“You’ve come a long way, baby.”
Surprising that a quote from a cigarette brand came to mind when I pondered an opening statement for this announcement…
Or is it? …Let’s dissect that one a bit.
In 1968, Philip Morris branded a slim cigaratte for women only. That was 50 years ago. Leo Burnett Agency marketed a slogan made instantly famous, allegedly to compliment Women’s Lib while capitalizing on gender-specific consumerism.
Ads spanned over decades featuring America’s “new woman”, set free from oppression and smoking proudly. Fierce imagery recounts the iconic 1970’s Wonder Woman placed next to a pack of smokes, set to condone a sense of heroinic power.
WTF?! Suddenly smoking Virginia Slims represents freedom, confidence, and liberation of the biologically superior sex?? So long as you’re tall, slender, and made up to be easy on the eyes.
…And the taller the heel, the better?
The catch phrase may not actually be so out of alignment with the message of STRUT after all.
In 2015, Foundation of Hope created a walkathon… in stilettos. It was the flagship fundraiser for the cause to address persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) across the world.
Why stilettos? To us, the dubious moniker of ill-conceived norms represented the unjustified pain and suffering of having one’s identity being decided upon by a society that asserts it knows better, in terms of what gender and sexuality ought to look like… Or else.
Or else what? I suppose from where you’ve come matters as much as how far you’ve come. Iran? Syria? Vancouver? Some societies have come along further than others, but in terms of queer acceptance, we learned in 2015 that normative views around gender and sexuality persist, albeit unjustifiably so.
Fifty years ago, a campaign for gender-branded cigarettes represented “progress” – something that was supposedly healthy for society. And it fell squarely on the heels of the infamous Stonewall riots of 1969, which erupted in New York less than 24 hours after the Senate of Canada legally decriminalized homosexuality.
Bedroom activities have no business in State affairs, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau famously remarked of Canada’s first omnibus bill to amend the criminal code. He would ultimately become father to our current Prime Minister.
Justin Trudeau, a proud feminist, was the first Prime Minister of Canada to march in a gay pride parade. In a pink shirt, no less, and with a gay Refugee that Rainbow Railroad helped migrate to Canada using FOH funds.
Fifty years after his father decriminalized homosexuality, Trudeau legislated further amendments to the criminal code to protect transgender Canadians, enshrining them into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. An advocate for LGBT+ rights, he is supported by Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet upon an historic election win.
Why? Because it was 2015.
The irony of such progress was not lost on those of us who felt the slings and arrows in 2015, which was also Year 1 of STRUT. Divided within our community, some masculine gay men came out to support us, pulling their most outrageous heels out of the closet in solidarity, yet got excoriated by others that would never be caught dead in women’s wear.
Huh. Decrying the gesture of a man in a pair of stilettos? Really.
I mean… Really??
It is a sobering fact that non-conforming men in far too many societies would quite literally be dead if caught wearing women’s heels. This hits the nail squarely on the head of what STRUT represented.
Walking in heels is hard, but in some countries, it is deadly.
Why in the world should it matter in a place like Canada, and especially in 2015? We strutted our stuff, in total solidarity with our sisters, brothers, and others that struggle through far greater persecution across the world.
This is so not about us; however, it’s absolutely about our acceptance, their inclusion, and all that we can and should do for one another. How anyone of us decides to identify in terms of sexuality and gender should be perfectly OK.
Now how’s that for a normative statement?
So in Year 2 we stood by our men, our women, and any interpretation otherwise. We stood taller on a platform of inclusion and we strutted fiercely with encouragement to wear whatever you want.
This year STRUT turns 4. Looking back on those lessons, we really have come a long way!
STRUT 2018 is on June 9th.
Same time. Same place.
Please register and come. Let’s walk together. It would mean the world to us.
It always has.