We once did a photo shoot for The Sun, that super trashy but widely popular newspaper in the UK (you know, the one with the “Page 3 girl”). We were promoting the British edition of our book, The Big Bang. We were young and naive, the photographer was old and pushy, and as he gradually encouraged us to get into sillier and sillier poses, our publicist was there pressing us on. We felt like Coco in the original “Fame.” Don’t get us wrong: we were dressed. But at one point we reluctantly ended up on a bed with one of us holding the other’s bare leg straight up in the air like a lightening rod. It was not what we’d consider sexy, feminine, or us. Fortunately, our inner horror must have radiated out of every pore, because they ultimately ran the article without the pics. (There was a God that day.)
Which is why we love artist Rion Sabean‘s photography series “Men-Ups,” which puts guys with stereotypically macho clothes and props in classic pin-up poses. It’s Vargas girl meets Brawny — and it’s awesome. The juxtaposition exposes just how ludicrous these “classic” female poses are — how choreographed and unnatural. Inan interview with Jezebel, the 26-year-old art student says he’s fascinated “with gender binaries and their inherent nature to be completely incomprehensible to me.”
Men-Ups brings to mind the recent question “What If Male Superheroes Posed Like Wonder Woman” (its illustrated answer is similarly funny yet disturbing) and the short video “Poses,” which has everyday women striking real but ridiculous fashion magazine poses on the street. All together, they remind us how pervasive this ideal of womanhood as constantly sexed-up, available and on-display actually is. Not only is it a standard that’s impossible to live up to, it’s a standard that most women don’t actually want to live up to.