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Title

Pushing Back Against Gender and Black Masculinity: Jaden Smith Does Women's Fashion

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Keywords

Smith, Jaden, 1998- --Influence; Clothing and dress--Sex differences; Masculinity in popular culture;

Abstract

I investigate the circulation of the diffuse text of Jaden Smith in what is considered or coded as traditionally women’s clothing and the controversy the text generated while circulating on social media, daytime talk shows, news reports, and popular press websites. This diffuse text consists of three images in the Louis Vuitton Women's wear campaign, two images from a Vogue Korea spread, and a variety of images shot by paparazzi throughout 2015 and the beginning of 2016. I pose the question: Why did Smith’s images widely circulate and generate questions? Using existing theories about gender performativity, black masculinity, and the codes of gender in fashion advertising, I engaged in a rhetorical analysis of Smith's images and their circulation. I offer three explanations for why Smith’s images are both visual argument and a rhetorical text that generated argument. First, Smith’s choices in dress represent a fashion statement that challenges performances of hegemonic masculinity. Second, images of Smith show him adhering to some of the “codes of gender” in fashion and advertising, while resisting others. Third, a distinct relationship exists between dress and the development of black masculinity in adolescence that makes Smith’s body a unique site of argument. While Smith pushes back against the disciplining of gender in public, particularly commercialized, spaces he also engages in a very gendered performance. He imagines black masculinity as a critique of hyper-masculinity and an embracing of black vulnerability.

Start Date

4-4-2017 1:00 PM

End Date

4-4-2017 4:30 PM

Faculty Advisor

Catherine Palczewski

Department

Department of Communication Studies

Comments

Location: Maucker Union Presidential Room

Embargo Date

4-4-2017

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Apr 4th, 1:00 PM Apr 4th, 4:30 PM

Pushing Back Against Gender and Black Masculinity: Jaden Smith Does Women's Fashion

I investigate the circulation of the diffuse text of Jaden Smith in what is considered or coded as traditionally women’s clothing and the controversy the text generated while circulating on social media, daytime talk shows, news reports, and popular press websites. This diffuse text consists of three images in the Louis Vuitton Women's wear campaign, two images from a Vogue Korea spread, and a variety of images shot by paparazzi throughout 2015 and the beginning of 2016. I pose the question: Why did Smith’s images widely circulate and generate questions? Using existing theories about gender performativity, black masculinity, and the codes of gender in fashion advertising, I engaged in a rhetorical analysis of Smith's images and their circulation. I offer three explanations for why Smith’s images are both visual argument and a rhetorical text that generated argument. First, Smith’s choices in dress represent a fashion statement that challenges performances of hegemonic masculinity. Second, images of Smith show him adhering to some of the “codes of gender” in fashion and advertising, while resisting others. Third, a distinct relationship exists between dress and the development of black masculinity in adolescence that makes Smith’s body a unique site of argument. While Smith pushes back against the disciplining of gender in public, particularly commercialized, spaces he also engages in a very gendered performance. He imagines black masculinity as a critique of hyper-masculinity and an embracing of black vulnerability.