Before we unpack the utter mess that is Vogue Asserting That A Heterosexual Cisgender Couple Are The Leaders Of The Gender Revolution, I want to set the scene. Let’s take a trip to the World Trade Center, shall we?
Interior, day. New York City. A stainless steel Alessi decanter sits atop a glass table in the Vogue office. Bouquets of magnolias permeate the room. The walls are painted Vivid WhiteTM. MAYA SINGER stands proudly at the head of the table. She commands attention in Prada Fall Ready-To-Wear 2017. Her COLLEAGUES watch in awe.
MAYA SINGER defiantly: Neither Gigi Hadid nor Zayn Malik identify as gender-fluid, so, obviously, they are going to be the ones to break the gender-binary in fashion? Oui?
The Vogue office enjoys speaking smatterings of French. They stay true to their roots.
COLLEAGUES perplexed: Mais, They Are Not Gender-Fluid… What About The Clap Back?
MAYA SINGER: Quois? Clap back? Pfft. There is no way this could possibly go wrong, non?
COLLEAGUES sharply breathing: Y-yes Ms. Singer.
MAYA SINGER: They wear each other’s T-shirts. She wears clothes designed for men, and he wears clothes made for women; it’s not about gender, it’s about shapes. It’s gender-fluid.
COLLEAGUES with sweat gushing out of every corporeal orifice: T-That’s Not What Gender-Fluid Means…
MAYA SINGER: Have you not been on Tumblr? Gender identity is about shapes, n’est pas?
COLLEAGUES whose temples have literally exploded from the sheer volume of perspiration that their bodies are expunging: N-No It’s Not About Shapes…
MAYA SINGER screaming: IT’S. ABOUT. SHAPES. LES FORMES.
Anyway, the situation is deeply fucked. Vogue, in their August cover story, Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik Are Part of a New Generation Embracing Gender Fluidity, crowned the couple as the figureheads for the movement. If anyone were to ask me, “Isabella, who do you think is breaking gender codes?” I could genuinely say that Fidget Spinner Hadid and Malik would be on the bottom of my list.
I am mortally afraid that Gidget exists on the same planet as us, and, when prompted by her boyfriend’s mundane tale of wearing her Anna Sui T-shirt, had the mental capacity to utter: “It’s not about gender. It’s about, like, shapes.” We all have stupid thoughts, do we not? Have we not all received a stimulus that has enabled information to journey through our little brains, and travel down some complex networks of neurons to reach its final form as a Proper ThoughtTM, only to leave us wondering: “Wow, that was a bit dense, wasn’t it?” Yes, we have. As we mature, however, we acquire the agency to necessitate what is appropriate to verbalise, and what is not: when to speak, and when to shut up, as not to cause offence or bring embarrassment upon oneself. I do not doubt that Giblet is an outlier here, and I assume she has the sentience to mimic and comprehend social cues, but I also must ask: why, when her neural pathways betrayed her so brazenly, did she not take a deep breath and assess the situation? How did she come to the conclusion that her statement was completely logical, and warranted vocalisation? Will Arnott’s introduce a new flavour of Shapes called ‘Gender’? Why did Maya Singer deem it appropriate to include, anyway?
Widget Hadid is not entirely to blame, however, thus we must turn our attention to Singer herself. She gave the essay much thought when she mediated on Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, whereby, in their sleep, a poet changes from man to woman. “He becomes they,” she writes. “The pronouns shift, but the person remains the same. Woolf’s words, written in 1928, could easily be mistaken for a manifesto posted yesterday on Tumblr, the preferred platform for the growing cohort of “fluid” young people who, like Orlando, breezily crisscross the XX/XY divide.” Call me presumptive, but I really do believe that the author has a naïve understanding of gender-queer identity, and is ignorant to the discrimination experienced by non-binary persons. But, hey, what do I know; I’m not the one writing for Vogue, right? She continues: “This gender-bending approach to fashion has begun to achieve critical mass in pop culture and on the catwalk with Alessandro Michele dressing his Gucci girls in dandyish suits and his Gucci boys in floral and brocade, actress Evan Rachel Woods wearing Altuzarra tuxedos on the red carpet, Pharrell Williams gallivanting down the Chanel runway in a tweed blazer and long strings of pearls, and rapper Young Thug posing on the cover of his mixtape in a long ruffled dress.” I mean, I would have thought that they were simply celebrities that dressed slightly androgynous, but apparently women wearing pants makes them gender-fluid. Sorry, I don’t make the rules!
So, according to Vogue, this “new blasé attitude towards gender code marks a radical break.” No, it is not, for example, the London-based gender-queer fashion collective, Art School, who celebrate the non-binary body, or New York’s Eckhaus Latta, a brand actively closing the gap between targeted, gender-specific garments. It is Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik “snuggling in interchangeable tracksuits.” I know what you are thinking: that is not revolutionary. But, please, be patient: “For these millennials, at least, descriptives like boy or girl rank pretty low on the list of important qualities – and the way they dress reflects that.” So, yeah, even though Digit doesn’t have “ME? GIRL!” tattooed on her forehead, sometimes she wears Membrane’s hoodie, and is obviously smashing toxic social constructs, okay?
Anwar Hadid is, ostensibly, the best part of this essay, as he emerges in a “sheer lace top” rocking “back and forth on a tire swing,” only to soon plop himself on a picnic table and yell: “We’re chill!” Damn right, we are! “People our age, we’re just chill. You can be whoever you want… as long as you’re being yourself.” Ah, yes. Millennials, with our mountains of avocado toast, surplus of fishnets beneath ripped jeans, and declining economic prospects, are chill. We are very fucking chill. Was this boy, like, an English Romantic poet in a past life? Is this John Keats reincarnated, frolicking in a field? If he’d have said: “My imagination is a monastery, and I am its monk,” I would not have flinched. Alas, Singer did not question why this little Hadid had escaped from a candlestick factory, but rather concluded from his outbursts: “This is how you can tell a paradigm shift has taken place: when a fresh way of seeing a thing seems like common sense.” Awesome. Thanks.
Singer does interview the non-binary writer, Tyler Ford, and briefly mentions Ruby Rose, the model and actress who identifies as gender-fluid, but still leaves it to queer icon Goo Goo to summarise: “One day you can be this,” she says as Quiche Lorraine buttons a bedazzled Gucci blazer, “and another day you can do that.” It’s really that simple!
Rather than exploring gender-queer identities in the fashion industry, Singer has instead chosen to label an incredibly popular, cisgender, and straight couple that borrow from each other’s wardrobes as gender-fluid. The mark has been missed. The point is in an entirely separate hemisphere. Like, Dolly Parton will write a country ballad about how spectacularly misguided she is. But, hey: in the wise words of Little Anwar Twist, at least we’re chill, right?
Words and art by Isabella Corbett.