Andrej Pejic, the beautiful, androgynous Australian model, has had an amazing degree of success for one so young (19). He’s graced the covers of Vogue‘s international editions and worked with such names as Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul-Gaultier.
However, FHM, when choosing to place the Bosnian-born stunner on their list of “100 sexiest women,” was apparently determined to show the world that whatever Pejic’s success, they were determined to keep him from blurring their neat boundaries.
With transphobia thrown in for good measure
While the magazine later yanked the text, it’s revealing. Macho as they try to be, it apparently only takes the slightest visceral proof that gender is a cultural aesthetic — and an enjoyably malleable one at that — for the lads of FHM to be beside themselves with, well, fear. Heaven forefend they might one day recline into their tangled sheets, reach for a copy of Victoria’s Secret, and realize the glamorous angel on the cover is (gasp), a man.
Sadly, FHM is hardly alone. While men appear shirtless on magazine covers all the time, Barnes and Noble saw fit to wrap an issue of Dossier featuring Pejic, on the grounds that “it could be deemed as a naked female.” And that would be terrible.
Pejic for Vanity Fair Italy
Fortunately, it’s doubtful either bit of phobic wibbling will stop Pejic’s rise. His very presence in so many high-profile fashion venues is hopefully evidence that some things are changing for the better. The delightful pictures above and below show that radiant style cuts across the sexes, and Pejic has it in spades, with confidence to match. After humorously rebuffing a reporter who asked if he’d “consider a complete sex change,” Pejic simply said “I’m comfortable with the way I am.” Amen, and yum.
Some thought-provoking, intense, and intensely heartrending clips from Dark Girls, an upcoming documentary by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry that examines “the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color– particularly dark skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture.”
The film is slated for an October premier at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville. Follow Dark Girls on Facebook for updates.
Leonora Carrington lived a life as surreal and fantastical as the images she painted. The last of the first generation of Surrealists, she consorted with the full pantheon of greats, from Dali to Picasso, and was hailed as “Mexico’s greatest living artist” before her death 94. Despite her storied career as bohemian darling, wild muse and prolific creator of paintings, books, sculpture and theater, she remained always humble, and resolutely uninterested in labels, or all the laurels that have been flung her way over the years.
Her approach to art was completely intuitive, stemming from the deep well of her soul, her own psychic underworld realm that she populated with fantastic beasts and mysterious figures. She disdained the overintellectualization and analysis of her work, her beliefs, her inspirations – believing fervently that the visual world she created was unnecessarily hindered by those determined to understand what it was all about. She was a provocateur, delighting in stirring up trouble amongst the staid, society types whose ilk she rejected. André Breton wrote of her in his Anthologie de l’humoir noir:
“Those respectable people who, for a dozen years, had invited her to dine in a prestigious restaurant have still not recovered from the embarrassment when they noticed that, while continuing to take part in the conversation, she had taken off her shoes and meticulously covered her feet in mustard.”
All of her work is infused with this dark sense of humor and mischief, particularly her writing. In her only novel, The Hearing Trumpet, she envisions herself as a wizened crone – the 92 year old Marian Leatherby, a deaf and toothless “drooling sack of decomposing flesh” who is cast-off by callous relatives to a sanatorium for the elderly. It is here that her life truly begins, when she finds her kind: a coven of witch-sisters who help her discover and unleash her mediumistic talents.
Carrington once said, “I wanted to appear like an old lady so I could poke fun at sinister things.” As a young woman growing up in her stultifyingly proper Lancashire family estate, she railed against convention, and was booted out of multiple boarding schools. In her story “The Debutante”, she recounts her fantasy of dressing up a hyena in her coming-out dress, and sending the wild thing to her debutante’s ball in her stead. Allowed at last to attend art school, she horrified her family by running off with a married man twice her age, who happened to be Max Ernst. The romance was tragic, and ill-fated – doomed by the Nazi invasion of France and their subsequent incarceration of her lover. After a nervous breakdown, which caused her to be thrown into an asylum, she fled Europe for Mexico, where she settled and flourished until her death.
“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.”
— Leonora Carrington
For many of us who have been following the story of Chrissy Lee Polis, the 22-year-old transgender woman who was brutally attacked in a suburban McDonald’s near Baltimore ten days ago, it’s been a difficult week. Watching the story go viral provided a sobering look at the amount of phobia and ignorance that still surrounds many people’s concepts of both gender and race.
