Pose Once to Look Female, Again to Look Male

Erika Linder plays both male and female in JC Jeans commercial.

Erika Linder plays both male and female in JC Jeans commercial.

Sex is biological: testosterone, estrogen and xx or xy chromosomes…

But gender is performance.

The act is easy to see when boys put on a tough guise and girls act sexy, because sexy on little girls and tough on little boys just looks a little weird. (Think “Little Miss” beauty pageants, for instance.)

But then we grow up and what had once been play and mimicry begins to feel natural and normal.

Then along comes model, Erika Linder, posing one way to look female and another to appear male. 

Posed as a guy she looks more intense, more angry, more confident, stronger, scrappier, less passive and less put together.

Posed as a woman — well just the opposite. Smoother, softer, and more made-up. And don’t scrunch up that pretty face.

See these pics, thanks to Sociological Images:


And two more from Unique Models, via Sociological Images:


And you thought gender was just natural?

See Erika doing masculinity and femininity in this JC Jeans commercial:

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 9, 2014, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. It is much easier for women to be able to wear both men and womens clothing and get away with it. But if a man tried to switch from mens to womens clothing, it would be harder for them and they would be judged quicker and maybe even harshly. I am a bisexual woman and I’ve always known I liked both sexs. Because I am not full on straight, or full on lesbian (lipstick or butch) I always liked to dress both ways. One day just a few months ago I went to buy lunch for my girlfriend while she was at work. At the time I wanted to dress more comfortable so I wore little makeup, a fitted baseball cap, loose fit longsleeve t-shirt, skinny jeans, and jordans. To my surprise I was hit on by a lipstick lesbian because by wearing all that, I passed as a more butch lesbian. Later that day my girlfriend and I went to dinner with some of her friends. Going out to dinner at night I like to dress up more so I changed into a cardigan, crop top, maxi skirt, sandles, more makeup, and I curled my hair. I left the table to get a drink and I ended up getting hit on by a man. Once I wore all the pretty girly stuff, I obviously apeared as straight. It is easy for me to switch from one to the other and pull it off. Unfortunatlly it isn’t as easy for men. If people saw a man wearing womens clothing he would be considered gay no matter what he did after. But for women, we can wear mens clothing and people wouldn’t give it a second thought.

  2. I really want to be shocked by this but I’m not. The way someone acts and dresses determines what gender people will perceive them as. Honestly when the model in the video walked out as a “man” I thought she was a boy; an attractive one too. I noticed that i noticed different features in her when she was dressed as a woman and when she was dressed as a man. Even though she’s the same person, she looked different to me. That’s just what society has made us believe about people. If this was a man doing this add people would think VERY differently about it. It would be criticized to the extreme. The man would be called horrible names.

  3. I never really thought gender was a performance and always just associated it with biology, but this posting has definitely made me more aware of the difference between sex and gender. This model does a good job of performing the male gender in her pictures and video, but I feel like her masculine poses portray male stereotypes. Then I realize this is how she is making a statement about gender. She has to pose on the extremes-soft, girly and vulnerable as a woman and then pose tough, rugged and confident as a man in order to evoke awareness of gender performance. It’s interesting to me that something I grew up believing as natural is in fact a result of society. Gender is constructed from birth (or right when the gender of the baby is revealed) when mothers and fathers dress their babies in blue or pink. I found an interesting article from the Huffington Post where an artist took our childhood Disney Princesses and made them males instead http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/11/gender-bending-disney-characters_n_5133573.html. The artist portrays a great example of role reversal because in our society Disney movies teach young children that women are supposed to be the damsel in distress and the men are supposed to be the hero, but this article gives a great example of gender reversal.

  4. It is funny because if a woman and man start dressing different and acting the opposite gender then everyone makes a big deal over it. In the above picture when the model is posing as both opposite genders, it makes me feel like she is trying to see what people say about her. Posing as a girl does make her look more feminine and the way girls show off their bodies; that is the way it looks in the picture. But as a man “she” definitely looks more muscly like guys normally do. I also think the way she poses herself differently affects the sight of knowing if she is a boy or girl. Some people may also see this as an example of someone bisexual, transformed from a girl to a boy or the other way around. For example, I am a girl, but sometimes i do come of as a boy by acting, talking, and dressing like a boy. An my hair is also short too. So I think this picture is a good example of how people actually see and “do” gender.

  5. I have been told many times that I act very masculine (and I am a girl), so it’s no surprise to me that that way we express ourselves changes how we perceive gender. I’m often mistaken to be a boy because I definitely fall more onto the masculine side of the spectrum than the feminine side, and this happens so often that I’m actually more shocked when someone knows I am a girl than when they think I’m a boy. This model does a great job on bringing to light on how we see and ‘do’ gender.

  6. yeah she did. But is that a good thing though? Sure the hair does a lot and the expression does a lot to make her look masculine. But the reason she did look like a guy was just her face. Her eyes, nose, brow ridgee, the structure of her face looked masculine. There are some or many girls and women I know, who sure if doctored up enough or their hair and clothes touched up enpugh can look butch or like guys. But much more has to be done, to make them look guyish. Many who had their hair done that way and even with the clothes and facial expressions, you could still see that they are women or girls, because of their facial structure and the softer features and bone structure that women with very feminine faces seem to have. I don’t know if I’m coniditioned that way, but I’m attracted to women, girls with really feminine faces, and one’s that wouldn’t mistake for a guy even with the hair done like a boy or in boy clothes.

    • The point isn’t whether it’s good or bad. The point is that gender is performance –- and you see that performance as her body language makes her appear either male or female.

