Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Androgyny in CocoRosie

In three separate readings from this class, psychological androgyny is identified as an important aspect of creative personality. The Csikszentmihalyi, Kaufman/Baer, and Barron/Harrington readings all explore this idea. This concept is the combination of both masculine and feminine traits. (This has nothing to do with sexual preference or identity.) As stated in the Csikszentmihalyi article, “when tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.”

I would like to explore this idea through a particular musical group called CocoRosie. However, before going into their androgynous aspects, I will present a little background information on them.

American sisters Bianca (Coco) and Sierra (Rosie) Casady formed the band in Paris after meeting for the first time in years. In the very beginning, the group was just this duo: Sierra (trained as an opera singer) sang, played the guitar, piano, and harp, with Bianca rapping, singing, and manipulating various kids' toys, percussive, and electronic instruments. Later however, they added different backing musicians to the group, some of which are a bassist, keyboardist, and beatboxer. Ever since the creation of the group, their music has been hard to categorize. More than any other label, the music has been called “freak folk,” as it utilizes elements of pop, opera, blues, electronica, and hip hop.

Moving back to their androgynous creativity, the sisters have been called “gender benders” by many. The sisters frequently present themselves in male clothing or artificial facial hair, whether it be in the public, for a music video, interview, or concert. Often times, the sisters blend both stereotypically feminine and masculine articles of clothing in one ensemble; they blur the lines of gender cliches to create something wholly unique. On multiple album covers, the sisters are seen adorning mustaches.

Most specifically, the album cover for The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn showcases both sisters in Victorian dresses, with Bianca also costumed as a male soldier kneeling at her sister's side.

So we know how the sisters present an androgynous side to their creative presentation. Now the question is why.

Firstly, the sisters claim that they are inspired by concepts of androgyny. Ever since the onset of the band, Bianca has played with gender, either portraying male characteristics or blending them with female ones.

Though she is gay, she says that their androgyny has nothing to do with that. "My sexuality is explored in my work but it's more my gender than my sexual preference. It’s really not about being gay or ungay, it’s about being yourself in a patriarchal, hetero-centric, hetero-normative, monotheistic world. It’s always the changing question and answer, and it’s the forefront of my work."

This idea of overthrowing misogynistic values is further explored spiritually in Bianca's mind. “Patriarchy is over... Most of all, I am tired of the male image of God. We are from the earth, she is our mother; we must protect her.” This is why she goes beyond simple male versus female attire.

 To her it is something otherworldly and distinctly creative; it's a fantasy she is bringing to life. “We started to fashion ourselves after elemental beings — fairies and gnomes; sort of a post-human kind of style where gender roles don’t apply in the same way necessarily; where facial hair isn’t explanatory of one’s gender. It’s more of an adornment or just sort of evident that we’re turning more and more to nature and becoming more a part of the landscape.”

1 comment:

  1. I just want to start out by saying how much I absolutely adore CocoRosie, so I was super excited to read this post. I think that both of these sisters, but specifically Bianca, given the focus on her in this post, really embody the idea of creativity as a personality type. Creative people aren't just those who have a creative idea, rather they are those who have a creative outlook on life and use that to influence their work and products. So, in Bianca's case, using her non-traditional ideas of gender, she is able and interested in exploring androgyny, which then plays a huge role in the presentation and content of her and her sister's music. Although, their music is extremely creative in and of itself, as anyone who has listened to it would attest, it is really their perception of the world as past the patriarchal hetero-society that most of us are accustomed to, that shows their true creative energy. Even though they aren't creating a social movement or paradigm shift, I hope that CocoRosie will be counted among the forerunners to the more progressive post-normatively-gendered society that will hopefully come in the future.


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