Saturday, 24 September 2011

genderation house, my genderation

This interests me . . . and I've yet to finish a new post of my own, so I've nicked someone else's. I hope you enjoy it. From an original (with occasional stylistic and grammatical edits from me) post on house music and sexuality, quotes from an uncredited Jamaican in New York perspective and then from the perspective of DJ Ripley, an Englishman in London.

New York: "I would go to Red Zone to hear DJ Dmitri from Deelite spin. It was a mostly people of color crowd, and people would just be there to DANCE, go to the bathroom to wash their faces and gulp water from the pipe, then go back and dance some more. Then there was the dancing itself, where gender became a blur. Drag queens would go from voguing to uprocking and breakin. Girls in baggy pants and baseball caps would do the same. And men I knew were hetero would have fun busting into a runway strut and a fierce vogue...

After living in Jamaica, to see such a celebration of gender fluidity was stunning - and more importantly, liberating. Judith Butler theorises gender to be performance, and we all tried it on, supported and ritualized fluidity, away from the gender police. It gave me, a hetero man, the permission to try on various masculinities, to be more comfortable being andro, and to try movements where I could explore being more butch or more femme. I had officially escaped the confining box of hegemonic masculinity, and wore my fluidity naturally with pride."

London: "Obviously my perspective as a white man in London wass different, but certainly the gender/sexuality fluidity of techno and house music parties/clubs was part of what made that scene so exciting for me. A lot of the squat techno parties I went to in the early/mid 90s were androgynous in a fairly masculine way, i.e. men and women all dressed in jeans/black clothes/combat gear. Then there were the glam house clubs I frequented where I saw much more of an emphasis on dressing up, but still in a very playful way, boys and girls with glitter, sparkly clothes and make up. There was a mixed gay/straight vibe and many straight clubbers were going to gay clubs like Heaven.

I recall feeling that this was beginning to freeze over in around the mid-90s. There was a resurgence of 'blokeism' in popular culture, with lads mags extolling a lowest common denominator masculinity of football, cars and breasts. On the dancefloor more and more blokes were turning up in nobody-could-mistake-for-camp Ben Sherman shirts. For women the playful adoption of a 'glamour' look became more like a compulsory 'club babe' dress code. It was no surprise that within a few years, cliched boys with guitars rock had began to push dance music back to the margins.

And just to prove this trend wasn't just in my imagination, here's a letter published in Mixmag in 1995:

'I am becoming increasingly aware of and concerned about promoters insisting that women (babes) should be dressed to thrill. I think that women (babes) are being pushed away from the dancefloor by these essentially male promoters and treated as a commodity, by which I mean that a better looking female crowd induces a greater number of men, more media attention and a hipper status... to get into a venue we are told not to be geeks, to glam it up and to look gorgeous. Does this mean I have to wear high heels, restrictive clothes, a wonderbra and to visit the hairdressers for the latest stylish hairdo? I like to dress up, it gives you a sense of occasion, but I can't dance in high heels, I need to wear comfortable (which does not mean drab) clothes, and just tie my hair back. So far I've had no problems entering clubs, but the way clubland is heading how much longer? Is it soon to become a distasteful sight to see a woman (babe) out of it and saying fuck off to all the men, she's here for herself" (Elizabeth, Hastings, Mixmag, June 1995).'

Thanks to John at Uncarved for alerting me to this discussion.

Whole thing originally posted by Transpontine, gratefully reposted by the angry bird.

London, September 2010

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