Campus centers wear out gender binary threshold in fashion

By Moustafa Elhadary, March 16, 2021

The Womxn’s Resource Center collaborated with the Pride Center to host a virtual informational event on March 4, delivering a powerful message on degendering fashion. Full of open-minded students, the event served as an introduction to exploring the relationship between gender and fashion.

Discussing the social construction of gender to fit the gender-conforming society, the open discussion raised questions such as: “How would you define beauty?” and “What are some stereotypical traits of femininity and masculinity?” In response, this opened up discussion about Americans conforming to what is socially acceptable for them to wear.

The event was inspired by genderless fashion pictured in editorial publications, including the cover of Vogue Magazine featuring Harry Styles in a dress. (Courtesy of  Womxn’s Resource Center)

Ally Orea, a fifth-year hospitality student who attended the event, reflected on society’s tendency to push and enforce gender stereotypes on people and believes that it is related to power.

“I believe that society did this for control so that folks who are for patriarchy are able to keep the control and keep in power. This can go back as far as when colonization started,” Orea said. “Unfortunately, we do live in a society that believes macho white-identifying males are valued over everyone else. Since there are so many white-identifying males in power, it is easy for the ones with that mindset to continue pushing for control.”

With a refreshing take on the gender binary, the event also showcased a video of gender non-conforming writer and media personality Alok Vaid-Menon advocating to normalize genderless fashion. Vaid-Menon spoke about how the clothes they choose are not limited to a gender and that the way they look should not affect anyone else’s life since it is not their own. The video conveyed a powerful message regarding how gender nonconforming people have been criminalized in the past and still are not fully accepted today.

Piper Bridgman, a second-year art history student and social justice leader at the Womxn’s Resource Center, reflected on Vaid-Menon’s Ted Talk-style video.

“In the video of Alok we watched, they said, ‘There is no loneliness like having people only see you after you’ve erased yourself,’” Bridgman said. “Nonbinary people work hard every day to be able to be themselves. They shouldn’t feel the need to change in order to be seen. Their identities are valid and deserve to be acknowledged and respected. They deserve to see people like them in the media.”

As discussed in the event, looking and dressing in a certain way to blend in with the social norms was a common behavior people conformed to since the 20th century. During the 1950s, men were limited in their fashion choices. Neutral colors were preferred with natural, loose-fitting silhouettes. The construct of gender aligning with fashion has been pushed upon society for centuries, and only now are people realizing that they can break that mold.

The virtual informational event was well-received by 16 participants, including Womxn’s Resource Center members, Pride Center associates and students hoping to learn more about the concept of genderless fashion.

After attending the event, Charlize Fontanilla, a third-year business marketing management student, shared what she learned about better promoting gender neutrality and the concept of degendering fashion.

“It is difficult to change the mind of a person; however, educating them more about gender neutrality and fashion would be more productive,” Fontanilla said. “The cure to ignorance is knowledge.”

The event ended with several students sharing their experiences living in a world that labels everyone with a specific gender and believes that fashion is dictated by a person’s gender.

Vee Joseph, a third-year sociology student and social justice leader at the Womxn’s Resource Center, shared that sexuality can be related to how people choose to express themselves with clothing and believes that “wearing clothes that give you confidence — that ooze sexy, playful, sweet or daring — are traits of a person’s sexuality.”

“I know I feel my best when my hair is done and I’m wearing one of my favorite outfits,” Joseph said. “I dress for myself and no one else because my clothing is an expression of who I am and how I see myself.”

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