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Posted in Op-Ed, Opinion

Genderfuck: The Slogan Has Gotta Go

By
January 26, 2012

“Guys wear a dress, girls wear less”

Genderfuck is a party with a lot of issues. It’s about time that some of those were addressed, and while I don’t know what happened at the meeting on Tuesday (I’ll be reading the article avidly, same as you all), I hope that the administrators and students involved will be making concrete suggestions to improve the atmosphere of this party. In the meantime, I’d like to propose a change of my own. Genderfuck needs a new motto.

Although the (unofficial) slogan does not necessarily dictate the attitudes towards the party, its effects are not to be underestimated. For many first time attendees, it becomes a rule of thumb. In addition, the atmosphere of the party is shaped a good deal by the framing done by advertising. The way the slogan currently reads in no way, shape, or form does anything to conceptually “fuck gender.”  In fact, it actively hinders discussion or exploration of what it means to be gendered on this night. Gender is a socially constructed concept, and parties are social vehicles in which gendered conceptions play a huge role. Having this slogan is problematic for men, for women, and for everyone.

Masculinity and femininity have been traditionally portrayed as opposites. To act out one is to undermine your connection to the other. While women have made strides in the past decades towards the ability to act in what have been historically “masculine” roles and retain their identity within their gender (though how much we’ve achieved is debatable), for men the stigmatization of being considered feminine is still much stronger. Little girls are given trucks, but we still find the concept of a boy with a Barbie something ludicrous.
“Boys wear a dress” continues this trend. Wearing dresses is something bad, feminine, funny and/or strange. Drag Queens aren’t as socially visible, or accepted, in the same way that butch women are or even masculinely attired girls. The concept of men in women’s clothing was still considered funny enough for ABC to create a (thankfully now canceled) sitcom based around it called “Work it”. Instead of encouraging men to explore different conceptions of what it means to be feminine, and how these may or may not already overlap with their own identities, we tell them to put on a dress. Since it’s so humiliating to appear as a woman, conveniently it’s also a good night to be blackout drunk.
For women, the second part of this slogan is even more demeaning. Not only by wearing less are we not exploring expressions of masculinity, but we are undermining the possibility of examining the way our culture treats femininity. Hugo Schwyzer has written interesting articles concerning the “Paris Paradox” and the pressure of women to be “sexy, not sexual.” Parading around nearly naked (and very sexualized) at one of the year’s biggest parties is really no different then being slightly less naked (but still just as sexualized) at any of the other parties. The only difference here is how blatantly women are told to be sex objects.

Leaving aside the issue of whether or not you can actually “control” your own objectification (I think not, but that’s for another day), our slogan is anything but counter cultural. I’m not trying to control the outfits that women choose to wear, but I want to draw attention to the a larger issue. Women’s worth has always been tied to outward appearance. The connection between sexualization and self worth has remained strong, as cultural determinations of what it means to be feminine have become more sexually explicit than ever before. The concept “girls wear less” or “girls should look sexy” has filtered further and further into our collective consciousness as being the defining feature of being a modern, empowered woman.

However, wearing less has less to do with fashion, taste, or even controlling our own sexuality, but instead pandering to the ever present “male gaze.” A study by SUNY Buffalo examined Rolling Stone covers from 1967 to 2009, and discovered that in the past decade, there were eleven times more non-sexualized covers of men than women, and ten times more hypersexualized images of women than men. Sex sells, but only when it’s a female. This trend has been noticed, and commented upon, by a range of scholars. (For an especially interesting, and controversial, take see Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs.) Add the well documented connection between media exposure and eating disorders, it seems absolutely shameful that an opportunity for women to step outside of stereotypical gender conceptions is being wasted.

Placing the two halves of the slogan together is doubly damaging. The effects are  amplified because each half reinforces the most negative aspects of the other. They create caricatures of the genders the party is meant to critique.

Finally, this slogan leaves no room for people who identify outside the conventional gender bianary. I can’t critique the slogan for its perspectives on androgyny the way I did for the genders above, but the silence in and of itself speaks volumes. Aside from examining masculinity and femininity, androgyny deserves a turn under the microscope. Especially because people who don’t conform to this binary are already marginalized, their absence from the slogan only serves to further their erasure. Reinforcing the already too prevalent binary doesn’t actually encourage any kind of meaningful discussion of what it means to be gendered or the role gender plays in our lives (and our social scene).

