Dudes Look like Ladies. Analyzing Sex and Gender Issues in Glam Rock

Bachelor Thesis, 2016

59 Pages, Grade: 1,0




1 Introduction

2 Theoretical background: Glam Trouble

3 All Dolled Up: Image that Matters

4 Ballrooms of Mars: Glam Aliens and Rock ´n´ Roll Fairies

5 Looks that Kill: Male and Female Objectification in Glam Rock

6 Conclusion

Works Cited


Fig 1. New York Dolls. 1973. Album Cover. Bestin. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.2 Mötley Crüe. N.d. Photograph. Projectiradio. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.3 Twisted Sister. 1984. Album Cover. Metal-archives . Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.4 Pretty Boy Floyd.N.d. Photograph. Ragherrie. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.5 (left) Marc Bolan. N.d. Photograph. Fanpop . Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.6. (right) Electric Warrior. 1971. Album Cover. Therisingstorm . Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.7. (right) Mar Bolan. 1973. Photograph. Weirdandgilly . Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.8. (left) Mar Bolan and Mickey Finn. N.d. Photograph. Pinterest. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.9. (middle) Mar Bolan. N.d. Photograph. Pinterest. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.10. (right) Mar Bolan. N.d. Photograph. Twimg. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.11. Diamond Dogs. 1974. Album Cover. Monolithcocktail. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.12. Alladin Sane. 1973. Album Cover. Dezeen. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.13. David Bowie. 1973. Photograph. Dezeen. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.14 (left). David Bowie. N.d. Photograph. Pinterest. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.15 (right). Jobriath. N.d. Photograph. Pinterest. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.16. Jobriath. N.d. Photograph. Queer Music Heritage. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.17. KISS Personages. N.d. Vector Graphic. Pinterest. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.18. KISS Personages. N.d. Photograph. Kiss Costumes. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.19. David Bowie. N.d. Photograph. Blogger. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.20 (left). Nikki Sixx. N.d. Photograph. Tattoo’s Punch. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.21(middle). Bret Michaels. N.d. Photograph. The Fashionisto. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.22 (right). Axl Rose. N.d. Photograph. Pinterest. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.23 (left). Too Fast For Love. 1981. Album Cover. Amazon. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.24 (middle). Sticky Fingers. 1971. Album Cover. Stones’ Exhibitionism. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.25 (right). Animal (F**k Like a Beast). 1984. Album Cover. Flickr. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.26 (right). Open Up and Say Ahh!. 1988. Album Cover. Wikia. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.27 (left). Poisond’d!. 2007. Album Cover. Amazon. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.28 (middle). The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock . 2006. Album Cover. Music Bazaar. Web.1 June 2016.

Fig.29 (right). Poison - Double Dose: Ultimate Hits . 2011. Album Cover. Wikimedia. Web. 1 June 2016.

1 Introduction

Tracing back the roots of hard rock and metal, there is no need to say, that the whole heavy music and its subcultures have always been closely related to sex, decadence, and rebellion. Starting with pioneers as The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Hendrix and The Doors in the 1960s, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, AC/DC and KISS in the 1970s, only to name a few from the vast list of key bands in rock history, despite their different sound, they all have had the unifying pursuit of unattached love, musical success, and drugs, thus coining the timeless slogan “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll”.

Nevertheless, while proclaiming values as personal freedom, sexual liberation, and open-mindedness, the heavy music stays to a greater extent conservative, when it comes to sex and gender issues. Hard rock and all of its forms are considered as “essentially a male form of expression” (Frith and McRobbie 317): there are hardly few women as Patti Smith and Janis Joplin who managed to become “one of the boys” and to reach a cult status in time. In fact, the male connotation in the genre is present over all: starting from the macho look, through the lyrics, actually, the whole rock star attitude. The last is even marked as misogynist most of the time. Of course, the whole hard music scene is vast and one cannot simply denounce that every band acts according to this stereotype. A deviation from this norm embody namely glam rock and later glam metal subgenres, which beginnings in the 1970s are marked on the one hand, by David Bowie with his high theatricality and the glittering Marc Bolan from T. Rex in the UK. And on the other, by the controversial Jobriath and New York Dolls, who appeared almost at the same time in the USA.

