comes from combination two roots from Greek words which is andro means men and
gyn? means women. It is someone who has both female and male traits, or not
clearly masculine or feminine. There are two types of androgynous people or
androgyny which is, people who biologically or naturally have male and female
characteristic. These people are known as hermaphrodite. Another type of
androgyny is psychological androgyny which is for someone who does not
necessarily look androgynous but identifies as one. In other words, they want
to use androgynous gender identity as their identity even though they do not
have male and female characteristics. Their androgynous look is expressed through
their personality and cross-dressing. As opposed to biologically having both
traits, they naturally look both male and female at the same time.
Androgyny means overcoming the
cultural parameters defining a man or a woman, and raising the issue of common
humanity (Visanathan, 1996) Androgyny applies to people who don’t want to be
identified by their gender and usually used to describe characters or persons
which have no specific gender, gender ambiguity, gender identity, sexual
identity, or sexual lifestyle. Genderqueer or gender-neutral terms commonly
used in the case of gender identity. Androgyny has a gender identity that can
be a blend of both or neither of the binary genders so that they may describe someone
who sees themselves as both male and female which is also known as genderqueer.
They can also identify as neither feminine or masculine, or neither female and
male, also known as genderless.
However, in our society, the identity
of gender is closely related to particular gender roles. In 1982, Kimbrough R.
mentioned that the definition of androgyny in archetypal terms stems from its
use in the personal/social sense because the unisexual myths of creation found
embedded within almost every culture suggest a being or entity or personhood
having beyond a physically generative power without need for or use of sexual
There are no set gender roles in
androgyny. It makes this gender identity the most viable option for change in
the traditional structure of relationships in the near and foreseeable future.
Androgyny functions using a model of “transcendence,” where androgyny
indicates not a blend of masculine and feminine characteristics, but an absence
of them, and where androgyne are perceived to rely on neither masculine nor
feminine behaviours and where “their assumed original ways of thinking
suggest the likelihood of the foundation of a new society”. At this point,
Lorenzo-Cioldi argues, “the androgyne became colourless, incorporeal, and indemonstrable
at the empirical level. (McLaughlin L. 1999)
Next, androgyny and their physical
appearance. How exactly does a person with male and female characteristics look?
In fact, we surely had ever seen a woman who had wide shoulders and
surprisingly deep voice or a man with a flawless skin or naturally kept eyebrows
or someone that, at a first glance, we can hardly define whether they are male
or female. That is what we described as androgyny. There is nothing wrong with
androgynous physical appearance but unfortunately, our society believes that
men must have a well-built body, facial hair and tall, while women should have
an oval or small face, plump lips and a slim figure.
Plus, not all women need to look cute and
pretty all the time, neither must they look passive or naïve. While men are
supposed to control their ego, machismo and look fierce or aggressive. As what
Joy & Howard mentioned in 1972, every man has a feminine side, every woman
has a masculine side, which are rendered unconscious by culture. Concept of
androgyny expresses ‘a natural unforced and uninhibited (male of female)
sexuality’. Yet, to neither of their extremes. Men do not need to exude
machismo, or women do not need to pretend to be naive and dependent. There is a
natural biological opposition between men and women which is the basis of
creativity, used to express androgyny. Mainly, androgyny uses fashion as their
playground to express themselves.
fashion is a style that aims to avoid gender stereotypes. The androgynous dress
or style themselves looks neither like a typical boy nor girl. In the past
androgynous fashion has held a huge stigma, with its ties to the feminist and
LGBTQA communities. But in modern fashion, androgyny has become far more
accessible. As previously mentioned androgynous style has ties with the LGBTQA
and feminist communities due to their openness to gender fluidity, refusal of
gender norms and use of androgynous style to protest. But with contemporary
fashion, androgynous style is starting to be worn by more and more people. Some
of these people are male style bloggers, high fashion lovers and designers
themselves. In the last couple of years,
genderless designs in the clothes hitting our display windows have grown more
common blurring the classic men versus women dichotomy. Androgynous fashion is
coming to the forefront in a big way, and it may come with underlining
commentary about where our society is heading. Or better yet, what it’s
evolving towards. There are other political threads to androgyny as well,
whereby issues of feminism and the gay rights movement have intersected with
expressing a non-binary aesthetic through clothing. There was sort of 20th
century of androgynous fashion, and how they questioned the extent to which the
society should follow gender roles.