I get it: this is a party, not a classroom. But at Swarthmore, where we propose to be progressive and inclusive, we of all people should be able to design a social situation wherein we can have fun and break down culture. In the words of Feminist Ryan Gosling: “Hey girl. We can be supportive of gender variance even while we get our bounce on.”

If I were creative, I’d hit you all with a boss new slogan that would knock your socks off and fix all of the problems I outlined above, but as you can tell pithy isn’t my strong suit. So I open it up to the campus community. Any suggestions, ya’ll?

16 Responses to Genderfuck: The Slogan Has Gotta Go

  1. Susana '14 Reply

    January 27, 2012 at 9:44 am

    This was great. I support you 100%. I have a friend who doesn’t go here who personally asked me WTF is wrong with our school that we would stand for a party like this, and I think he’s right. Just because it’s tradition doesn’t mean we should all go along with it.

    As for what the party should become…maybe we should be open to a new theme all together. Something Spring-ish? I hesitate to say ‘let’s throw a Bacchanalia’ lest it become a Halloween/CrunkFest shit show, or turn the ‘girls wear less’ mantra into a crazy maenad frenzy, but we’re all smart–I’m sure we can collectively think of something.

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    • Sara '12 Reply

      January 27, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Alright, I’ll bite:

      This article is about the problems with the unofficial yet pervasive/persisting slogan for Genderfuck.

      This comment seems to say that having Genderfuck at all is a bad idea and it should be replaced with something else entirely.

      So…is that what you meant? If so, why? I am definitely with the article’s stance on the slogan being awful, but what is awful about a party based on the idea of challenging gender norms/the norms of gender presentation?

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      • Susana '14 Reply

        January 30, 2012 at 8:48 pm

        @Sara
        I’m not against Genderfuck entirely. Like @Books I think I find the idea inherently exciting–who doesn’t want to break gender barriers AND have some good ol’ fun? And yet…I also feel as if I were inculcated into this supporting this party and accepting that it is–in its current state–an okay if not good thing to participate in. Recently I discovered that student groups on campus had discussed the issue with the administration previous to the Gazette piece, saying they would ‘work on restoring it to its original purpose’ and while I think that’s great, I wonder why the student body wasn’t informed, or why the Gazette didn’t report on the meeting. Just a thought.

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    • crunk organizer Reply

      January 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      You’ve got Crunk all wrong, my friend! Crunk is actually, at least as it was conceptualized by the judges last year and the judges for this coming year, one of the truly most subversive events on campus, during which participants are encouraged to challenge their subjectivities through creative expression, community, and radical encounters within and without their bodies.

      Although Crunk indeed highlights the impact that performativity has upon the individual life, it certainly is not a “shit show”, especially as you have compared it to the Halloween party. :)

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      • pomo is for chumps Reply

        January 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm

        How can one encounter anything without their body?

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      • Susana '14 Reply

        January 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm

        I was off campus last year for my ‘first’ crunkfest, so I can’t say I’ve witnessed the event with my own eyes.

        I love, and I mean love, the idea of an event/tradition that is subversive and slightly insane, and all that jazz. But, as a friend aptly said to me the other night, I don’t know if under-the-influence orgies are the best way to explore your body. Undoubtedly sexual encounters are only some of the challenges involved (though they get the most press), but eyewitness reports say: maybe birthing a cellphone/flag from your vagina aint the way to express it.

        Doing subversive things is very different from being (purposefully) subversive.

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  2. Tacitus Reply

    January 27, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I am so thrilled that someone has finally managed to use the term “crazy maenad frenzy” in a Gazette comment. Thank you, Susana ’14.

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    • Susana '14 Reply

      January 30, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      no problem ;)

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  3. Books Reply

    January 27, 2012 at 11:48 am

    As someone who generally identifies as outside the gender binary, I have always found genderfuck’s slogan profoundly discomforting. Before coming to Swat I was very excited to hear about Sager and genderfuck; as soon as I arrived and heard the slogan, I knew I’d never set foot in the door of such a party. (And, indeed, I haven’t gone anywhere near it.)

    The power of the slogan can’t be underestimated. In my experience, it transcends slogan and reaches definition status. At no point does any fucking of gender enter into the equation.

