L’Origine du Monde (1866) by Gustave Courbet
by Asri Alhamdaputra
It was Friday night in the first week of Fall semester. I was getting my usual at La Burrita, and as per usual, I was stoned. A swarm of white guys walked in, presumably drunk, judging from their lack of awareness of acceptable social cues, and being the white man's whore that I am, my high self inspected each and every one of them, closely.
To my surprise, I find my gaydar to be unreliable at the time. These guys gave strong douchey, rapey, preppy boys vibes but their skinny jeans and French-tucked floral button downs spoke otherwise; are these guys gay or fratty?
This thought led me to a series of tangents I still ponder even today: how come more and more straight guys wear traditionally feminine clothing? From the phenomena of the romphim, to shocking pink oversized hoodies being something Supreme would sell, to the peculiarity of straight guys wearing floral shirts to go out; it seems to me that masculinity has become less rigid nowadays. Has Tan France’s influence towards the straights really been that impactful to the point where more and more straight preppy frat boys dress the way Tan does? I doubt it, last time I checked at Kip’s, countless groups of straight guys wearing floral shirts and pink hoodies still gawk at drunk girls from the corner of the dance floor, waiting on their chance to prowl and nonconsensually grind on them. Never have I seen the anomaly of a group of straight guys dancing their hearts out at the club without giving a shit about discrediting their masculinity, nor have I seen drag themed frat parties. Something doesn’t add up here: you see countless burly dudes wearing tight hawaiian shirts on a typical Friday night, but is this a stride we are making towards dismantling fragile toxic masculinity, or is this merely an ornamental trend used by guys to seem cool and emotionally available to hot babes?
Have you heard of the famous painting L’Origine du Monde (1866) by Gustave Courbet? It’s basically a realism piece of a closeup of a woman’s genitals. The piece utilizes the strategy of poetic shock to spark conversations about eroticism in art, while subsequently spearheading the notion of boundaries of representation and actively rejecting conventional notions of what was considered presentable. Sounds progressive right? Well, simultaneously by creating the piece Gustave Courbet took credit for the painting and sold a depiction of a woman’s genitals to other white men who were able to afford his highly valued artwork; It is crucial to keep in mind that the identity of the model in the painting is still up for debate to this day, while everyone remembers who Gustave Courbet was. Besides, there is something inherently voyeuristic and troubling about the piece, not because of the obscenity, but because the painting subliminally represents a pre-established unbalanced power dynamic between two people due to gender inequality which leads to exploitation of the female body. As radical and revolutionary as the piece was to the art trajectory at the time, it is still inherently unethical and problematic.
Okay, but what’s this have to do with creepy men wearing floral shirts? It has everything to do with it! It tells us that the power move of being seemingly progressive and feminist has been a strategy utilized by men to further oppress women since the early 19th century. It tells us that these frat boys with their French-tucks are not here to talk to you about consent and be there for your emotional needs. It tells us something we have known from the get go: men are trash.
I’m not saying that the sight of men being less concerned about traditional gender roles is pervasive, nor am I saying that men’s views on masculinity should go back to “wearing pink makes you gay!” What I’m merely doing is calling out straight men, from the floral-wearing French-tucking frat bros to the artsy skating co-op sadbois with their nails painted, that accessorizing your outer appearance with knick knacks that make you seem progressive is not enough. It doesn’t give you a freebie to sit out on an active participation to dismantle the patriarchy, it won’t magically make you a feminist man who is radically changing our views towards masculinity, and most certainly, it won't get you laid.
Was this a reach? Probably. Am I being too harsh and generalizing all men as equally trash? Yes. But is there merit to what I say, and am I making the most of my platform to speak my truth as a non-binary femme of color? Also yes. So, girls and gays, let’s all actively call out these men and remind them of the fact that they aint shit.