The Elastics of Gender – Interview with Deirdre Gaine

 

As part of the Fashiopolitics project, we want to include voices from all perspectives, from scholars to practitioners to critics. Today, we speak with Deidre Gaine, a BFA Fashion Design graduate from Parsons. Despite beginning as a practitioner, Deidre went overseas to Hungary to obtain a master’s degree in gender studies. Deirdre is interested in surveillance of gender(ed) expressions and gender(ed) bodies and the idea of the mirror: “how someone sees oneself… reinforcement of identity, imagining of what could be, visualization…[and] dysphoria.”

Deidre speaks to the difficult research process in the “Elastic Theory” thesis collection and subsequent master’s thesis. Through the interviews conducted for the research projects, Deidre teased out various strategies these various transgender or gender non-binary interviewees deployed to protect themselves against potential violence. Such strategies underscored the difficult crossing and, at times, blurring of lines of being seen as gender(ed) bodies and being recognized as their respective gender(ed) identities.

In contrast to “haptic optics” in which seeing is touching (e.g. TSA surveillance procedures), we ask Deidre if there could be generous ways of “seeing” people in order to support their gender non-conforming, non-binary identities?

 

See also:

  1. Buzzfeed, July 13, 2014, Flower beards. 
  2. Fusion, September 29, 2015, Young Thug on women’s clothing 
  3. Buzzfeed, April 30, 2016, Transgender Selfies 

Tumbler, “Trans Selfies,” 

The Grotesque Body – Interview with Francesca Granta

 

To kick off the interview series for Fashiopolitics, we interviewed Francesca Granata in advance of the launch of her new book, Experimental Fashion: Performance Art Carnival, and the Grotesque Body. In this interview, Dr. Granata explains the etymology of the word “grotesque,” from the Italian grotto for “cave” into contemporary English for the bizarre and fanciful. Building upon ideas of literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin and cultural theorist Mary Douglas, Dr. Granata demonstrates that the grotesque in fashion is something that crosses the bodily borders or other binaries of normality (e.g. gender) and something that is also perceived as threatening.

In her research for Experimental Fashion, Dr. Granata specifically looked to fashion design and performances by the likes of Leigh Bowery, Rei Kawakubo, and Martin Margiela that challenged the naturalized boundaries and borders in bodies and in fashion as embodied on the body. In her own words, “the proliferation of bodies-out-of-bounds in fashion [in the 80s and 90s] was influenced by feminism’s desire to open up and question gender and bodily norms and particularly the normative bodies of fashion. It was also tied to the AIDS epidemic and mediated the fears of contagion and the obsessive policing of bodily borders that characterized the period.” Our conversation weaves in and out of topics as diverse as celebrity pregnancies to hipster normcore to fat-shaming, all in connection with who has the ability to be excessive in fashion and to engage in the grotesque.

Moreso, we ask, why is it that shaming of the excessive body and attire is so contagious?

 

See also:

  1. Leigh Bowery Childbirth Performance
  2. Feminist Frequency, July 28, 2011, “Tropes vs. Women #5 Mystical Pregnancy” 
  3. Essence Magazine, February 2, 2017, Beyonce’s Pregnancy Photo Shoot 
  4. New York Magazine, March 5, 2017, “The Future of Fashion is Fat
  5. The New York Times, April 2, 2014, “The New Normal,”