The attack occurred on April 18th, when Polis stopped at the restaurant to use the ladies’ room. Polis told the Baltimore Sun that she heard her assailants saying “that’s a dude, that’s a dude – and he’s in the female bathroom.” Immediately afterwards, she was beaten, dragged across the floor by her hair, and kicked by two teenagers as a McDonald’s employee recorded the attack on his camera phone and other workers stood by idly. The cell phone recording of the attack (TRIGGER WARNING: extremely violent) shows several employees gawking and laughing as the attack progresses. A sole employee makes an attempt to break up the fight, but retreats almost immediately. A grandmotherly woman attempts to come to Polis’ aid; a police report revealed that she was punched in the face by one of the assailants when she tried to intervene. After two minutes, Polis collapses into a seizure on the floor. The McDonald’s worker who is taping the scene warns the attackers that they need to flee because the police are coming.
A crowd rallies outside the McDonald’s where the crime took place
Coverage of the story on the web has been as painful to watch as the footage itself. It was awful to witness the first wave of discussion, which appeared almost exclusively on white supremacist blogs, with transphobia piling on top of racism as details about Polis’ identity emerged. It was painful to watch mainstream, high-traffic blogs use the word “tranny” in their coverage (the best example of this being, if memory serves correctly, Time-Warner-owned blog Smoking Gun, though their posts appear to have now been scrubbed of the slur). And it was painful to watch Polis’ own twin brother continually refer to her as “my brother” and pointedly use male gender pronouns at her support rally (here, at 1:15). All around, a damning look at the country’s state of gender awareness, or lack thereof.
Polis has been released from the hospital, and spoke to the Baltimore Sun about her experience living as a transwoman in her neighborhood. The McDonald’s employee who filmed the attack has been fired. Both attackers have been apprehended and charged with assault. Hate crime charges may or may not be applied to the case; we’ll likely know in about a week.
In the face of the ugly, seething hatred that surrounds this story, the most encouraging element has been the turnout of support. Over 135,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the McDonald’s Corporation holds its employees accountable for the assault. More inspiring than anything have been images of the rally held at the scene of the crime this past Monday. Hundreds of people showed up outside McDonald’s to voice their solidarity with Chrissy Lee Polis. One of the right-wing hate sites covering the assault early on asked the question, “what happens when sanctified leftwing grievance groups collide over black homophobia?” In their small imagination, people can only choose one side: black vs. white, gay vs. straight, trans vs. cis. There are no gradations or complexities in their world.
Except, that’s not what the images and footage of this rally show us. There are people from all across the race, gender and class spectrum standing up for Chrissy Lee Polis. Trans activist Dayna Beyer, who helped organize the rally, recounts the event:
What was initially intended to be a vigil as the victim appeared severely injured… evolved into an upbeat rally of a united community demanding an end to violence and discrimination.
Having been involved in far too many vigils for murdered trans women over the years, and accepting the general apathy in both the trans and LGBT communities, I expected 30 people to ultimately show up. Instead, 300 did.
…when the program ended and the crowd would have normally dispersed, a funny thing happened. No one left.
People mingled for another 75 minutes until the lights were turned out in the parking lot. There had been no trouble, no counter-demonstration, no hate speech – just love and sisterhood and camaraderie. Locals and activists, gay and straight, cis and trans.
Maryland still has a long way to go. Earlier this month, the Maryland Senate voted down a bill that would have provided protection for trans people against discrimination in housing and employment. Before the bill even hit the Senate, language pertaining to use of public accommodations was stripped from it. Blogger Amanda Hess writes, “opposition to the bill largely focused on the toilet issue—a hysterical concern over gender non-conforming people sharing public restrooms.” Perhaps the tragedy of this event will push lawmakers to rethink their position.
“You remember that old song ‘Que Sera Sera, Whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see’? I’ve always felt that. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but I wouldn’t change a thing.” –Poly Styrene
Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, best known as Poly Styrene, legendary singer for the short-lived, seminal punk band, X-Ray Spex, has died at the age of 53.
This sad news comes to us mere weeks after Styrene officially released her final solo album, Generation Indigo, shortly after revealing to the press that she was fighting for her life. (Oh, cancer, up yours.)
