FEMALEGAZE MEETS UNDRESSMAN

MAGNUS MÖRCK, MAGDALENA PETERSSON

Abstract


While Dressmann is a large Norwegian-owned men’s wears chain store, highly visible in Swedish malls, Undressmann only exists in the imagination of the creators of the Hunks of Hisingen Island– a calender of male pin-ups published in Sweden for 2006. Three women recruited the men, took the photographs, designed the calendar discussed in our article, they arranged its printing and distribution, including a catwalk event, where the men were put on live display. Hunks of Hisingen is an example of women designing a commodity and marketing the product, which is the spectacle of young attractive men posing for a female gaze. The study of this calendar is part of a larger project dealing with consumer products that could have a potential for challenging conventional understandings of gender, thus offering both progressive politics and a marketable product. Cars, DIY-tools, furniture and ads are included in the study. We use an ethnographic approach that combines interviews and visual studies.

As part of a project on gender troubling consumer goods in the sense of Judith Butler´s famous idea of “gender trouble” (1989,1993), disturbing taken for granted notions of masculinity, femininity and heterosexuality, we selected this calender for study. “Calendar girl” is the stereotype of a passive glamorous woman for consumption within a heterosexual gender order. It is one of many symbols of a gender order that is challenged in the name of gender equality. No longer monolithically male, the gaze has been transformed, reversed or extended, that has been differing positions argued in new consumer research (Schroeder and Zwick 2004) that we will elaborate on in this case study. In section 1. we review some of the work on the gaze and gender, how visual culture help constituting individuals in terms of gender and sexuality by assigning proper positions for the desire and display of bodies. We agree with Schroeder and Zweck among others, that the gaze has become extended, more ways of looking has become acceptable. Masculinity is adapting to consumer society and in some ways is becoming less differentiated from femininity. However this move is highly fraught with contradictions. Turning to the early writings of Walters and Dyer some of the safety measures of male nude display are spelled out, exemples of this are attributes denying passivity or humour deflecting sexuality. Finally we turn to Smith and Greer who tries to take our topic seriously, that women are denied appearing as subjects in visual sexual discourse. Section 2. offers a descriptive iconography of our objects of study, a male pin-up calendar. In section 3 a group interview with the designers/photographers allows for a better understanding of the intentions of the creators. Their discourse is a mix of pride taken in the achievment of manufacturing the product and bringing out the men on the pages – and the voicing of some serious doubts about the limits of their venture. Power differences where men dominate tend to seep through. Themselves policing the borders of heterosexuality, the creators avoid posing the men in overt feminine positions. Caring for the market means keeping gender ambivalence under control. Finally in section 4, we draw our conclusions.


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