Although having its birth in the United Kingdom, in a socio-cultural context, the development of glam rock came after and coincided with some important events for gay and lesbian rights on the other side of the globe: The Stonewall Riots in 1969 in New York, followed by the first gay pride parades in 1970, and in 1973 the admission that homosexuality is no longer classified as a mental disorder, to mention a few. This historical overview does not have for purpose to convince, that all glam bands have homosexual inclinations, but to take into consideration the historical background instead. Happening almost simultaneously to this bundle of events, glam inevitably becomes influenced by them, to some extent, as every music genre, which carries the flair of its time. Respectively, glam rock also reflects this shift in the social dispositions towards sex and gender relations and becomes a trademark for masculinity in transition. With the help of rising consumerism, media development and the appearance of a serious fan base in the mid-1980s, these performers turned themselves into a phenomenon, which shook the strict gender models and provided a basis for alternative gender behavior and acceptance. Nevertheless, with its flamboyance and overacting, glam has been harshly criticized by true heavy music fans for being unauthentic. Initially or not, maybe this is the most important question that this genre rises, about the artificiality of performance and how it is reinforced by gender acts.

This idea resonates in the statement by the famous feminist theorist Judith Butler, that gender is a construction and thus, inauthentic. According to her, there is no true gender at all, but it is simply constituted by a “stylized repetition of acts” (Butler 179). I will apply this concept as a central notion to my bachelor thesis while using glam rock as a case study to research the relationship of gender and performance. To do this I will investigate the relation among the “three continuous dimensions of significant corporeality: anatomical sex, gender identity, and gender performance” (Butler 175) in the glam rock genre. Furthermore, to support my arguments, I will also use other theories from the fields of gender studies, media studies, feminism, and psychoanalysis. As next I will outline the leading questions, which I will discuss in my bachelor thesis. I have divided it into three main chapters. Each of them discusses in a different perspective various sex and gender issues present in the glam rock genre.

The main part of my work starts with the chapter All Dolled Up: Image That Matters. There I will discuss the key aesthetics through which the genre constitutes itself and if they express artists’ real gender identity. After that I will turn to the specific “space glam”-era in the second chapter Ballrooms of Mars: Glam Aliens and Rock ‘n’ roll Fairies. There I will examine the masquerade-techniques, which glam rock borrows from the theater and how the construction of personages affects gender norms. And last, but not least, I will juxtapose female and male objectification in the chapter Looks that Kill: Male vs. Female Objectification in Glam Rock. There I will also bring evidence how the genre incorporates and obeys gender stereotypes in power relations towards the female sex and thus obviously preserves the phallocentric norms. At the end of my work I will summarize my key findings about gender performance in glam rock in the conclusion chapter. But before all, I will frame the theoretical background in the explanatory part Glam Trouble and it is to this that I now turn.

2 Theoretical background: Glam Trouble

The purpose of this section is to outline important theories, which I will use later in the main part of my thesis. First of all, I will start with an explanation of the essential terms for my work – what is gender and glam rock in the first place and how performativity unites them. This chapter is named „Glam Trouble” as a reference to the groundbreaking book by Judith Butler Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, one of the key texts in feminism, gender and performance studies. I made the allusion to this particular book, because the two terms, glam and gender, share the same “trouble”, namely that they both are non-stable constructs.