Young Poly Styrene wore braces and bright Technicolor dream coats. She looked and sounded nothing like Crystal Gayle or Karen Carpenter. Instead, she hollered jagged lyrics from the bottom of her heart with all of the raw strength and fire of her male contemporaries in the ’77 UK punk school, plus a bit of something extra: full on, straight-up, unapologetic female outsider outrage, and a ferocious personal philosophy of anti-consumer culture environmentalism the likes of which punk would not see again until the Dead Kennedys.
In fact, Billboard would one day call her the “archetype for the modern-day feminist punk”. She certainly was, to put a point on it, “one of the least conventional front-persons in rock history, male or female”. [via]
NME writer James McMahon:
We live in an age where Jarvis Cocker and Beth Ditto are long established alternative icons, where Lady Gaga dressing head to toe in offal barely raises a shrug. Within the reign of Olivia Newton-John, like all the best popstars of their time, Poly Styrene must have seemed like she’d fallen to earth from another – most likely day glo daubed – world. She was to the spirit of individuality what Christopher Columbus was to having a wander.
It’s hard to imagine who the intended audience was for the “Stuffed” Girl’s Heads* from Honor House Products Corp. Certainly, there was and, no doubt, still is a well entrenched consumer base comprised of misogynists who would perhaps guffaw at the site of such an item or nod sagely, in possession of the belief that women are, indeed, nothing more than trophies. Despite this unfortunate reality, I have a hard time believing that anyone would actually buy something like this. No, this strikes me as the perfect gift for the laziest of movie serial killers; the star of some Grunge-era slasher film in which the villain is too stoned and jaded to actually get up off the couch in his parents’s basement to slay a cheerleader.
Regardless, for the low price of $3.35 you get the complete array of hair colors, those being blond, brunette, and redhead, affixed to a genuine mahogany base (notice no quotation marks there, so you know that shit is real.) The downer here, of course, is that the head is only 3/4 scale which may not completely sate your blood lust unless you have a Beetlejuice inspired fetish to go along with the murderous psychopathy. It also has the unfortunate side effect of putting a damper on the “realism” touted so often in the copy. That said, as the article suggests, it would no doubt be a conversation starter, though that conversation may take the form of a hushed exchange with authorities over the phone while the owner is in the other room.
*Also, who decided on the placement of those quotation marks. I mean, “Stuffed”? Shouldn’t they be around “Girl’s Head”? Shouldn’t the implication be that the head in question is not a real goddamn head and not that it isn’t actually stuffed? Maybe I’m over-thinking this.
Forget the images you’ve learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.
Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.
When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.
If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet it, Let her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.
If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.
Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
They’ve got this.
Gabe Moses is “a poet, author, performance artist, dogwalker, and accomplished floor-sock-glider who does most of his best writing in the bathtub. You can find his work in lots of cool places, but that kid singing James Brown on YouTube is not him.”
I’m a bit behind the curve on this, but the image above is too arresting not to post here. Last month The World Press Photo jury announced their winners for best press photos from 2010. The overall winner was the image you see above by nine time winner Jodi Bieber, a photographer from South Africa, and was shot for the cover of Time. The back story is just as horrifying as you probably imagine:
Her winning picture shows Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old woman from Oruzgan province in Afghanistan, who fled back to her family home from her husband’s house, complaining of violent treatment. The Taliban arrived one night, demanding Bibi be handed over to face justice. After a Taliban commander pronounced his verdict, Bibi’s brother-in-law held her down and her husband sliced off her ears and then cut off her nose. Bibi was abandoned, but later rescued by aid workers and the American military. After time in a women’s refuge in Kabul, she was taken to America, where she received counseling and reconstructive surgery. Bibi Aisha now lives in the US.
Juror Ruth Eichorn said of the picture:
It’s an incredibly strong image. It sends out an enormously powerful message to the world, about the 50% of the population that are women, so many of whom still live in miserable conditions, suffering violence. It is strong because the woman looks so dignified, iconic.
Not much is known about this photo. It looks like the carte-de-visite of a Broadway actress named Nora. That’s all we may ever know about her, though it’s fun to imagine her as a feisty character who smoked cigars, cheated at poker, held séances, and habitually carried a riding crop.