The Look

Heteronormativity in Social Media

I know I’m very privileged to play dress up, turning my flights of fancy into “reality”. The abilities to do all this didn’t materialize overnight: I have worked at them through the last twenty years. Retouching, assisting a photographer, and now being a makeup artist, all the while working with inspiring talent. I have learned a lot. And what would have been a Halloween costume party trick, has become an almost weekly therapy sesh. I know right, not what I expected either.

I find it very easy to be trapped by what society and close partners expect of me. Not only as what my behaviour should be, but what my appearance should be. I can blame it on the magazines I’ve seen and the movies I’ve watched (way before social media), but that is my problem. Social Media, offered a possibility to break free, but wherever I look, it’s rife with Heteronormativity and Male Gaze. I have always felt a dis-comfort with the idea of womanhood, or perhaps what I should say: the images fabricated about womanhood.

As a way of subverting my femininity and escaping the traps of female performance, I’ve always liked to show a queer version of myself in my everyday life. A certain form of androgyny is what I’ve constructed as a comfortable facade. I was always scared of embodying a womanly image. But now that I’m in my forties, there is no escape from womanliness. Through these pictures of femme drag, or female heteronormative posturing, I’m finding that I’m healing a broken sense of self. It’s helping me to expand, what I’m realizing, was a limited vision of myself. Ironically, it’s also seems to be underlying the growing discomfort of other queen women on the internet.

I have to be honest, these last twenty years of working in the visual industry, of marketing humans, have also taken their toll on me. I’ve seen up close how human being-ness can be made into performance. Yes, life is a stage, and we all are faced with choices to embody certain values and ideas through our choices in identity. And with social media, everyone is more and more performing and peacocking.

Yet, identity is also a form of pigeon-holing. We put behaviours into boxes and label them. We label each other, but we are more than processed and recognized behaviours. This tired and old cliché, I know… The truth is we come from places of judgement, more than ever in fact, and that is perhaps because there have never been so many labels to put onto people. And yet in the limited, Male Gaze of pictures there isn’t enough nuance, beyond the grab you by the whatever we need to grab.

We are more than the pigeon holes we are being put into, and putting ourselves into. We are much more complex than the image that is created (perfect or imperfect), or the perception we can have of ourselves and others. Yet I find myself working with mediums and processes that reduce the humans portrayed to sound bites and clips. How do I come to terms with that? I’ll get back to you on that.

But right now, I’m reconsidering all these things that “the industry” distorts. I can’t change how things are done, but if there is one thing I’ve learned: it’s that I can change myself.