First, to understand the whole notion of gender and performativity, one has to know the exact difference between sex and gender. While sex is biologically pre-given and is attributable to the body marks, which one bears, gender is an analytical category, which has been introduced to draw a line between the biological and the social aspect of the male and the female appropriation (Pilcher and Whelehan 56). So, according also to Michel Foucault, gender refers to “set of effects produced in bodies, behaviors, and social relations” (127) which are constituted either as feminine or masculine. This disposition depends always on cultural and social context (Butler 6). Actually, in the course of time, through everlasting repetition, gender acts have become gender norms. These norms namely constitute what Butler calls a “heterosexual matrix” (Butler xxviii), which is simply the typical division of fixed role models between the two sexes. Further Judith Butler argues, that the binary frame for gender is secured by setting the duality of sex as a “prediscursive domain” (Butler 11). Thus, by having only two sexes, it is automatically assumed that there are also only two gender models and one cannot combine them. Every deviation from these standard roles is considered not normal and stigmatized by society. Such inconsistencies can be a feminine appearance and behavior within the male sex and masculine within the female sex, for example. According to Butler, in such cases, people take the biological sex for real and the inconsistent behavior for illusory and hence false (Butler xxii). Anyway, the fact, that such inconsistency is possible, speaks also of the imaginary value of fixed gender. But despite its artificial formation, gender receives credibility by its reproduction and in this way, it becomes what Butler describes as “an imitation without an origin” (Butler 175). According to her, gender is performative and not pre-given (Butler 33). Furthermore, the cultural and social norms restrict the interchanging of behavior and make it fixed to either of the female or male categories.

Second, as gender, glam is also a non-stable construct. In its very beginnings, it was easy to distinguish glam rockers from other rockers: they wore flamboyant clothes and glittering makeup, which were also the main reasons, that the genre was also called “glitter rock” (Cornell 35). However, this distinction became very difficult in the 1980s, because the genre developed and became more complex, also evolving in glam metal. So, when I later explore some bands as examples for glam rock and metal, this can be incongruent with the opinion of some musicologists. However, I will try to stay in the range of well-known bands with acknowledged glam reputation and such influence. In fact, by definition “glamour”, the word glam rock derives from, is said to “exist in the eye of the beholder rather than that which is beholden” (Dyhouse 2) and it will justify such controversies. It means that finding someone glamorous is subjective and not inherent to the object. Further, “glamorous”, first used in the 19th century, meant “something akin to sorcery or magical charm” (Dyhouse 1) and refers mostly to women. In her book Glamour, Women, History, Feminism Carol Dyhouse argues: “Glamour has almost always been linked with artifice and with performance, and is generally seen as constituting a form of sophisticated – and often sexual – allure” (1). This statement perfectly illustrates the core attributes of glam rock genre: artifice, performance, and sexuality. In this particular genre gender-bending in the form of drag and gender-blending in the form of androgyny have become a common practice. Judith Butler writes on drag: “In imitating gender, drag implicitly reveals the imitative structure of gender itself—as well as its contingency” (Butler 175). This means that drag both demonstrates the performative nature of gender and at the same time it subordinates to the heteronormative matrix because it admits that there are two genders – the female and the male. Anyway, in contrast to drag, which accepts that there are two gender models and mocks them, androgyny combines them in one. Thus, it denies the gender binary and takes the mix of both for true and complete. In fact, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, androgyny derives from Ancient Greek word androgynos, meaning “hermaphrodite, male and female in one”, from andros, genitive of aner “male” and gyne “woman”.

Despite the mass public experimentation with fluid gender models, especially during Bowie’s most successful years, glam still troubles the older generations in society. The genre has created uneasiness both because of the gender dissonance and gender hyperbole it uses. The dissonance is exemplified by male glam artists, who incorporate female elements in their performance. The hyperbole is demonstrated by male performers, who partly reincarnate themselves in drag queens, who symbolize the overemphasized feminine look and partly demonstrate over the top male sexuality, for example, the myth of the rock star, having thousands of groupies.