1910s Coco Chanel gave women the gift of pants. When Chanel started creating
clothes in 1913, women were just getting used to the idea of leaving the stuffy
roles of Victorian femininity behind, including lace necklines and petticoats.
Chanel personified the independent roles women were about to enter by providing
them with the option of pants and masculine-like silhouettes. Whereas the ’50s
were largely characterized by suburban motherhood and career housewives, women
in the ’60s challenged the gender norms of their mothers by tearing into their
closets and radicalizing them. According to The Guardian, Dr. Jo Paoletti’s Sex
And Unisex: Fashion, Feminism, And The Sexual Revolution claims that the unisex
trend was a pillar of second-wave feminism and “was a baby-boomer
corrective to the rigid gender stereotyping of the 1950s, itself a reaction to
the perplexing new roles imposed on men and women alike by World War II.”
This started a revolution, whereby something so aggressively male and black-tie
bourgeois became a symbol of female emancipation.
In the late ’60s, rock legends, Jimmy
Hendrix and Mick Jagger, showed that it was men’s turn to shake loose of their
gendered tropes and constraints. Just as women were about to experience their
second wave of feminism, many men were just as seriously trying to see what
they could find outside of their gendered expectations. Some grew their hair
long, stole eyeliner from their mother’s bathroom cupboards, dabbled in tight,
feminine silhouettes, as the Berg Fashion Library put it. They were embracing
their feminine side without having their masculinity or sexuality come into
question. In the 1980s, the legendary Prince had a contradictory appeal to him.
He was anything but traditionally masculine, but still felt like sex on a stick
to many ladies of the world. This hetero man who embraced effeminacy championed
the idea that breaking out of gender roles didn’t have to have anything to do
with sexuality. Meanwhile, the world also had Grace Jones, who exuded an
aggressive type of femininity, one that was balanced with a hard-handed touch
of masculinity. With her flattop hair, chiseled features, and buff physique,
she walked the line of androgyny perfectly.
Ten years later in 1990s, Kurt Cobain
played with his long blonde locks, eyeliner, and babydoll dresses. For Cobain,
this was a way of questioning the limitations society puts on us. He embodied a
new variation on the masculine heterosexual norm: a direct rejection of
machoism. Nirvana and the band’s grungy aesthetic stressed the likeness between
the sexes, showing that men can cry over pain and wear baby doll dresses
without having to put into question their sexuality. As for women, grunge gave
many of them an androgynous outlet as well. Dressing in the same plaids, boots,
and short cropped heads as their male counterparts, women were saying something
about their strict gender roles too. Borrowing from each other’s closets was
helping both men and women express the different sides of themselves that
didn’t fall into neat binaristic categories.
is a natural consequence of the evolvement of societies nowadays, where fashion
is not limited to gender. Selfridges, launched a campaign dedicated to the
blend of fashion for both sexes. In stores, shoppers can now try on new “gender
neutral” options, which keep multi-brand stores relevant in terms of selections
and offerings. As is the case in stores, which mirror the reality of runways,
in men’s and woman’s fashion weeks, models of both genders are appearing in the
same show making it a first in the norms of fashion weeks. At the same time, mix
and match between those two worlds has become recurrent in many fashion
bloggers’ styles. Therefore, androgyny is now seen everywhere from media to the
online world, as well as, stores and on the runways. A trendsetter who
innovated this gender blend concept that survived over a decade now and which
has defied the trend curve of being a mere fad. Therefore, this phenomenon
which was seen as unique, aesthetically new and appealing is now integrated in
the world of fashion and has become an overall dominating trend which is
defining the course of lines and cuts in the long run.
