Monday, July 10, 2006

A Gender Puzzle

So I was in a funky bistro in Santa Cruz with an old friend having a meal and the need arose to make use of the facilities. As I approached the two doors, I noticed that in place of the usual international symbols or linguistic indicators to let you know which was the men's and which was the ladies' room, they decided to use photographs. One image was of men in drag and the other was of women with fake moustaches in men's clothing (including one with a nice bowler hat). I found it an interesting place to make a statement on the standard, naive notion of gender. "Sure," I agreed, "the usual simplistic dichotomy does not fully capture the complexity of gender and sexuality in the real world." At the same time, however, I also thought, "But I really need to take a piss." Now, I felt proud to be hip enough to understand the subtext of the signs, but unfortunately I was not hip enough to be able to figure out the direct references. (My lack of hipness, hipocity, and absolute hipesqenicity must be clear by the fact that I still use words like "hip".) A urinal waited behind only one of those doors. Which was it? I got it wrong. If you had to make the call, which would you say was the intended reference of the photos? Men who were giving the social clues correlated with femininity: men's room or ladies' room? Biological women providing the culturally dictated signals of masculinity: men's or ladies'? Which should be which and why?