It is clear that, as the whole rock music, glam also carries the “liberation-ideology”. But glam adds to the liberation of class and personal freedom, also gender deliverance. The genre presented the transgression of common concepts of masculinity by wearing feminine cosmetics and clothes (Auslander 62). The accent on the individual, that everyone is special, gaining popularity in the glam genre can be traced to its roots in the fast developing advertising in the 1970s and 1980s. So, the new fluid gender identities can be explained not only by the LGBT movements but also partly by the advertisement business, which encouraged luxurious living, consumption of goods as fashion and cosmetics enormously. From this moment on, not only women but also men had been reassured by media to look after their appearance and to follow fashion more strictly. Influenced by fashion and social trends of the time, glam artists agreed to be objectified in order to be adored. In the music of the bands from the 1970s and 1980s, the attempt to be celebrities has come along with the flirt with homosexuality. Thus, their kind of thinking perfectly fits the historic time of the rising consumerism and the “birth” of the metrosexual man. Roy Shuker also shares this conviction for the glam beginnings in the early 1970s. He describes glam as a reaction against the seriousness of late 1960s progressive rock and the counterculture, but also as an extension of it (151). This means, that glam inherited the impulse for sexual liberation, but the political note disappeared from the music. While rock artists outside the glam scene denied consumerism, glam artists embraced it. This can be recognized in the highly theatrical, often feminine costumes, the abundance of sexy accessories such as feather-boas, fishnet stockings, leather, heavy makeup and the typically teased hairstyles. With such strong visual elements, glam rock genre emphasized the image of the artist as never before. And since, the accentuated outer appearance is normally associated with femininity and the female gender role, especially this one of an object of desire, glam rock is labeled to be a controversial field for gender expression. This is due to the fact that glam rockers accept the deal to be objectified in order to turn themselves into a spectacle for the audience. In relation to this, later in my work, I will discuss the theory about visual pleasure by Laura Mulvey more profoundly. However, their non-conforming gender expressions extend more often only in the domain of the visual, while their stage attitude and gestures stay predominantly masculine and sometimes misogynic. There are, of course, exceptions, for example, faking gayness to create false media rumors. As David Bowie, who declared himself to be gay in 1972, while being both married and a father. Indeed, there have been also genuine homosexuals within the glam scene, such as Jobriath in the USA. However, as a whole, the play with gayness stays predominantly in the boundaries of the performance.

To summarize, by combining feminine looks with sexual experimentation, glam rock artists created controversial alter egos, making the music “almost secondary to the act” (Shuker 125). So, contrary to the statement by the art critic John Berger „Man act and women appear” (50), glam rockers both act and appear, in this way blurring the boundaries between the two established gender models. That explains why, at first glance, antonymous labels as “hair metal” and “cock rock” refer nevertheless to the same glam rock aesthetics. Thus, merging mixed gender representation and behaviour has become trademark for glam rock. Moreover, the glam subculture contributed to the mainstreaming of gender fluidity in pop culture as a whole. To prove that I will give examples of the diversity of gender representations and practices in glam in the next chapters, by analyzing album covers, songs, photos, and videos.

3 All Dolled Up: Image that Matters

“I’ve never had any time for this theory that if you go out onstage wearing denims, you’re for real. I’ve always thought that if you’re going to present yourself on stage you should dress up.

Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music)” (qtd. in Auslander 153)

Glam rock perfectly illustrates the convergence nature of postmodern culture. It embodies both the mix of genres and the fluidity of gender models. In this chapter I would like to investigate the visual aesthetics of glam rock, through which it constitutes itself. As Bryan Ferry from Roxy Music states in the quote above, glam has never been about everyday life, it rather has always emphasized the performance and the extraordinary. My following examination will have as focal point the questions: “What are the key aesthetics through which the genre achieves gender-bending?” and “Is gender fluidity in glam rock only a cheap trick to attract attention or is it expression of artists’ real sexuality?”.

