Exploring Identity, Femininity & Androgyny – Fiena London

From an early age, we’re conditioned into thinking we must grow up to look, act and be a certain way. Whether it’s dressing more feminine or acting to gender stereotypes, these are ideals that have been transposed onto us for centuries, but why must we be expected to fit into a generic box when gender expression is so fluid?

Both men and women are expected to fit into societal roles and have been conditioned to follow these ‘rules’ of femininity and masculinity, however what does it mean to identify as both masculine and feminine in today’s world? 

Masculinity and femininity are phrases that are thrown around in society, but it’s been found that very little scientific evidence actually defines what these two words mean and are. And yet, these are words that we use in day-to-day scenarios. There’s been a huge shift in how women are presented in the media, but it’s still evident in a lot of ways stereotypes are portrayed, with men on the front line, working and bringing the bread home, while women stay at home, adopting the typical ‘housewife’ traits of cleaning, cooking and looking after the kids. 

In more recent years, we’ve seen the phrase androgyny thrown into the mix. It’s often misinterpreted but it is a gender expression where an individual presents both masculine and feminine characteristics. It’s a self-expression of identity, and people of any gender or sexual orientation can identify as androgynous. 

Androgyny is something that has been around for centuries, with the term deriving from Ancient Greek and has been present over history in many ways, from Greek mythology through to the Georgian-era and, of course, more recently in today’s culture. However, the term became more commonly known and used when gender scholar Sandra L. Bem created the concept of psychological androgyny in the 1970s, when exploring the characteristics associated with masculine and feminine. 

Like most things in today’s culture, when we think of androgyny our minds cast themselves to celebrities we know who are challenging the concept of masculinity and femininity, and identify more as androgynous, from Grace Jones to Harry Styles who became the first male to be on a Vogue cover solely. 

In 2015, Grace Jones released her memoir, aptly titled I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, which explored androgyny and her powerful identity through the public lens. She touches upon her two distinct personalities and her ability to challenge the stereotypes in a mysterious, alluring way. As well as exploring the challenges and mishaps she faced growing up in a strict religious setting. 

This summer sees Grace Jones curate this year’s Meltdown festival at the Southbank Centre. An artist-curated music festival, this year’s line-up is brilliant and features the likes of Travis Alabanza’s poetic audio installation; DJ sets from No Signal radio; an opening club night with Honey Dijon; solo performances from Cut Hands; and a special intimate performance from Grace Jones herself. 

Androgyny is all about self-expression, from the way we present ourselves to challenging the stereotypes, and Grace Jones’ memoir offers us a chance to explore her story and learn more about shattering the glass ceiling of stereotypes.


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