Style & Then Some

Andrej Pejic: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Andrej Pejic male androgynous model

Image by Sabine Villiard (Photo France March 2011)

The young Serbian-Australian, Andrej Pejic, has been causing a stir on the fashion scene for a while now. We are all fascinated by how he looks just like a beautiful slip of a flat-chested girl, the ultimate conclusion of a society obsessed with androgyny.

Something about it all disturbs me, though. Before you jump to any conclusions, I just want to prefix what I’m about to say with the qualification that I’m not making a comment about Transgendered people in general or anyone’s lifestyle choices. What disturbs me about a man modelling women’s clothes is, simply put, this: haven’t women been trapped and pressured into eating disorders and body image issues by society for long enough by skinny female models? Isn’t this just moving the attainability of our ideals of beauty just another dangerously distant step too far?

On the one hand, this does not seem like an original point, and I feel like it must have been said time and time again before now, but on the other, the fashion industry seems strangely quiet on this fact at the moment. It’s as if mentioning it might make you look overly conservative and anti-progressive. But is it really that wrong to suggest that designers should be designing for women’s bodies, that they should be celebrating and not repressing femininity? Male misogyny at the heart of the fashion industry is no new thing. After all, Cecil Beaton called the stunningly curvaceous Elizabeth Taylor a ‘great thick revolting mass of femininity’, a heinous insult spat out in disgust at the feet of all woman kind.

I should come clean about something here: at 5 foot 10″ or thereabouts I have always had a rather ‘boyish’ build, and rather than feeling pressured into losing weight growing up, I’ve wished again and again I could gain it and have a more feminine body. It horrifies me that so many of my female friends feel dissatisfied with their beautiful curves.

In the Andrej Pejic debate, people have suggested that it’s a good thing for a man to model women’s clothes instead of emaciated-looking women. Perhaps this ideal is just so unattainable that women will finally give up on trying to look like models, they say. This argument seems utterly stupid to me. When we see Andrej Pejic in women’s clothing, it does not matter whether or not we know that he’s a man. We see a stunningly beautiful, other-worldly woman, and we – whether consciously or subconsciously – aspire to that ideal.

Perhaps I should just calm down and accept the inherent disconnect between reality and the catwalk, I hear you say. Okay, fine – but try telling that to a woman whose life has been dogged by eating disorders. Seen in this light, there’s an intense glow of irony in the flash of those bulbs at the end of the runway.

Do you think I’m over-reacting? Let me know your thoughts, below.


About Sophie Caldecott

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4 comments on “Andrej Pejic: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

  1. Connor Rune Mugherini
    November 11, 2011

    Yes. I see it. I see the ways this could farther those ideals that enforce “not good enough” but so could anything if is becomes the IDEAL. In all honesty: I’m a transgender guy (female to male) and I have a history of eating issues.

    Also: Andrej, from what I’ve heard of interviews, does not actually identify as male or female 100%. The people who I know who say this usually identify as genderqueer or genderless. I know that doesn’t dispute the concern but I wanted to throw that out there. It’s the activist in me.

    The real issue in any case is idolizing. If we look to models for the ideal, then whatever body type the models have will be the “perfect” body for our society. Personally I know that and still have trouble fighting it but my issues stem from a deeper place anyways, it’s just one more trigger.

    Andrej could do wonders for the acceptance of those of us with less-than-typical genders and we can’t blame the models anyways. If you want to fight body-image issues, fight the idolizing of any body type. Even extremely healthy bodies can cause these problems because we’re all built differently.

  2. Sophie Caldecott
    November 11, 2011

    Very good point, Connor, thanks for posting it! You’re right, idealisation of any kind can be extremely dangerous. I don’t blame the model as much as the industry… Perhaps if there was more variety across all boards it would be better, and help everyone to see that there isn’t really such a think as ‘normal’.

    • Connor Rune Mugherini
      November 11, 2011

      Yes! I’m glad you understand my point. I see a lot of people want “healthy models” but it’s important that we mention variety or we’ll just idolize that too (as a society).

  3. Pingback: On having little baps | Style and Then Some

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