As we have already seen, glam rock is a controversial genre. It puts all established rock and heavy music conventions about look, performance, lyrics, and attitude into question. The artists of the glam genre blur the boundaries between rock and pop music, art and commerce and sex and gender. In the 1970s and 1980s, the glam boys stirred up the fashion standards in rock: the everlasting classic rock fashion style of casual jeans and t-shirts was substituted for very tight pants and shirts, leather was combined with scarves, feathers and an abundance of jewelry. It is scholarly well known that clothes and fashion are a kind of language too (Frith 1998, 218). In this way of thinking, with all the sparkling costumes, glam rock clearly postulates its message: this genre will not be about everyday credibility of the working-class but it will be something fabulous, something to dream for. As Ryan Moore states in his book on music and youth culture Sells like teen spirit: “Glam rock presented the fantasy that one could transcend social class through music” (106). It escaped the rock norm of authenticity; it played with the idea to be someone else, to have masks and to perform. As already mentioned, under performance, one have to understand not only theatrical but gender performance as well. Glam rock achieves controversial gender performance by the theatricality of the Camp style and sensibility. Before all, Camp means to parody something ordinary and banal in a kitschy way in order to achieve a shocking effect (Kleinhans 160). Susan Sontag states further that Camp is simply to put the object “in quotation marks” (280). In glam rock, the parodied object is also something trivial, namely the heteronormative order with its gender roles. So, respectively the Camp aesthetics, glam rockers turn themselves into “women”. Doing so, they deconstruct the female figure and show that if men can act like women, sometimes even very successfully, then gender is only a social and performative illusion. As next I will give examples for such sex/gender dissonance among some of the artists from the genre and will discuss their actual gender-bending aims.

Before starting the real discussion, when we only take a look at some of the band names, we recognize at first sight many female signifying words: Cinderela, Pretty Boy Floyd, New York Dolls, and Twisted Sister. This is not accidental because “to be glamorous is to be asymptotic to the feminine, to feminize the masculine self” (qtd. in Cornell 39). The bands, having such names give us the first evidence for “symptoms” of femininity.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig 1. New York Dolls. 1973. Album Cover. Bestin. Web.1 June 2016.

I will start with an examination of the debut album cover by New York Dolls from 1973, with the same name (see fig.1). Actually, they are considered as one of the pioneering bands in the genre, who use a serious imitation of femininity. Almost all band members wear platform shoes (and one skaters), tight leather pants or jeans, glittering clothes, makeup and have teased hairstyles. In the upper left corner of the cover is the logo of the band, written as if with lipstick. The music critic Chuck Klosterman describes the album cover as “the purest, sexiest example of constructed glamour in the history of the world” and argues that it is “more important than any song they ever wrote” (141). His statement highlights the image of the performers in this particular genre, which sometimes surpasses the importance of the music. Naming themselves the New York Dolls, the band indicates interest in feminine aesthetics, and more clearly the striving for the ideal female image – the one of the doll. In the same time, the word “doll” brings associations with something artificial. On the one hand, the artificiality of feminine appearance achieved through the vast use of cosmetics and accessories and on the other hand, the artificiality of gender as a whole. With their female impersonations, the Dolls confirm the statement that gender roles are only masks and gender identity is “assumed” in terms of Lacan’s “parade” (Tyler 381). This idea is congruent with Simone de Beauvoir’s thesis that “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman”. The process of “turning into woman” can be defined as the preparation to fit in the gender category “woman” for her role as a “spectacle” for the male gaze in an erotic context. In difference to men, the “stylization of body” within women, i.e. the care for the outer appearance is always more clearly expressed and the fashion interest is more present. Glam rock takes this notion and overemphasizes it, the glam rockers become “women” for the sake of the performance. The New York Dolls mimicry this standardized femininity in a drag way and that is why they are first stigmatized as “transvestite rock”. Their biggest hit “Personality crisis” also makes such allusions. Its lyrics: „ /… / you're a prima ballerina on a Spring afternoon / Change on into the wolfman, howlin' at the moon” describe the interchangeable nature of one’s personality, for which speaks not only the outer appearance but also the inner consciousness: “That personality everything starts to blend / Personality when your mind starts to blend”. It is not literally mentioned that it goes about gender transgression, but one can easily suppose it. And the end of the song: “Because you walk a personality, you talk a personality” can also illustrate the constructiveness of gendered personality by gestures, the way of walking and talking. The outer appearance of the Dolls was something outrageous for the time, in which they appeared on the cultural horizon. Although they had not been homosexuals, their drag style could not be accepted by the majority of the rock subculture. It can be admitted, that their drag appropriation strategy to become noticed did not work at this time, although they appeared after the Stonewall riots in 1969 and also when Warhol’s factory has opened as a melting pot for people with diverse sexualities. As if their second album’s title “Too Much Too Soon” epitomized the reaction of the audience to their scandalous outer appearance.

