The origins of the word androgynous can be traced back to a myth in Aristophanes speech in Plato’s Symposium; that people used to be spherical creatures, with two bodies attached back to back. There were three sexes: male people were from the sun, female people from the earth, and androgynous people who came from the moon. These ancient people tried to rise up against the gods but were unsuccessful. To teach them a lesson in humility Zeus decided to cut them in half and had Apollo stitch them back together, leaving the navel as a reminder to not defy the gods again. If they did, he threatened to cut them in two once more. Ancient Greek mythology also tells us of the story of Hermaphroditus & Salmacis, two divine beings who fused into a single immortal figure that possessed both feminine and masculine traits.
It is clear to see that gender non conformity is a topic that has been discussed for centuries, so why does it feel like our culture is still so restrictive in its attitude towards gender? Brands can promote “ungendered” clothing lines that are essentially basic loungewear and still capitalise off the false pretence of diversity, whilst many people all across the gender spectrum struggle to find a way to dress that truly speaks to their relationship with their body. If we truly want to move fashion into a more inclusive future, we need to question why an oversized white t-shirt and tracksuits can be presented to consumers as revolutionary when there are people who are questioning exclusionary ideas of gender every day through their sartorial choices.
We cannot allow ourselves to be cut in half again, be that by Zeus or Zara. We are worthy of more.
Photography, Styling and words: Irvine Bartlett, Models: Jack & Staz