Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dissecting the Straight Agenda: Pictures of Your Kids That Don't Embarrass the Family

You guys, I was not a photogenic kid. I would argue that I am not a photogenic adult, either. But as a kid, I always looked like a bug-eyed weirdo in my photos. If I were someone who had pictures of myself as a child around, I would share them with you. Alas, I don't, and my parents aren't the types to digitize old family albums. So you're just going to have to take my word for it, and enjoy the silly picture here of me and two of my BFFs in which I am making a face that has been described as this: 8D

Fortunately, my parents weren't hung up on making sure that all pictures of their kids could qualify them for magazine ads. They just let us be the dorktastic weirdos we were* and captured that on film. Never once did my parents coach us in posing, except maybe to tell us to stop being goofy for one second so they could get a "serious" picture. Which: Mom? Do we have any of those?**

But not every parent has the same philosophy on pictures of their kids, as this guide for photographing children - located by Alert Reader Andrew Who Really Needs To Write a Post For Us Soon - makes clear. As he says: "Normative gender performance must be created, enhanced, and enforced at all times."

Exactly. Let's look at Point 3: "Feminine vs. Masculine."

Posing is all about body language. Watch that the poses you’re employing are gender suitable.

She is assuming that male = masculine and female = feminine. Even within the limited construct of binary genders, she is mistaken. This assumption is not based in reality, but in what I am going to call The Straight Agenda. Everyone knows that there are feminine men and masculine women and people who fit none of those labels. (Well, maybe people need more education on that last point.) So The Straight Agenda holds that all men should be masculine and all women should be feminine because that will halt the terrifying specter of queerness (#NoItWon't) and keep the patriarchy nice and comfy. There is no such thing as a "gender suitable" pose. I don't even understand what that means. Am I only supposed to like pictures of myself in which I look feminine? Are there poses that are neither masculine nor feminine?

Hands – open for a girl, closed for a boy
Be...cause... boys punch things and girls don't? I don't get this. Can't we all have open or closed hands at, like, any given fucking second? Whaaaaat is she talking about?

Position – A cute little side glance is adorable for a girl but a bit delicate or vulnerable for a boy. For boys, I love getting them straight-on.

Ahem. Delicacy and vulnerability are adorable in girls but unacceptable in boys. Pardon me, I seem to have eaten something rotten. Oh wait. Actually, this is just an intensely nauseating point to make, and it goes right back to Andrew's point. We have to teach girls to be delicate and vulnerable, and we have to teach boys not to be. Some people might naturally be delicate slash vulnerable, and some people might not be, but if what you really want out of a photograph is to capture who your kid really is, and your son is delicate but your daughter is not, can't you just get pictures of them being who they are? Or is this about a) making you feel better about your kid's gender presentation because b) you don't want to face the prospect that your kid might be kind of gender queer? And here's the thing: if this woman had to write this shit down, she probably sees it all the time. So even for baby straighties, there is probably GASP an element of gender non-normativity. Which: gender is queer, y'all. We're all performing it.

Also, is there something rape-culturey about promoting vulnerability in women but quashing it in men? I can't decide.

Hips – Hands on hips for a girl, hands in pockets for a boy (with the thumbs sticking out – I love that!)
You know who else likes hands in pockets? Lesbians. So she's probably right about this one. If you keep the girls from putting their hands in their pockets, they won't turn out to be homos. That's the way it works, right? And we can't have boys putting their hands on their hips like some stressed-out RuPaul's Drag Race contestant, can we now? If you put your hands on your hips and you were assigned male at birth, there is something grievously wrong with you that might lead you to being cast on my favorite TV show of all time.

As a final blow to our collective morale, let's have a look at one of the pictures she uses to illustrate her point:

Ugh. This poor kid. The lady taking this picture has qualitatively defined which is better for hir because of the gender presentation of the child as she reads it. She'd probably be okay with someone she sees as a girl putting her hand awkwardly under her chin like that, because something in our cultural coding assigns "feminine" to that particular posture. No parent should ever have to see their son posed like this! Sad trombone!

Now that I've written myself into a deep blue funk, I'm going to leave you with a posed photograph I really like:

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Posing Guide Lady.

* This is a test to see if my siblings are reading the blog. Smart money's on "no." If you ARE reading the blog, dear J2 and J3, rest assured that I don't think you're dorktastic weirdos. I am only really describing myself. I think you are silly-face knuckleheads.

** My mom is definitely not reading the blog. This is not a test. But should someone link her to this because of this footnote: Jordan definitely looks better with the bunny ears I saddled him with in every picture taken during our primary school years, and you know it's true.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts...I have to say I have always asked the same things myself...it's just part of the straight agenda.....ugh.