Gender Performance

A male-bodied person stands, hiding his face and genitalia.  The picture is in black and white, and flowers cover the background. His body is additionally covered by flowers. His hair is distinctly short and ungroomed. I can’t be entirely sure, but there appears to be a flower crown around his head. His hand is positioned distinctly to hide his eyes, and the shadows that surround his body are very distinct. The flowers all appear white and innocent. His body is thin and lean, yet  hairless and appears to be soft.

This piece is making social commentary on the ideals of gender which are conditioned into our heads. I use the male pronouns “he/him” when referring to the person within the picture because he does not appear to have breasts, and I presumptuously apply a masculine gender to him. The image combines the traditional masculine form with feminine traits. The hiddenness of the eyes shies away from the idea of the male gaze under patriarchy. Under phallic masculinity, the penis would represent the power of the person, but again he hides what I assume to be a penis beneath his hand. The image is not inherently sexual, but more so gendered. The flowers are distinctly feminine in order to further the questioning of the gender of the photographed person. He embodies feminine traits of belonging to the private sphere, being hidden, and being soft and hairless. Yet his short hair on his head, his arm hair, and his lack of breasts speak of maleness. I assume the work of art intends to force the reader to question what the gender of the photographed person is. Again, I am speaking from my background of an American Studies major with a focus in gender and sexuality.

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