What happens when a man wears feminine clothing?
Her thesis encompasses something called Performative Design. This is a multifaceted concept, but for Maja Gunn it means working with a combination of enactments and gender perspectives.
“I focus on experiences and the perception of a piece of clothing based on a queer-feminist perspective, highlighting everyday situations such as meetings, parties or rituals.”
Dressing the part of a woman
One of the projects is about a man who is afraid of dressing in clothing that he perceives to be feminine. Maja Gunn documented the whole process herself which, in this man, went from reluctance to acceptance and new perspectives.
“Time is an important aspect. I worked with him for a year, and during that time he gradually got used to the concept. Afterwards, he told me that the project had made him more open to new impressions, and that he had gained a new way of looking at himself and others.”
Why are so many men reluctant to wear women's clothing?
“It's probably a question of social structures, contexts and power. What is considered acceptable and what is not. Fashion is a part of this of course. Homophobia and the view of transvestism are other important aspects that influenced the man in my project. Women's position in society could potentially influence the feeling that dressing in women's clothing is perceived as a degradation. My project is about challenging the subject's perception of what a heterosexual man has to look like. The heterosexual norm houses a power structure, which is also challenged here. Thus, the project also becomes political.”
Your research can be said to be norm-breaking. Why do you feel that is important?
“Because not everyone is comfortable or fits into the current norms. Norms do not only include, they also exclude. Playing with clichés and the idea of how things are supposed to be can reveal potentially new things. With new experiences come knowledge, understanding and change – hopefully with positive results. I believe it is healthy to expose oneself to situations where you are not privileged. This could alter your view of others, but also of yourself.”
Party focusing on body transformation
In another project, Maja Gunn has been working with the group of artists and architects Mycket och Settings to organise a series of night clubs, where the participants were asked to change into clothes from the clubs' themes. The focus has been on historically important queer-feminist spaces, activism and the transformation of an individual's body through clothing.
“We are working in the borderland between fiction and reality, where history is staged using the participants' bodies, their actions and their transformation. Afterwards, the participants have described a strong feeling of belonging, something that can almost be likened to euphoria – imagine if the world was always like this!”