Engender: verb – cause or give rise to 

Artwork is essentially about exploring and re-exploring the facets of life. For as long as I can remember artwork was the only way in which I felt comfortable enough to explore facets of life, particularly the dark points. Growing up, I wanted to be a boy. I would walk, talk, act and dress just like a young skater boy. Often enough I was called “dyke” or “butch.” Out of convenience and fear of confrontation, I let that imposed narrative become my life. But it wasn’t. I was so much more than that. I was a tomboy, yes, but also a feminine, makeup-adorning girl when I chose to be. Fast forward ten years and we come to my revelation of sorts. No one adheres to any one stereotype, label, or classification. We are all unique (corny but true). Thus, I created “[In]gender,” a love letter of sorts to my teenage self and to all of you that I know feel the same way. 

It all started with a couple of thrift store dresses and some pals. The idea was to give the finger to unfounded, misogynistic predetermination, much like Iggy Pop did, and say, “Hey, men can wear dresses and it’s not shameful.” I wanted to critique the female versus male image of the norm that I felt was expected of teenage me in her long-sleeve plaid, sports bra and clunky Vans. I wanted to operate free from conditioned norms that would attempt to co-construct identity. By creating my teenage self’s antithesis, the masculine male in the floral dress, I laid out the red carpet for immediate criticism and conversation. Critique the female image and there is a murmur in the cosmos. Critique the male image and Mount Everest herself comes crashing down. All I ask is that you think…and dance like no one else is watching. 

By Ashley Aleman

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