    I identify as androgynous. Genderfuck should be a party where I would feel comfortable. Instead, it’s a party that serves to remind me of my marginalized status.

    =Books

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    • not a chump '12 Reply

      January 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      Thanks, Books. I am a cisgendered female, but I experienced the same disappointment as you when I came to Swat. Given what I’d heard about the progressive nature of the college, I expected Genderfuck to be one of the few places where I could act out on the occasional impulse I have to experiment with my gender presentation. These are the sorts of impulses I usually suppress on the other 364 days of the year, given how uncomfortable I am fathoming the reactions of those who know the cisgendered person I am typically quite comfortable being.
      Instead, in my first year here, I was overwhelmed by the expectations of everyone around me, which questioned a desire to go anything short of stereotypically feminine lingerie. I typically dress relatively modestly for an American female in her early 20s, and do not feel my sexiest when in less clothing. In fact, I usually feel pretty uncomfortable in a state of less dress. As a teenager, I went through a phase where I let it all hang out, and since then it hasn’t really been my preferred mode of dress. I don’t feel that things have changed much for Genderfuck since then.
      So in my case, I definitely found Genderfuck to be anything but body- and sex-positive and a safe place for gender play. It was denying me, even me!, the cisgendered female, the opportunity to feel attractive or comfortable in my own skin. I can’t imagine how it feels for those who really don’t identify with either category in the gender binary. I sincerely want this party to change for my final year, and I want to help on any way I can. It has so much potential, but that potential is squelched–by what? We’re better than this, Swatties. Let’s get our act together and let this party be the awesome thing its name implies, not the sad, binary-reinforcing current reality.

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  4. "Wearing Less" Reply

    January 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Great article! I definitely agree that the slogan should be changed. It has always struck me as odd and unsettling that the slogan departed so much from the original idea behind what the Genderfuck party should be.

    I do want to point out that some people (myself included) find it empowering to “wear less”. I certainly don’t think that people should feel obligated to do so, and especially not on the basis of gender. But wearing less (similarly to dressing androgynously, cross-dressing) can be a way of subverting cultural expectations of what is an “appropriate” way of presenting oneself . I normally dress in a way that conforms with society’s expectations of what I “should” wear. I have personally found it liberating to wear things that I normally wouldn’t at Genderfuck for the last two years. I honestly think that those experiences have played an important role in my gaining confidence in my self, my body, and my sexuality over the last few years

    I guess my point is mainly that people (especially women) SHOULDN’T wear less just because they feel obligated to fulfill a gender role prescribed by a traditional slogan. However, at the same time, they should feel free to do so, without judgement by others, if they feel that it is a way of showing their pride and ownership of their sexuality/body, etc.

    This isn’t an argument against the article or anything. I just wanted to offer you an example of a woman who, despite the slogan, found empowerment in “wearing less”.

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    • agreed Reply

      January 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      thanks for this point! i too agree that the slogan should go but that wearing less is a legitimate expression if an individual finds it empowering and/or subversive.

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    • Joan Reply

      January 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Hey Wearing Less!

      I definitely agree: you can use less clothing as a way of subverting cultural expectations of what is “appropriate” or expected.

      What I really wanted to emphasize though, is that too often today we seem to believe that for women, wearing less = empowerment, no questions asked. And I think, those questions ought to be asked. Because it really isn’t ever about wearing less per se, as it is the clothing that’s left after we’ve taken the rest off. For example, running shorts and booty shorts cover about the same amount of skin. However, one comes with a lot of cultural connotations regarding sex and sexuality, and has a history of being associated with performing for the male gaze. The other doesn’t quite have the same effect. Funnily enough, I personally feel sexier in my running shorts. These differences can be seen with so many other articles of clothing: tank top vs. corset, summer dress vs. cocktail dress, etc.

      So when we discuss being feminine and wearing less, I feel like we ought to explore how the connections between the two are influenced a great deal by the patriarchal society in which we live. I would love for this fact to kind of linger in the back of people’s minds as they prepare for this party: what is it about wearing less that empowers YOU personally and what is it about it that you’re getting because society emphasizes the “sexy” woman.

