An anorexic adolescent girl with a penis,
pale skin and chest-long hair frizzle-fried with bleach,
displayed against a wintry grey drop for the magazine spread,
when outdoors spring is blooming, greening,
gilding skin and bronzing cheeks,
tries for pay to sell desire for summer sweaters
to young men who couldn’t begin to afford them
and would roast alive if they wore them in July.
Designer, marketer, photographer, editor, model, viewer
all know a twenty-something on the street’s
unlikely to purchase a thousand-dollar cardigan,
the magazine itself’s already bought,
and the delicate model’s hardly the masculine archetype,
so what commodity is actually being traded?
Here must be the logic:
Clothes sell best when skinny women wear them,
but straight men, afraid of looking girly, will resist
wearing men’s clothes modeled by women,
so the next best thing is to have them modeled
by a pretty young man who looks—though everyone knows
that it’s sexist to say so—pretty much like a girl,
and then the straight boys will look because at first glance
the boy’s a girl, but be willing to buy because he’s
still a man despite that first impression, but still
won’t be able to afford the merchandise
if they are young enough to want it;
but in fact the dude holding the magazine
is almost certainly gay anyway, and though
he can’t afford to pay retail either, he’ll know
where to find the good sales and discount racks,
and has probably been planning some shopping already,
which is good because the model in the picture
is probably too effeminate to attract him,
unless he’s shopping for feminine clothes.
because he’s into drag or pondering a gender transition.
And so, the men’s magazine spread advertising
men’s clothes by male designers for sale to men
still manages to objectify women and perpetuate
a stereotypically narrow view of feminine beauty
while simultaneously exploiting a young man
who fits that idea of feminine beauty, rather than
the rugged masculine ideal, which the male readers
might view as threateningly unattainable
or as dangerous competition.
And so, when all is said and done,
after viewing the magazine spread
by means of which wealthy fashion moguls
exploit the anorexic bottle-blond girl with a penis
exploited for his/her conformity
to an idealized version of feminine beauty,
some skinny gay boys will go buy
some cheap T-shirts from the sale racks,
and that, boys and girls, is how the fashion business works.
But the clothes are so pretty!
T. Allen Culpepper