A further example of gender-bending from this period is the song “Rebel, rebel” by David Bowie from the album “Diamond Dogs” (1974). I would like to examine the whole lyrics of the song because they are crucial for glam rock aesthetics and understanding them. In this song Bowie addresses his fans as “rebels” against the gender stereotypes and describes very clearly society’s reaction to the gender transgression in glam rock. The beginning of the song: “You've got your mother in a whirl / She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl” obviously indicates the gender-bending practices of glam: the mother figure indicates the bewilderment of society by the glam fans and their hard to identify sex. The gender blur is confirmed in the next verse, which starts with the “babe”-addressing. It is commonly used by men for their beloved girls. However, here it is not clear if it addresses a boy or a girl. Further, the accent falls on the “divine look” again and the condition of the hair. Then, it comes to the first male-presupposing line “You love bands when they're playing hard” which in combination with the last line “They put you down, they say I'm wrong” suggests the disapproval of the style by the older generation:

Hey babe, your hair's alright

Hey babe, let's go out tonight

You like me, and I like it all

We like dancing and we look divine

You love bands when they're playing hard / … /

They put you down, they say I'm wrong / … /

The song comes further with the chorus:

Rebel Rebel, you've torn your dress

Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess

Rebel Rebel, how could they know?

Hot tramp, I love you so!

Further, the song illustrates the uncertainty of the “rebel”: by tearing his/her dress to satisfy the social norms. However, the rebel is stigmatized because of his rouged face, described as a “mess”. He feels misunderstood in society but then comes the encouragement by the acceptance “Hot tramp, I love you so!”. After that, the five-time repeating of the phrase “How could they know?” with the lines: “And I love your dress / You're a juvenile success / Because your face is a mess” indicates that Bowie’s song character accepts and understands the gender-bending aesthetics.

Another song in which he emphasizes the meaning of a crew and like-minded people is “All the Young Dudes”. Although its main meaning is considered to be in the context of Ziggy Stardust’s album: the young dudes carry the news that the people on Earth have only five years left to live, the song is considered also to be a glam and even gay anthem because of the following lyrics: “Hey brother, you guessed / I'm a dude / … / Now Jimmy’s looking sweet though he dresses like a queen / He can kick like a mule”. To the last two lines, there is another similar statement assimilated by many later glam rockers such as Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Cinderella: “We may look like chicks but we can still kick off your ass” (Doolin 17). Here we have to question the purpose of the drag performance. As Judith Butler argues the goal of the performance is to denaturalize gender (Butler 175). Therefore, drag as a kind of performance denaturalizes and deconstructs gender . It “effectively mocks both the expressive model of gender and the notion of a true gender identity” (Butler 174). On the one hand, we can argue that feminine outfits combined with men’s strength serve as a confirmation of this theory, that gender identity is constructed. Anyway, on the other hand, in relation to the last two lines from “All the Young Dudes” and the statement, about “kicking asses” assimilated by many glam rockers, we can argue that the drag performance is only superficial and a mean for raising the audience’s interest, for achieving a more flamboyant performance, to say so. It becomes clear that sometimes glam incorporates only the drag look and not its ideology. Under its cover, to say so, glam rock stays to a greater extent masculine and can “show” its men’s strength when it comes to a fight.

