In the US bookstores Barnes and Noble and Borders are censoring the cover of Dossier magazine which features an image of androgynous model Andrej Pejic, shirtless. As you can see, Andrej is biologically male but he is also very pretty and his face may be considered to have feminine characteristics. Andrej has made waves in the fashion world by modelling women’s clothing, including a wedding dress by Jean-Paul Gautier.
It seems that Andrej’s genderbending prettiness is too much for the good folk in the US so opaque plastic covers are being placed over the cover to protect the oh-so-delicate sensibilities of bookshop customers. Dossier are expected to pay the extra expense for the plastic.
So… where to start with this. Firstly, it’s a lovely PR coup for Dossier magazine and a great publicity boost for Andrej, so in essence I guess this kerfuffle isn’t a bad thing. But it says so much about gender, censorship and society’s attitude to breasts.
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From the SMH:
Dossier creative director Skye Parrott told the Huffington Post that the magazine had informed both stores that Pejic was male, and that they were essentially censoring the image of a shirtless man.
However, both stores stood by their decisions, saying customers could mistake Pejic for a shirtless woman.
I think that statement what’s really caught my attention. This shows up just how ridiculous it is that we declare a woman’s breasts to be obscene and censor-worthy but it’s OK for a man to show his nipples (except, of course, for this man, because he looks too much like a woman). It’s the assumption that breasts are alwasy sexual and must be hidden from view. That putting boobs on a cover is always indecent or sleazy.
This is the same way of thinking that sees breastfeeding photos banned from Facebook and images of shirtless children deemed obscene. It’s helped along by the increasing use and acceptance of the term “breast nudity” in the media, a fact that no doubt pleases the hysterical anti-sex conservatives. Men can be “shirtless” but women must never be “topless”.
I’m a believer in the top free movement. If guys are allowed to take their shirts off in public, women should have the same right. Nobody should be demanding censorship because a magazine shows male nipples, no matter how feminine he might look. And nobody should be automatically assuming that censorship should occur because a magazine shows female nipples.
Obviously this censorship is also a kneejerk reaction to a queer image. Andrej’s photo messes with our ingrained perceptions of gender and no doubt this upsets some people who want it all to be neat and tidy, thank you very much. I’m sure there’ll be howls about the “gay agenda” surrounding the whole thing. Dossier have achieved their aim which was to garner attention and create that gender-ridden confusion. It’s challenging to our sense of what’s “normal” and that’s a good thing.
I’ve looked at pics of Andrej on Google Images. He’s a very, VERY pretty man. He has that aloof, ethereal quality that seems to be favoured by the lunatic fashion designers. I’ve seen comments suggesting he may be the image of perfection to the often weirdly misogynist fashion world: a stick-thin model that looks female without all that nastiness of actually being female. Part of me thinks that’s not too far off the truth.
Is he sexy? I’m not sure. He’s not really my type. Perhaps he looks TOO female for me. Especially in this pic (left) which would probably have caused armagedden if it was on a magazine cover.
Actually, that image is also a good one for challenging stereotypes and stirring up discussion. It shows just how critical the pose is to our interpretation of an image. Here Andrej is posed in a typical, “sexy” female position. It demands that we read that picture in a certain way, looking at it as a sexual image. It also demands that we study it with a male gaze and admire the feminine beauty of the model. But he’s male and that throws a delicious spanner in the works. It’s good fun.
Reminds me of the good old days of Boy George and Marilyn and Dead or Alive. Although I do hope lovely Andrej doesn’t go the way of Pete Burns.
In any case, fuck you to Barnes and Noble and Borders. And fuck you to everyone who thinks censorship of the human body is a good idea.