      This goes for the crossdressers too! Are we depicting caricatures of femininity, or actually truly looking at how femininity applies to us and our culture? There are a wide variety of articles of clothing (again, it’s not about the size but the type!) which are feminine. Dresses are just fine, if they are worn with the conception of actually bending gender and thinking about gender norms – not as something necessarily funny/stupid on a guy (though props Alex’s article and his point that humor can definitely be used as social commentary)

      I think if you’ve never read any of Hugo Schwyzer’s articles, you might enjoy them!

      “Young women with the Paris Paradox were raised in a culture that promised sexual freedom, but what they ended up with looked a lot more like obligation than opportunity. It’s not hard to understand why the pressure to be sexy so often trumps the freedom to discover one’s authentic sexuality.”

      What is awesome about Genderfuck is that there are as many variations on gender expression as there are people in the world, and each one is so individualized and personal. If putting on a bikini and heels (regardless of your gender) makes you feel empowered and in control, then you go for it! But for others, especially women, who feel the pressure to be wearing little and looking sexy every weekend, exploring different gender appearances (male, female, androgynous, etc.) is a very powerful thing and I hope this article made them aware that they do have this option!!

      Also, this is unrelated to genderfuck (but something I personally consider very interesting), the backlash to western imposed norms of feminine behavior by third wave feminists: http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_llrenlUpF61qfjjglo1_500.jpg I mean, obviously simplified BUT I personally would really love it if the women (and everyone else!!) at Swarthmore used this night to take on the patriarchy.

      I’ve lifted a quote here from an essay that I really like about sex positivity, because that’s another word that’s being used a lot when discussing genderfuck – and it is a loaded term, I’m afraid. The article is technically about pornography, if you disagree with the author about that, please don’t respond here – send me an email! (jobryan1@swarthmore.edu) I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about the subject, so I’m always down for discussion! However, I loved what this said about the patriarchy:

      “I’ve written about this issue of ‘choice’ as insta-feminism before, and the argument is not that women are stupid and brainwashed, but rather that the way we act, look, and behave exist within a context of patriarchy and is always influenced by the context of our surroundings. To pretend that the choices you make somehow exist inside a bubble of your own making is either disingenuous or delusional. The fact that this context exists does not make those who have learned from that context ‘disgusting’ or products of “Borg assimilation,” it makes us human beings who live here in the now. And it makes the patriarchy powerful. So, let’s recap: women aren’t stupid, patriarchy is an insidious asshole. The more aware of this we are, the better equipped we are to challenge it.”
      http://www.feminisms.org/3765/on-sex-positivity-and-misunderstandings/

      Genderfuck as a party is an opportunity. No matter what you draw from my comments, or my article, I hope it encouraged people to look a little closer at their own views on gender and sexuality. Agree/disagree/whatever, if you’ve thought a little more on your outfit choice – and maybe feel a little bit more free from the damage done by this slogan – then I’m very very happy :)

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  5. MC Mazzocchi Reply

    January 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Joan, your article is a 110% on point (and so are all the comments that have been discussing how gross and objectifying that slogan is).

    I’m honestly not sure if the slogan was promoted (at least last year) as THE SLOGAN of Genderfuck. Regardless, it has stuck around, likely due to its rhyming nature and the reward (in the form of “girls’” bodies) for men who ~defy the binary~

    This year’s planning team, like last year’s, is really dedicated to making Genderfuck about sex positivity and GENDERFUCKING! We want it to be a celebration of queerness, yeah, but also the spectrum of gender and playfulness (while forever remaining mindful re: consent). There is literally nothing more we want to see than that slogan hitting the garbage. We were talking about it, and I think we all just made barfing noises. And, by the way, we obviously support women who feel sexy and empowered and AWESOME when wearing less, we’d just like it to be … you know, not a mandate.

    I would love to see the campus make suggestions about what a new motto could be! I am really happy this kind of discussion is taking off in the effort of making Genderfuck safer — and finally actually embodying (empartying?) its goals.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact any of the planners with ideas, resources, requests for a meal to further talk about the party, etc!

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  6. Danielle C. Reply

    January 27, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Thanks, Joan. I’m so glad someone articulated this!

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  7. "hey girl" Reply

    January 31, 2012 at 10:53 am

    why can’t the new slogan be “Hey girl. We can be supportive of gender variance even while we get our bounce on.”?

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