Sociology of Gender in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Work

The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, made some interesting comments on gender.

Gaultier’s evolving style blends ideas of masculinity and femininity, but at the same time is still centred on mainstream ideas of heterosexual women: showing off curves on (mostly) slender bodies.

JPG has used gender non-conforming models throughout his career, including transgender women, and other body types and femininities seldom seen in high fashion, such as “plus sized” models. This is referenced as part of the exhibition, but it would have been more interesting to see this displayed via the mannequins.

The room dedicated to the artist’s punk roots was an absolute delight, and I spent way too much time in the futuristic-themed room displaying his film designs. I was ecstatic to see the designs from Peter Greenaway’s The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover.

The stories of the designer’s life were my favourite aspects of the exhibition, giving context for his lifelong interest for evoking traditional Western styles of femininity using corsets.

JPG is a fascinating figure that has commanded much academic attention, due to his contradictory reflection of art and commercialism and for speaking out on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) issues; and not without controversy.

Whiteness Within Sociology “Gender” Studies

Here is an interesting sociological study but one that highlights an important gap in sociological methods and thinking. This article is based on student research in the USA (originally published for a mass, non sociological audience) but it replicates a common problem with research our discipline produces. The ethonographic study uses non-participant observation within a four-star restaurant, which involved the researcher watching both opposite-gender and same-gender pairs eating, and taking field notes of the researcher’s observations. The study finds that “women” change their eating behaviour when eating with “men,” by taking smaller, less frequent bites, in comparison with when they eat with other “women.” This extends to the way in which “women” use napkins. All very interesting and worth reading.

But what the researcher leaves unsaid regards axes of socioeconomics that apparently do not matter to White, middle-class heterosexual audiences. We are not told how many people in the small sample size represent race, class and sexuality dynamics, let alone other markers of Otherness. The author generalises behaviour observed at a four-star restaurant to say something universal about gender, without considering that other cultures control eating (and gender, and race and sexuality) in divergent ways. Continue reading Whiteness Within Sociology “Gender” Studies

Transmormon

Eri Hayward shares her story of being a transgender woman in Utah, USA. She is of Japanese descent and was raised in a Mormon community, where she says she didn’t get an “opportunity to learn about things that were different,” like the support available to her as a transgender woman. This short documentary includes Eri and her parents reflecting on what it was like to understand her gender identity. She initially “came out as gay” but her story reflects that at the time this was a stepping stone “to be myself, which is a woman.” Continue reading Transmormon