However, the feminine appearance in glam rock can also be explained through the psychoanalytical Lacanian essay The Signification of the Phallus. According to him, there are three states that govern the power relations between sexes. They are namely: “to have the phallus” , which is what men are supposed to have, not only literally but metaphorically as well; “to be the phallus”, which is what in fantasy women do (to be the object of desire); “to seem the phallus” is what transvestites and drag queens do, namely to appear as an object of desire (qtd. in Garber 356).The difference between transvestites and women is, that on the one side women are destined by the social norms to have the role of the phallus and on the other side the drag queens and transvestites strive initially to take this role. Anyway, they can never be “the phallus” because of their male sex origins. That is why they can only “seem” but never fully take this role. In relation to glam rock, we can say that glam rockers also play the role of “seeming” the phallus. In addition to this theory, it can be said that the particular female role in which many glam rockers incarnate themselves into, is the image of the “phallic woman” seen in pornography. The term stays for a dominant woman, who dresses in such a way as “to suggest she has a penis” (Kuhn and Radstone 313). This can be presented in the form of seductive clothes with chains, leather, whips and so on. Taking this position, the “transvestite feminizes himself in order to “masculinize” or phallicize himself through the erection the cross-dressing causes.” (Tyler 374). This is so, because in this way they appear as an object of desire, which is a key role for attractive performance and achieving stardom. However, according to Laura Mulvey and her book Visual and Other Pleasures, the object of desire is always female connoted. She posits that “pleasure in looking has been split between active/ male and passive/female” roles (837). In order to be a rock star one has to be put on display, to be adored and sexualized. Thus, his role is passive (female connoted) and the one of the spectator is active (male connoted). The “phallic woman” as fetishistic masquerade technique can be sometimes recognized in the use of the monstrous “femme fatale” – figure. For example, in some photo sessions of Mötley Crüe (see fig.2).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig.2 Mötley Crüe. N.d. Photograph. Projectiradio. Web.1 June 2016.

On this photo we see how all of the band members are dressed in sexy ripped outfits with many studs and straps. They all occupy sexual alluring body postures as well. In this case, the audience takes the position of the male observer, who at the same time is both respected from the band and worships it. The band’s purpose is clear: by the socially female-connoted seductiveness they want to win the attention of their fans. With their cross-dressing and drag style they want to add an erotic note to their performance, since when they want to be desired, they have to reincarnate themselves into the female gender role – which is namely “to seem the phallus” in order to appear as an object of desire.

The Twisted Sister’s cover of the album “Stay Hungry” from 1984 is also an example of the “phallic woman”-figure but used in a more ironic way (see fig.3).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig.3 Twisted Sister. 1984. Album Cover. Metal-archives . Web.1 June 2016.

This cover is evidence that in the 1980s glam has evolved into something else than it has been in the 1970s: we are again confronted with a man with drag appearance, but this time femininity is so exaggerated, that it seems even grotesque. On the picture, we see the lead singer of the band, Dee Snider, with overdone blue eye shadows, bloody red rouge, and a patch on the upper lip, which can be associated with the parodied image of the beauty icon Marilyn Monroe. His costume is some mess of pink and black cords, shoulder pads, which in combination with his fluffed hair and the meat bone, he is holding, looks like a psychopath.


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Dudes Look like Ladies. Analyzing Sex and Gender Issues in Glam Rock
University of Cologne  (Institut für Medienkultur und Theater)
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glam, rock, gender, gender studies, music, bowie, judith butler, beauvoir, mcluhan, camp, drag, musikwissenschaft, sex and gender, sex, music studies, gender trouble, hard rock, motley crue, bolan, media studies, psychoanalysis, feminism, performativity, performance, foucault
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Lilyana Sharlandzhieva (Author), 2016, Dudes Look like Ladies. Analyzing Sex and Gender Issues in Glam Rock, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/364581


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