Miranda Kerr "Gender Flipping" Photos: Social Commentary or Cheap Laughs?

Are you ready for a (maybe) cheap laugh? Check out these viral photos of a tattooed, bearded man posing provocatively in the nude to imitate supermodel Miranda Kerr's recent photo spread in British GQ. According to Bondi Hipsters, the comedy duo behind the viral pics, the point is to comment on "the over-sexualization of the female body in the high-fashion world. For some reason, as soon as you put a man in there…it's an entirely different thing that we aren't used to seeing."

That's very true, and the photos are a clever way to make us confront how sexually over-the-top we depict women in order to sell magazines under the faux guise of empowerment. But it's worth noting that without this explicit justification, the photos serve as an attack on Kerr and every women who's ever posed that way—look how silly female sexuality is, with its pouty lips, coquettishly-crossed legs and come-hither stare!—rather than offer commentary on how the media treats such sexuality. And do we really believe that everyone who clicked on these photos paused to read about and reflect on the meaning behind them? Hell to the no.

The photos also play into a "gender-flipping" phenom that, historically speaking, has been something to lament, not laud. While it's true that women sometimes dress up as men for entertainment (OK, fine, I really enjoyed Amanda Bynes' She's the Man), it's the man-as-woman characterization that's more commonly played for laughs. (See: Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, etc. etc. etc.) It seems we just can't get enough of watching a "burly" man dress up as a "dainty" woman. (Gender stereotypes, LOL!)

The most obvious, cringe-inducing example of this is the outlandish Big Momma, a wild, angry, obese black woman who has perpetuated sexism and racism in not one, not two, but three wildly successful movies.

...the overweight, jive-talking, verbally aggressive black matriarch is commonly someone to laugh at, not to laugh with. Her power is way scary, ridiculous, and played for laughsby men. In Martin Lawrence's Big Momma House movies...he is an FBI agent who goes undercover as the elephantine, boogalooing, smack-talkin' "Big Momma" who kicks white guys in the nuts, whacks them upside the head, and succumbs to numerous pratfalls that make fun of her obesity, her clumsiness, and her asexuality. —Susan Jane Gilman, The Rise of Enlightened Sexuality

Big Momma competes, of course, with Tyler Perry's Madea, another "hilarious" embodiment of the aggressive black woman.

She, too, is brawny (one character calls her Jemima the Hutt), hurls warnings and insults like switchblades, and has an "anger management problem," as evidenced by her tendency to pull out a gun and shoot it when she's pissed off. —Gilman

And it's not just black women who get smeared through comedic gender-flipping. In Hairspray, the unfortunately named character Edna Turnblad is also a man dressed up as a woman. As with Madea, this is particularly strange because there's no narrative context for the gender-flip. The character is actually supposed to be a woman; she's just played by a man. And as with Big Momma and Madea, Turnblad's weight drives much of the so-called humor. The big joke, it seems, is that overweight women look and act like brutish men. (Fat stereotypes, LOL!)

Aside from all this gleeful stereotyping, gender-flipping also does no favors to cross-dressing, which—newsflash!—is an actual thing, actual people do.

I'm not saying the Bondi Hipsters pics can be equated with the same kind of latent discrimination that we've seen with Madea, Big Momma and Edna Turnblad. For one thing, there's no attacks on weight or race, which have long plagued gender-flipping in entertainment. One could even argue that the photos helpfully subvert the problematic trope.

But let's be honest: did these photos go viral because of what they have to say about the over-sexualization of women...or because it's funny to see a "burly" man pretend to be a "dainty" woman? Exactly.

Image: Facebook

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