Yessum- very long time no see. So much has happened. I am now, like always, gonna desperately try to kick-start my arse back into the blogspot... but then again my silence, has a lot of course has to do with my accessibility behind The Great Firewall of China which is only penetrable with this here vpn... but don't tell anyone. China will surely blast these vpn's into bits before you can say Facebook!
The New Androgynous Military or my cross dressing son
My two-year-old son is frequently mistaken for being a girl. At first I thought it was his longish hair. Since his birth we deliberately didn’t cut it, leaving him with a floppy mane of golden locks that gave him that 70’s surfer look, and revealed his true free spirit. Unfortunately his, over-protective, and less aesthetic obsessed, grandmother took it upon herself to redesign his fleece, in order, she justified, to keep it out of his eyes. The haggard bob that she sculpted from his once beautiful tresses horrified us into taking him to the barber for a real boy’s cut, which I thought would inevitably change people’s perception of him. But it didn’t. People still continue to mistake him for a girl. Now I tell him that he should just drop his drawers the next time a 老太太 pinches his cheek and calls him a 小妹妹.
My son’s hair and charismatic cherub-like lusciousness aside, he was almost always sporting at least one article of camouflage clothing during these confrontations. A pattern, I presumed, that would invariably signal a sense of belligerence, machismo, maleness, virility, and ultimately of being a BOY. Furthermore he has not one pink item in his wardrobe, a color that somehow, has become the international signifier of girl-ness. However you interpret basic dress codes between the sexes I was sure that camouflage and pink would stand at opposing ends of the spectrum. Yet, it’s curious to imagine that at the turn of the century in America this rule was flipped. The Ladies Home Journal of 1918 advocates that “pink, being bolder, is more suitable for the boy.” And certainly men have been wearing pink in surfeit since Miami Vice made it masculine again, after a half-millennium hiatus, in the 1980s. So as I witness the indoctrination of my little son into socially prescribed, sexually–correct clothing conventions I realize that they are more than ever blurred, not only by the schizophrenic nature of history or the rapid and ultimately recurring cycles of fashion, but by a larger movement in society towards the unisex.
While I presumed my son’s camouflaged canvas shoes would keep him out of the girl’s room it has become increasingly difficult to decipher the boundary between men’s and women’s fashion. The overwhelming identification of China’s post-80 generation with Chaonv’s tomboy Li Yuchun seems to have signaled a developing sense of the androgynous in society. Boys and girls sport the same eye flap hairdo, pencil pants, sharp angled tops, and new wave accessories. Along with attire, attitudes and physiques also veer towards the center. There is something post-sexual about it, perhaps zenlike, with Yoga and Pilates shaping the bodies and spirits of both sexes. It’d be interesting to see this widening of the boundary between sexes as an anti-marketing, anti-capital trend. A egalitarian way to snub the noses of fashion houses bent on making two separate lines of clothes, and campaigns to market them. But what exactly is the prescription inherent in this androgynous trend? Certainly my wife wears my sweaters, but how can I get into her summer dresses? Is the dynamic of androgyny a one-way road? Women become manlier but men can only become so feminine without stepping completely out of convention… for now. Either way, like my son - mistaken as daughter in camouflage, the recent trend of military inspired designs for women probes this movement towards the middle.
Writing this I cannot help but think of the never-ending controversy in America of gays in the military. It was never a question of how to be feminine while wearing a uniform. A female officer, and moreover one holding a rifle, evokes a strong sexual charge. But it’s peculiar that this current surge in military informed fashion comes at what may be the most peaceful time in recorded human history. Certainly the hippies of the 1960s would wear army clothes in protest of armed conflict. But then again, is this current trend, in some psycho-obsessed way, a manifestation of desire for armed conflict or at least the signification thereof? Or maybe it’s the excess of information in our media obsessed times that makes the presence of violence, military violence, echo from every corner of the planet; seeping into our subconscious and channeled into our fashions. The winner of this year’s Oscar, Hurt Locker might be the next cue for fashionistas worldwide. Watch out next winter for ballooning, bomb squad, jump suits for women. Certainly my son will be wearing one.