and girls boys?

By Tarn McConville

2010 was declared the year of the "transsexual" by Time magazine. Is 2011 the year when "boys will be girls and girls will be boys"?

Androgyny is the new black. The fashion industry is stuck in the latest craze that has created a storm; a wind stirring not only the industry but the world at large.

At its centre is model Andrej Pejic.

He's fresh and young with long platinum-blond hair many women would die for.

Most would take one look and think he is a girl. But you couldn't be blamed as more often than not he is modelling womenswear.

Pejic became a star after seducing the crowds as a tulle-draped bride for Jean Paul Gaultier. Designers love his "versatility" and the media feed on controversy. Although Pejic is far from the first androgynous model to strut a cat walk, he is an extreme example, placing gender ambiguity back in the spotlight.

So are "femi-men" the follow-on from "metro-sexuals"? Is this an evolution that is moulding the men of the future?

Or as a reader of commented, is this the accelerated "decline of Western civilisation"?

Many Westerners regard the idea of men dressing in women's clothes as morally outrageous and disturbing. However, in many parts of Asia seeing a man walking down the street in a skirt doesn't raise an eyebrow. Western societies are undeniably reserved.

People staring aghast seem to forget the recent past. Just take a look at the rockers of the 1970s and 80s, Kiss, Van Halen and Motley Crue, whose inspirational tunes were delivered amid a hazy spray of silky straightened hair, midriff tops, heavy makeup and the strategic deployment of hotpants.

These rockers empowered people around the world and defied the stereotypical ideas surrounding sexuality.

Then there's David Bowie, a revolutionary force who pushed the boundaries of gender ambiguity to a whole new level. Most of his career was spent blithely ignoring strict gender rules, playing with every aspect of his image, thus suggesting sex was something else and proving that androgyny can be perfectly mainstream.

But there is cause for concern when androgynous male models are held up as the epitome of femininity as determined by high fashion: no hips, no chest, wafer thin with silky skin.

If they resemble a woman, she's not one I've ever met.

It is accepted by health practitioners that the beauty standards set by glossy magazines have an extremely negative impact on women's wellbeing. With one in five women suffering from an eating disorder, who can deny that the fashion industry's "ideal woman" has anything to do with it?

When it comes to models, it pays to remember that androgyny is about as "natural" as anything else in the fashion world; that is, not very.

One online writer stated she is "not interested in pretty clothes that are made to fit a man's body, because no matter how hard I want them to go away or how hard I try, my hips aren't going anywhere and I don't want them to". Women need to remember that what appears on TV and in magazines does not determine the way they should look. We should all accept ourselves, as it's what's on the inside that counts.

We are all born different. The greatest success is being you. So let us make 2011 the year when individuality is the new black.

Tarn McConville, Year 12, St Cuthbert's College

- NZ Herald

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