Trigger Warning: This post discusses—and therefore contains—transphobic slurs.
This week Urban Outfitters added yet another epic fail to the clothing company's laundry list of misdeeds.
UO has been selling a greeting card that reads: "Jack and Jill, Went up the Hill, So Jack could see Jill's fanny, But Jack got a shock, And an eyeful of cock, Because Jill was a closet tranny."
Angry Redditors called UO's nursery rhyme "blatantly transphobic" with its use of the much-debated "t-word" and its objectification of trans bodies. But that's not the only reason why UO's "charming" card is such a slap in the face.
For years UO has been gobbling up gender-bending style and regurgitating queer fashion for the masses.
In 2009 the New York Times identified androgyny as the "it" fashion trend of the coming decade. Psychologist Dr. Diane Ehrensaft told the Times a new peer culture made gender-bending "not only acceptable, but cool."
The cool-factor of androgyny has been amplified in recent years by icons like Lady Gaga, who performed in drag at last year's VMA's and played up media rumors that she is intersex in her "Telephone" music video (the pop star has since revealed that she's not). Androgynous models like Andrej Pejic have been walking the runway for Marc Jacobs, and the andro-hot heroine of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has inspired a clothing line at H&M.
UO stores are cropping up in suburban malls everywhere, selling hip, gender-neutral accessories like beanies, tees, hoodies, plastic-framed glasses, and skinny jeans. Last year the comapny, which includes Anthropologie and Free People, opened 57 new stores, competing with preppy retailers like American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, and the Gap.
UO stands out with is self-proclaimed "funky" (queer?) threads. I'm not suggesting that all "funky" and "androgynous" fashion is queer fashion, nor am I suggesting that all queer folks wear the same things. But come on now, where do you think UO got the idea for this photo in their winter catalogue?
In a culture that punishes princess boys and fears Chaz Bono, why is androgyny considered fashionable, even sexy? And how did gender-neutral/gender-bending clothing go mainstream? It's no secret that what scares, sells. So when the queers go bump in the night, the scaredy cats behind UO swipe our clothes and duck under the covers.
UO has no problem taking without giving back. The company has been outed a number of times in the past few months, first for ripping of independent jewelry designers, then for selling culturally-appropriative "Navajo" clothing and accessories. But sometimes, UO co-founder and CEO Richard Hayne is in the spirit of giving, so he donates to anti-gay politicians like Rick "gay sex equals man-on-dog humping'" Santorum.
Hayne might think the gays are scary, but his customers are probably less likely to be spooked. Now more Americans support gay marriage than ever before, and among the young, "funky" folks who buy their leggings and Bill Cosby sweaters at UO, I'd guess that the percentage is probably higher.
Since the gays aren't so scary anymore, UO has resorted to a "tranny" jokes to get that extra "edge." And it's just not funny.
While the the young and hip prowl the streets in their androgynous attire, it might look like the "end of gender" is near. But as Coco Chanel reminds us, fashion fades. UO's darling greeting card brings us back to harsh reality: When it comes to understanding and respecting the spectrum of identities beneath the clothes, we have a long, long way to go.
Previously: The Beginning of the End