Friday, December 2, 2011

Transgression: Roland Barthes, the Old Spice Guy & Modcloth Shoes

 So...this just happened.  I came home from the gym to see my new shoes waiting for me on the porch.  I absolutely could not wait to try them on, so I did...while wearing my favorite pair of Sprawl shorts.  This picture basically sums up my life:  MMA and fashion.  The only thing that could have completed the summation would be if I was standing in the middle of a library. 

 The Renaissance Man:
 I have a friend who is 6'8, 275lbs and a yoga instructor.  He was a college football player with a 4.0 and is now finishing his final year of dental school.  We like to describe him as the enormous ex-football playing- yoga instructor-future dentist-crystal collecting-rare sea coral distributor.  We have always delighted in the "Renaissance Man," that guy will varied skill sets from a plethora of discordant arenas.  That guy from the Old-Spice commericals is a NFL player and an opera singer?  Ryan Gosling used to train ballet and once stopped a fight between two hipsters?
Um, yeah, I don't get it.
Now this I get. 

It is funny how we are easily charmed by the Renaissance man, yet seemingly skeptical of the 'Renaissance Woman.'  A model who likes to read Russian literature?  Fake.  A female rugby player who loves fashion?  Yeah right.  Why is society so hesitant to recognize that women may also have varied interests?

Academic Jargon:
When we have two discordant entities, the boundary that separates them is meaning.  Feminine and masculine, light and dark, these binaries create meaning through their distinctions.  Thus, the point where that boundary between antithesis is crossed is a site of transgression.  Roland Barthes explains that "anything that draws these two antipathetic sides together is rightly scandalous," but perhaps scandal can be something positive (S/Z 65).

If the boundary that separates antithesis is meaning, then transgression is the erasure of that meaning.  This can be positive when that meaning is an ideological construction used to marginalize and stigmatize those who operate outside their gender or social convention.  New meaning and conventions can not be created in an instant.  It is only through the play and manipulation of ideology through transgression that we can start to accept women who are intelligent and beautiful, aggressive and, if they choose to be, maternal. 

I am a fighter, an academic and an aspiring pin-up...perhaps we can describe that as a triple transgression.  Yet I think that most people out there are amalgams of cultural types.  Pacquiao famously loves boxing, the church and karaoke.  The gorgeous amazonian Serena Williams plays tennis 'like a man' and designs clothing as well as housewares.  We should delight, as we do with me, in the varied interests and desires of women without being skeptical or dismissive.

Oh yeah, this also happened:
I changed from the Sprawl shorts to the Jaco tights for this picture

Barthes, Roland.  S/Z.  Trans. Richard Miller.  Hill and Wang:  New York, 1974.

Shoes from Modcloth (purchased on black Friday because I couldn't control myself)
First Pair:  Cocktails in the Countryside Heels
Second Pair: Mirror Wood Heels


Pris Tharpe said...

This - I like!!!

Live to your potential - we only have 1 life!

DagneyTaggert said...


I just found your blog. I like your attitude and your shoes!

Dagney Taggert

slideyfoot said...

Love the Old Spice Guy: if only THAT was the kind of advertising we got from Lloyd Irvin et al. Though Jeff Glover and Bill Cooper are pretty good on the comedy advertising side of things. ;D

If I could get my gf into BJJ, then she'd be a definite 'Renaissance Woman' contender, as she has most of the classic requirements: paints, writes poetry and prose, speaks Spanish, studies philosophy, sings and plays piano. That's a big 'if' though.

The Pugilista said...

Slidey- It sounds like she is already a Renaissance woman! I think it is just harder for people to believe that women who fight can also enjoy historically feminine endeavors.