  7. Successful models are trained to be able to use their faces and bodies to convey a wide range of emotional subtlety: at times vulnerable, at times aggressive; at times alluring, at times aloof; at times sexy, at times innocent. It shouldn’t surprise me that this particular one is capable of using her face and body to create the image of maleness, but she does it unexpectedly well.

    I guess my disappointment is that the image of masculinity she creates is so negative: the “male” is cold, disinterested, hostile. I could let this slide, if I hadn’t also seen her in a series of pictures with Andrej Pejic, where he plays the girl and Linder the boy. What fascinates us is the apparent gender reversal of both the participants. What troubles me (quite deeply) is the way the girl appears upset, distraught. “Her” body language says: let me go; you’re hurting me. While the boy appears angry and dominant. “His” body language says: I own you; I can do what I like with you. (Google the two names together to see the pictures).

    Models are of course able to take a falsehood and make it look real; that’s why we pay them. On the other hand, the image they create together is disturbing, more than beautiful– at least to me. Is that truly laudable?


    • The point of my post wasn’t to say that anything was laudable. It was to say that gender is a performance.

      Maybe the reason the masculine image she creates is negative is that that is so commonly the ideal of masculinity.

      I saw a movie called, “Tough Guise” by Jackson Katz. He interviewed a bunch of guys about what a man was supposed to be like. And they mostly said things like, “Tough.”

      And even a blog post you wrote — and that I also wrote about — brings up the same point. Here’s a quote from my version:

      The morning after The Miss Rose Beauty Pageant, Grayson Perry mused,

      Time to pack the frocks away again. It can seem quite cruel going back to the toughty-roughty world of men after being in the company of some rather lovely ones…

      What is it about being a man today that makes some men so desperate to be women?

      Actually, Mr. Perry has some thoughts on that:

      It’s just that the acceptable range you can display as a man is quite narrow…

      Feelings aren’t intrinsically male or female. But you wouldn’t know that from the imagery we see around us. It is this apartheid of the emotions that transvestites are rebelling against.


      • So my question is this. If gender is a performance, how much of that performance is innate, and how much is learned? How much is what we would do anyway, and how much is shaped by society around us?


      • Who we are is a mix of the personality we are born with, the family, friends and acquaintances we socialize with (in that order), and our culture.

        So you see large cultural patterns that vary from place to place, along with a distribution that is affected by things like natural personalities.

        It’s difficult to ferret out exactly how much is innate and how much is learned. But we know that A lot of our stereotypes are wrong, Based on both social patterns and variations from culture to culture.

        Take aggression. The stereotype is that men are more aggressive than women because of testosterone. Yet:

        Men may have high levels of testosterone, yet be very peaceful
        Women have less testosterone than men, But they’re more sensitive to it
        Estrogen also create aggression. Some mice were bread to lose estrogen, And they also lost aggression. So Mama mouse could no longer aggressively protect her baby mice.
        Most of the role modeling of aggression in Western societies is male. Action movies are male driven, action cartoons are male driven, when you have a male and a female portrayed as acting aggressively, The man will be more aggressive appearing.

        Still, natural personalities have an effect. I’m more aggressive than my brother, my mom is more aggressive than my dad, my brother’s wife is more aggressive than him, my husband’s mom is more aggressive than his dad, but most of my husbands brothers are more aggressive than their wives.

        And then you can have biological males who are more, What our society would call feminine in their personality, and either feel transgendered or enjoy cross-dressing to be more in touch with your feminine side. In a culture that defines masculine as we’ve defined feminine (And some do) they would be comfortable doing masculinity the way the culture prescribes it.

        Also, we have found that when you view things cross culturally, most of who we are seems to be learned.

    • At least one of those pictures reverses the roles:

  8. When I saw the second pic I thought it was a feminie looking male model, which there are some. She looks butch, with her hair done in a masculine and the facial expression and eyes, it made her look boyish. Not because her expression, but her face, maybe not as feminine or the way she lighting and make up and features of her face make her look. It’s amazing how the make up for the feminie part, really brings out her face to look more feminine or what a difference make up can do. A person not knowing it’s the same female model and sees the two pics or video, but not think so much of the model doing masculine and feminine poses but rather it’s two different models or the same woman doing a regular female look and pose. And the other woman one might think is a butch lesbian, with the hair, expression and look.

  9. After I read and saw this article and pictures, my thought of gender was changed. I had thought we needed to behave masculine if the gender was male before I saw this article. Of course, I had the same notion for female that they should pretend to be sexy or girlish. As I saw here, there is a possibility that Erika Linder (female) can alter her gender by how she acts or how she changes her face expressions. I guess this works for male absolutely. Indeed, I found the method in a performance of Kabuki, which is a Japanese traditional play. There are only male performers in the play, but there are some female roles. Therefore, the male performers have to pretend to be women or ladies by behaving like a woman or making their faces up like traditional Japanese women.

  10. I’ve heard of this model before. I think her ability to go back and forth is wonderful. It really sheds light on how we see gender.

  11. So interesting…. and makes sense to me. What we might think is natural behavior is really conditioning of how a man or a woman “should” behave. Seems to me that at some point this will be a whole other wave of body liberation.

  12. Enid Blyton’s children books always had a ‘tomboy’ wishing she was born a boy. I wonder if these characters grew up to be Amazons.
    Strangely, no one finds it odd if a girl-child wears male clothes; but the opposite is immediately ‘drag’.

    • Yes, good point.

      Since we rank boys above girls, boys are seen as demeaning themselves by dressing as girls. They’re more punished for doing girl-things. So we’ve grown more used to seeing females doing male things than the reverse.

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