The interpretation from Prada of Eddie Redmayne’s photos showcasing the 2016 fall menswear collection:
“The present moment presents itself as a theatre of history. Prada’s Fall/Winter 2016 Menswear campaign performs this idea in a suite of striking portrait allusions. One of contemporary cinema’s most celebrated actors Eddie Redmayne takes centre stage. Redmayne is no stranger to immersing himself in historically significant characters. His lead roles have won him Tony and Olivier awards for the play Red and an Oscar for The Theory of Everything. Following his Oscar-nominated role in The Danish Girl, later this year sees the anticipated release of JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in which Redmayne stars. Redmayne, here, assumes a number of roles hero, villain, revolutionary either against a neutral grey background, or a rich red split by a romanticist view of idealized nature. The poses are strident and statuesque.They echo the mannerisms of protagonists in great museum collections or epic literature, makers of history and cultural memory.”
This happened in my graduate class and I want you all to know that you do have a voice and you do have an input on your education. Just because something has been published does not mean that it is accurate.
After last night’s class, I feel it is necessary to address a large oversight that I did not feel comfortable confronting during my peers’ presentation. My issue is not with the presenting group as I know they were instructed to use the assigned textbook to assist with their presentation. Rather, my issue lies with the text itself. In chapter one (page 29) of Julia T. Wood’s Gendered Lives, the textbooks states:
“Cross-dresser, or transvestites, enjoy wearing clothing of the other sex. A transvestite may wear just one or two articles of clothing associated with the other sex or may dress completely, from underwear to outerwear and accessories, in the other sex’s clothing. Some cross-dressers wear the other sex’s clothes to express gender identities inconsistent with their sex. Some find the novelty of cross-dressing fun or pleasurable; some find it sexually arousing to wear clothes generally worn by the other sex. The great majority of cross-dressers are biological, heterosexual males (Docter & Prince, 1997).”
To be honest, I was appalled to hear the group present this and even more horrified to see it had been printed in a 2015 edition of a graduate textbook. As you may or may not be aware, the terms “transvestite” and “cross-dresser” have gathered strongly negative connotations and therefore paint those who do not conform to gender constructs or roles in a similarly negative, disruptive, or abnormal light. In its very essence, the terms and descriptions offered in the assigned text are discriminatory towards all individuals who do subscribe to societal constructions of gender and/or self-expression. Not only does the text promote unhealthy views of gender, identity, and sexuality, it is misleadingly inaccurate. Rather than describing transvestism as being solely sexual in its motivation, the textbook leads its readers to believe that a woman wearing a men’s shirt would then become a transvestite or a cross-dresser. Furthermore, it makes light of and “others" individuals who go beyond the women’s section or men’s section to express themselves as though this is pathological this includes individuals across the gender spectrum rather than the binary addressed in the text.
Currently working in the fashion world as an online blogger who dedicates my time promoting all forms of gender expression and battling the skewed perception of individuals who dare to blur the boundaries of menswear and womenswear, I am dumbfounded. It is hard for me to believe that in higher education students are being taught to view gender non-conformity self-expression as being synonymous with a sexual pleasure and labeled under negatively viewed labels such a “cross-dressers” or “transvestites”.
Sitting in that classroom as a female wearing a dress shirt and tie and being told that my clothing choices now make me something other than I am was not only disturbing but troubling. I worried for the other students who have sat in my place who have been told that they are now transvestites or cross-dressers. I feared for the people my fellow students would judge and categorize because of a gross generalization of research that was published 18 years ago. I fear for the students who internalize messages such as this and learn self-hatred rather than acceptance.
I could not in good conscience return to a classroom where these ideas are being taught without first expressing my deepest concern for the responsibility to hold each other accountable and to question negative portrayals of self-expression.
In the future, I would greatly encourage the use of an alternative textbook or an intentional discussion of the shortcomings and potential misinterpretations of the text and its applications.