“Femiman” model Andrej Pejic has been the flashpoint for two recent outrages against him. The first: an unnamed book retailer required that Dossier magazine wrap itself in opaque plastic to hide a picture of Pejic bare-chested. The reason? They worried that customers would mistake Pejic for a shirtless young woman. Then second, FHM magazine (a rag that features bikinied celebrities, articles about Xtreme sports, and kama sutra sex positions) listed Pejic as number 98 in its “100 Sexiest Women in the World” list along with an article trashing him for his gender-bending appeal. Wait… the fashion world can’t deal with an androgynous flat-chested model? What the hell have they been peddling since Twiggy?
America is no stranger when it comes to censoring gay magazine covers. You may remember that Harps store in Mountain View, Arkansas placed an anti-porn “family shield” on the cover of a Us Weekly featuring Elton John, his partner, and their infant son. Hudson News bookstore put a black bar over Sacha Baron Cohen’s naked Bruno cover for GQ. And WH Smith book retailers couldn’t handle the tit-tastic lesbian kiss on the cover of DIVA magazine. So the retailer censoring Pejic sadly follows its peers in this regard.
Jezebel’s Jenna Sauers criticized the opaque cover requirement alongside an image above showing all the other shirtless male magazine models that the American book retailer regularly displays. The retailer undoubtedly sought to avoid customer complaints, without ever considering what other body-negative messages their censorship sends:
Pejic is a man. And pictures of shirtless men, in Western culture, are not considered “obscene.” So why is Pejic’s cover getting the same treatment as a porno mag? What message are the big bookstore chains sending — that the male torso is only appropriate all-ages viewing when the man in question is ripped? Does the Barnes & Noble newsstand have a minimum biceps standard, no skinny dudes need apply?
She adds that international retailer WHSmith didn’t censor the Dossier cover. But For Him Magazine (FHM) took a different approach to handling Pejic’s androgynous look. They included him in a list of “100 Sexiest Women in the World” and then writer Jon Moody proceeded to gets some yuk-yuks by spewing trans-phobic disgust, lest any FHM reader mistakenly find Pejic (GASP!) attractive:
FHM has since apologized by replacing Pejic’s page on the model countdown with this apology: “Regrettably the copy accompanying Andrej’s online entry wasn’t subbed prior to going live. Once we realised, we removed it immediately and apologised for any offence caused. FHM has spoken to the individual concerned and taken steps to ensure this can never happen again.”
Though it would have been a hell of a lot more manly and gentlemanly for them to apologize and then do a proper write up about how its readers can appreciate Pejic’s beauty without having to endure self-loathing trans or homophobia. Appreciating male beauty doesn’t make you gay. If you wanna let them know that, contact FHM at firstname.lastname@example.org or Stuart Hood the editor of the Sexiest Woman list on Twitter via @stuhood2.
But Jenna Sauers ultimately brings up a good point when she says that the fashion world is not responsible for Pejic’s androgynous look:
According to interviews, Pejic has worn his hair long and cultivated his androgynous appearance since childhood, when he played with dolls and dressed in his mother’s clothes. Then, he was made to realize “there was a line between being a man and being a woman…When I was about 10 years old, I did everything I could to act like a normal boy but it was hard,” he told a Polish magazine. To the Telegraph, he said, “Around the age of 14, I decided to experiment with my look. As a kid, you get to the stage where you realise the gender barriers that exist in society and what you’re supposed to do and not supposed to do. I really tried being someone else during that period. It was hard for me — not being able to express myself and feeling I had to be someone else.” He added that he had not made up his look “for attention.”
When a magazine dealer embarrassingly hides Pejic’s beauty, they’re not only rejecting his look, but his very personhood as well.