Androgyny in Popular Culture
became a big part of mainstream culture in the 1960’s, when the new generation
began to reject past social conventions. The progression of their current
society at the time lead them to notice the racial injustice of their parents
and their blind obedience to existing authority which led them through
unnecessary wars (Petterson, 1996). And so, they created the “Counter- Culture
Generation” where they soon began to defy the norms and step out of their
social conventional boxes, doing so as a way to “redefine” their generation
into a new mould.
the most redefining moment in pop culture history was during the 1984 Grammy
Awards. The colourful cast of androgynous musicians, most notably, Boy George
and Annie Lennox, competed for the Best New Artist spot. And Michael Jackson,
who has been highly perceived as androgynous, swept seven awards that night.
That night was considered to be a celebration of androgyny and sexual ambiguity
(Kaufman, 2009). This event sparked such an impact for androgyny in pop culture
that these musicians soon became the face of androgyny fashion and welcomed the
bold and gender fluid looks that soon began to take over red carpets.
glamorous ensemble that took over Hollywood in those days, started a new trend
of unique, androgynous figures in Hollywood. The like of Lady Gaga and Ruby
Rose made waves both in fashion and music using their gender fluidity as a tool
to express themselves. The blend of feminine and masculine features transcended
fashion and soon was recognized as a gender identity in mainstream media. Actress
Ruby Rose has been the face of androgyny, being very vocal about her stance as
a gender fluid individual, crediting the likes of David Bowie, Annie Lenox and
Prince whom helped her understand her identity (DAILYMAIL, 2017).
androgyny is no longer exclusive to Hollywood, the phenomena has turned global.
Most notably, androgyny is mainly found in East Asian pop culture. Especially
found in South Korea, who’s music industry has exploded into a worldwide
phenomenon known as K-pop. As it takes on its dominant role in the Asian entertainment
industry, the typical traditional beliefs are put aside to make space for the
progressing state of South Korea. Traditional roles for male and females are
now put aside as a new wave of trends begin to take its place.
or “Kkonminam” directly translates to “Flower Pretty Boy”. This is a new androgynous
ideal in Korea where an attractive man has pretty facial features while still
retaining his masculinity (TYGlobalist, 2007). It is the blend of masculinity
and femininity while still retaining to one’s true identity. While most Koreans
are still against LGBTQ+ in Korea, they are accepting the societal shift in
their trends. In fact most women in South Korea even prefer the kkonminam types.
Most of the male roles in South Korean dramas feature these androgynous men who
have very soft features similar to their female counterparts.
boyband industry in the country has also donned several androgynous looks. It
has become a norm to see feminine men in the K-pop industry. It is even common
to see these K-pop stars wearing makeup in order to keep up with the harsh
beauty standards in the country (Fickel, 2017). Most K-pop men are known to
contradict themselves in terms of how they dress. They are neither macho or traditionally
masculine in the sense, but they have their own idea of beauty typically having
more softer features. Most K-pop stars even don trends that are typically
associated with women. They have been seen wearing chokers, flower crowns and
crop tops paired with the perfect makeup look.
androgyny also exists in South Korean culture. Since the debut of the South
Korean drama “Coffee Prince”, there has been a trend of female celebrities
acquiring “masculine” or “boyish” looks. They have been donning certain male
affiliated trends like cutting their hair short, wearing male clothing and
appealing to the non-conventional female look in their TV character roles. More
Korean women are realizing that they no longer need to repress their dissatisfaction
with Confucian ideals that generally categorize women as “submissive”.
has become a way of life for many. The progressiveness of our current society has
made it more flexible for people to step outside of their typical norms. It is
due time we stepped out of the boxes of defining a certain type of masculinity
is suitable for males and a certain type of femininity is suitable for females.
Androgyny should not solely define a person’s sexual orientation, nor does it
necessarily determine one’s gender identity. Androgyny is reflected through
styles and trends and people should be allowed to play around with the
variation of looks, not limiting themselves to what is considered male and
female looks. Nevertheless, this should in no way erase androgyny or gender
fluidity as a sexual orientation and should definitely not be erased from the
LGBTQ+ movement. They should be celebrated equally.