My reaction to Dossier’s latest cover was instant adoration. It’s androgynous and beautiful, the perfect crossroad between hard masculinity and soft femininity. I love any magazine cover that can make people think, especially when they’re thinking about gender binaries and their perceptions of what makes a man or woman. But apparently what I viewed as a brave step forward, others couldn’t stand the sight of — leading U.S. bookstores Barnes and Noble and Borders’ reaction was to cover up the gender-bending cover.
Both corporate chains told Dossier’s staff they refused to stock the cover, featuring a nude torso, without an opaque plastic covering. If Dossier failed to comply, both Barnes and Noble and Borders would immediately cancel their orders. Although the copies destined for Barnes and Noble and Borders make up only 10 per cent of Dossier’s worldwide distribution, and they were the only stores to request a cover, Dossier complied.
Is this really a shock? If pornographic magazines are covered with a plastic sheath, why shouldn’t a full frontal of a naked woman be given the same treatment? Maybe because Dossier’s cover girl is androgynous MALE model, Andrej Pejic, and amongst all the other topless men on the covers of GQ and Men’s Health, Barnes and Noble is asking only he be covered. Their reasoning? Customers may mistake him for a woman.
Putting aside the argument that topless women should be seen on magazine covers (which I heartily agree with), this is a case of gender discrimination unto itself. The message Barnes and Noble and Borders are sending to their millions of customers is that in order to be seen in their stores, men have to fit a specific, muscle-clad criteria. This double standard creates a very obvious statement: Men need to look like “men”. Pejic, who has modelled in almost as many women’s collections as he has men’s, simply doesn’t make the cut. Evidently for Barnes and Noble and Borders, a man wearing makeup and curlers in his hair is simply too much.
Is it just me, or does this make no sense? Even if customers mistook Pejic for a nude woman, who cares? He’s a man! The root of the problem is the discomfort the cover is causing for sheltered Americans; Pejic has the face of a beautiful woman, but the body of a young man, a concept which obviously confuses a lot of people and raises some pretty serious questions regarding gender performance. The people behind Barnes and Noble and Borders obviously felt so threatened by the confusion they were feeling themselves that they resolved to protect their customers from the same feelings, instead of allowing shoppers to think critically, make their own decisions, and maybe even learn something. Is our society really so closed-minded that questioning gender is no longer even a question?
- Alyssa Garrison