“Too feminine” for a guy

There are a lot of issues that bother me. So many, in fact, that I had a hard time deciding on what to write for my first blog entry. First I thought I would say something about SOPA. Then I thought that I would contribute to the #blogforchoice rally on Twitter in honor of the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Instead, I will be writing about two experiences I had at work this week.

I work as a school photographer. This is my third season doing it. I’ve never particularly liked my job, but overall it’s a decent way to make money and not have to work year-round. My first spring season was far superior to the fall season, so I had high hopes for this season, as well. I made a promise to myself that I would try to forget all the horrible days that I had last season and would try to make this season enjoyable. I wanted to be proud of my work.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I went down for training on Wednesday and heard our corporate trainer tell us that boys weren’t allowed to do an S-tilt ever because that look was “too feminine” for a guy. The only “proper” pose for a guy is the C-tilt. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, this is a C-tilt, so named because the head and shoulders form a C:

The S-tilt, on the other hand, looks like this and is so named because it forms an S (or at least I’ve been told; I assume the S I have drawn below is what they’re talking about):

There are several things wrong with this comment, but first I’m going to address the stupidity of claiming that one of these poses is more “masculine” than the other. Look at those two pictures and tell me that he looks masculine in one and feminine in the other. It’s absolutely ridiculous. [The guy in the picture, by the way, is my boyfriend, who graciously allowed me to take his picture to make my point. You will see him again before this post is finished.]

Now, let’s pretend for the moment that the latter picture really is more “feminine.” There are so many different aspects about that claim that bother me, but I’m going to start with the first one that came to mind: who cares? Saying that a guy looks feminine is just another way of saying that he looks gay, and I don’t see what’s wrong with that. If we don’t want people to look gay, then it’s safe to assume we don’t want them to actually be gay, either, and where the hell does a photography company get off telling people they aren’t allowed to be gay? Our spring program is supposed to be all about letting the kids show their personalities a bit more – how can we even pretend that’s true when we won’t let guys pose in a way that some people don’t like?

Today was my first day at a school this season. For their pictures, the kids sit on a rock and either put their hands on their knees or put one hand on their knee and bring their other hand up to their face, like this:

One of my coworkers spent ten minutes going on and on about how she would never put a boy in that position because it wasn’t “manly.” First of all, I think this pose looks adorable, especially with little kids. I took multiple pictures today of little boys with their hands up like that, and I thought they looked great. I can’t believe that anyone would look at a picture of an eight year old in a pose like that and think that he wasn’t manly. I can’t understand why we want to attach labels like that in the first place, of course, but this is one that I can’t even pretend to understand.

Now that I’ve (hopefully) made it clear how much I disagree with what constitutes masculinity these days, I can move on to what I feel is the most troubling part about these claims: the underlining belief that being masculine is good and being feminine is bad.

A few days ago, my boyfriend (pictured above) asked why gay men were called queens but lesbians weren’t called kings. I told him that it was because everyone knew that kings were better than queens because they were men and being masculine was always better than being feminine; that by being gay they were rejecting that manliness and were embracing femininity, which was bad, which is why they’re called queens. Lesbians, on the other hand, are fakes. They try to claim masculinity as their own, but they’re not really men, so they can never gain access to that precious title of king because they’re undeserving. In other words, gay men lose their manly title by embracing characteristics of the weaker sex, and lesbians are scorned for thinking than they can rise above their femininity and act like men.

I hope no one reading this misunderstands me: I do not think that gay men and women are any more or less masculine or feminine than anyone else. My answer above was meant to be a light-hearted mockery of our society, except it ended up sounding more bitter than joking, because I wasn’t really joking. As a society, we generally look at “masculine” traits as strong and “feminine” traits as weak. I’m still on the fence about whether it’s better to try to make people believe than women can have masculine traits or to try to make people believe that feminine traits can be strong. I believe both of those statements to be true, of course, but I’m not sure which I would fight for over the other.

What I do know is that everyone would be better off if we stopped labeling people and characteristics as masculine or feminine. I know I am going to write more about this topic in the future, because it’s one that bothers me a lot, but for now I am going to wrap it up by saying that telling guys that they can’t look gay/feminine in their pictures is completely ridiculous, and the fact that our policy seems to say differently makes me ashamed to be a school photographer.

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