In the course I was teaching on Cultural Diversity this past weekend (an interesting gig that I have yet to post about–I let my DSL connection lapse over the past couple days!), I asked about 60 au pairs from countries like Mexico, Sweden, Germany, and Thailand about words or images that came to mind when I said “Female.” On the board, I wrote their responses:
And when I asked for their ideas about the word “Male”, their voices called out:
“Hairy” (seriously, this was the first response)
Photographer Sam Taylor-Wood took a series of photographs of famous Hollywood men shedding tears as if they were at a funeral. The photographs strike me as particularly moving, both for their emotional impact and the way that it calls into question our ideas of masculinity. I wish that I could throw a couple of these images–say, of Sean Penn with his biceps veiny and masculine–in front of the class and ask how this subverted their ideas of gender. The idea of male goes so much further than biology, no?