This is a woman. Her name is Casey.
Beautiful people, aren’t they? Did you do a double take? I did.
Casey was recently signed as the first female menswear model for Ford Models. And Andrej was named the 98th sexiest woman in raunchy man mag FHM’s list of the 100 Sexiest Woman in the World. (Not linking to it for ethical purposes as I don’t support the clear exploitation of women featured in this article – sorry I’m not sorry.)
Diesel’s latest fashion campaign, #DieselReboot, plays with gender and other expectations in the fashion industry, including model shape and size. The fashion director searched for models on Tumblr and through word of mouth to get the most unique looks. I was introduced to Casey Legler, pictured above, through the campaign.
Playing with gender is a popular pastime for the fashion industry these days. And with good reason. Bringing into question a person’s gender with a first glance forces a double take. And even a third take. As I paged through images of Casey and Andrej, I searched their faces for signs of gender. They’d been almost completely erased, either through lighting or makeup or clothing.
It becomes a strange mental game, searching for gender and being awed by the inability to locate it. It’s that feeling you get when you’re watching a magician make something disappear. Incredible! How did you do it? Where did it go?
The intrigue, the puzzling mystery draws you in. But it’s an empty mystery.
When we lose our gender, we lose our essence.
I’m not here to define in black and white what is male and female. I’ve been searching for definitive answers to this for a decade and a half. Is it biology? Is it genetics? Is it personality or other predetermined proclivities? I am terrified to oversimplify it.
But there is an essence to a man, to a woman. There is something about raw strength in a man, and something about beauty in a woman. A man, fully alive, and a woman, fully alive. The double take occurs not from the mystery of trying to figure out, “Is she or isn’t she?” but in the power of a person who is fully himself. Fully herself.
Our gender essence is what makes us who we are. And the rest of our life flows from there. When we embody our true selves, we liberate others to be themselves completely.
Our bodies are gendered before birth. Before the world touches, bruises, wounds us. We are given an identity as a male or female. It’s the first thing we announce when a child is born, or what we look for on a sonogram. It’s a boy! It’s a girl! While this knowledge informs our naming and raising and socializing of our children, it is more than that.
We look forward to a boy in a different way than we look forward to a girl. Why? Because they bring different things with them into the universe.
They are not the same. And playing with gender isn’t just a fun gimmick to attract more readers, buyers or gawkers.
Boy is a not a synonym for girl. Neither is girl is not a synonym for boy.
Gender confusion is not merely a wardrobe change, or 30 minutes in Hair and Makeup. It’s a problem. Ask anyone who has struggled with gender identity and they will tell you the excruciating pain of feeling like they are not themselves. Rachel Held Evan’s blog series “Ask A… “featured at least one transgendered Christian explaining the complicated and debilitating life inside a body he did not feel belonged to him. Lisa is now living as a woman and feeling more like herself.
Hearing Lisa’s story breaks my heart because I see that gender play and lights-makeup mysteries are not simply a show for the camera. These reveal the deep inner struggle faced by many people. “Am I a man or a woman?” (I am purposely not commenting on the morality of gender change, in case you’re waiting for my approval or condemnation. I’m using Lisa’s story merely as an example to portray the pain of living in-between gender.)
While playing with gender may be fascinating, it’s a dead end. It strips dignity from humanity. It cheapens gender and sexuality with its audacious assumption that what is male and female can be swapped in a quick wardrobe change. It undermines the value of our humanity as starting first from gender and developing from that point.
It does not glorify the most foundational design of the human frame, but instead suggests the masterpiece may be at worst a mistake. Or at best, something to be manipulated.
Instead of using our creativity to blur gender lines, let’s elevate humanity by living fully alive, male and female.
Let’s make our lives a declaration that we, male and female, were fashioned with his hands and made alive with his breath while he gazed in the mirror so we might perfectly reflect His image.
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
Genesis 1:26-28, from The Message.
What do you think about gender-bending models and fashion media’s promotion of androgyny as a new beauty? No matter your stance, I promise to respect you. Please do the same and keep your comments respectful. If you can’t do that, you will be deleted from the thread. Thank you.