Marie and Nina make amazing jerseys that say “GENDER IS OVER (if you want it)". You can order one at genderisover.com. They are using this project to raise money for various queer organizations, such as the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Trans Lifeline, and the Audre Lorde Project. We asked them both about gender, jerseys, and the value of wearing your politics.
Tell us about the origins of this project.
Nina: The line 'Gender Is Over (if you want it)' popped into my head late one night, as a play on Yoko Ono & John Lennon's "War Is Over (if you want it)" campaign. At first I was just going to tweet it out, but then I thought to make it into a sticker. Twitter is a great medium for generating ideas but it's also really ephemeral, so I've been trying to extend the shelf life of some tweets by expanding them into zines or poems or stickers or other more lasting projects … Anyway, I thought it would be cool to also make into a tank top so I reached out to Marie, who's great at graphic design and font matching and also at logistics and actualizing ideas, and she made it happen!
Marie: I was instantly drawn in because 1. I really love challenging gender norms and 2. I really love turning ideas into reality. We didn't explicitly discuss it at first, but I believe there was an understood camaraderie of desiring a physical item we could brandish as a representation of our mentalities around gender and its hold on society. We worked together on implementing the design to perfection, and then decided that it had to end up on a shirt. More specifically, a black, reversible, mesh sleeveless jersey. What can I say? I dream of summer all winter.
When folks order the 'gender is over' shirt they are promoted with the question, "what does 'gender is over' mean to you?" what does 'gender is over' mean to you?
Marie: To me it means that individuals will be relieved of the societal baggage attached to us the minute we enter the world. On a micro level it means I can choose to navigate my life free of societal expectations whether it be about my body, the way I speak or opportunities I seek. On a macro level it means abolishing the severe inequalities that stem from binary gendered differences, while simultaneously taking a Thor-sized hammer to the entire system.
Nina: I grew up in a culture that really emphasized gender as a category and was really oppressive about coercive gender regulation, with strict gender norms being presented basically as fact—"girls do this," "boys do this," "girls definitely don't do this," etc. I think it really fucked with me. I was always pretty genderqueer so I used to worry a lot about not being enough of a girl or else too much of a girl, and making lots of choices with that in mind. So in a lot of ways, 'gender is over' is a call for eliminating those types of borders/restrictions.
I think about gender differently now but definitely not any less. Turns out whether I'm claiming it or disavowing it or critiquing it or using it as a rhetorical category, I'm still hyper-cognizant of it. So in another way, 'gender is over' conveys that sort of exhaustion. It's kind of a personal plea for the times when I'm like, 'dang it would be really cool if i could think about literally anything else right now.'
How about the fine print: "if you want it"?
Marie: The "if you want it" part symbolizes this dual concept: kind of like, if YOU want it, and if you WANT it. On the one hand, I'm free as individual to express myself as I feel, to identify and project whatever image of myself out into the world that I desire. Even if a reductive binary dictates how many people receive these projections, I have the freedom to choose my identity. I'm also privileged, because generally speaking, the way I identify most days is well received. On the other hand, I feel I must be active agent of change - to be a part of a larger picture working towards destroying heteronormative constructs. So that when we cast images of ourselves into the world, we can have assurance that we will always be well received.
Nina: The 'if you want it' is a really important part! If gender is an important part of your identity, that's totally valid. I get upset about gender when it's coercive, but coercing people to opt out would be just as bad.
I want to be particularly respectful of the tension between genderqueer rhetoric and binary trans rhetoric. A lot of the more visible people in the genderqueer community are college-educated young people, who often benefit from cis privilege to a degree (even if they don't identify as cis) and can deconstruct gender from positions of privilege. Meanwhile, for a long time, the only way to gain access to trans healthcare and hormones and other crucial trans resources was to use the 'born in the wrong body' argument -- to reify that gender is an absolute binary and you just happened to be assigned incorrectly. Thankfully, as I understand it, the rhetoric and legislation around that is changing a bit, but I can see how declaring gender to be over can come across as naive, historically.
Plus we can deconstruct gender all we want on paper but we still have to live in bodies and dysphoria is still a real, tangible feeling.
Plus even between cis people it's not like we beat gender inequality and it's all resolved and done -- there are tons of situations in which it's important to advocate specifically for women's rights.
I don't think we're actually post-gender as a society (just like we were never post-war). I just think it would be nice to have the choice as individuals. It's definitely more of a utopic horizon than a reality.
What conversations are you hoping to spark through this project?
Marie: For someone to look at a person wearing the shirt and say "Hey, cool shirt, but what does it mean?" would be incredible. That symbolizes the spark of social awareness, which opens up the floodgates for larger conversations about gender and its impact on all of us.
Nina: Being gender nonconforming can be a really isolating feeling, so I was initially just hoping to create a visual confirmation that other people feel this way. It was always really powerful, often pretty lifesaving, for me to see people presenting in a nonbinary way, to see that as an acceptable way to feel or be. But I definitely found a lot more of that in internet spaces than in IRL ones. The idea with the stickers was to create messaging that could exist in public, physical spaces.
Why does the idea of 'wearing your politics' seem meaningful?
Marie: I think it puts people in a position where (if you want it) your politics are brought to the forefront of an experience when you're interacting with the world. It's also such a blatant statement of what you stand for - and I'm a believer of shouting things from the rooftops when you really care and are privileged enough to not be punished for it.
Nina: I actually usually really don't like wearing clothing with slogans on them. With the shirts it's more embodied activism, so you have to be prepared to have certain kinds of conversations, and there are definitely situations in which I don't feel safe repping that overtly. But other times it's really nice to be extremely explicit about something.
The original "War is Over (if you want it)" was a media art piece—the typography and presentation and sloganeering of it was deliberately done in the style of a political campaign, and we replicated that aesthetic for this project. Personally, I tend to think about things in a really amorphous way and get really obsessive about nuance and angles and unreliable narration, so consequently I'm really drawn to aphorisms and campaign slogans and Jenny Holzer style truisms, because it's the exact opposite. Declaring something with that kind of confidence is really reassuring and attractive, but it also calls attention to how unstable those kinds of proclamations really are.
Jerseys are usually for sports. what team are you repping?
Marie: Team Get Ur Gender Off Of Me, sometimes referred to as GUGOOM! We're 12-0.
Nina: Nonbinary internet queers!
Have you have had any confused/confusing responses to your design?
Nina: A few feminist activists have expressed concern that this was some sort of post-gender / struggle erasure / 'mission accomplished' declaration, which is definitely not our intention. I know when you put something out into the world you lose control over its interpretation, but we do try to be explicit with our intentions as much as possible. That's also part of why we're choosing to donate all funds (after covering production cost) to trans advocacy causes -- we might not be able to be 200% explicit about messaging, but we can at least explicitly support tangible organizations.
What do y'all consider the most pressing issues in gender politics right now?
Marie: I would say, currently, queer and trans liberation. I think there's a pretty long road ahead of us in terms of shifting society into a place where we're all born gender-less fairies, but there's a large and very real group of people already existing today imprisoned within the confines of a damaging gender binary system. If we don't fight for them, we lose the agency to create the future we wish to see.
Nina: Oh gosh so many. Trans and gender nonconforming youth suicides, the lasting trauma of growing up trans and nonbinary in oppressive environments. trans and queer homelessness, especially youth homelessness. transwomen, especially transwomen of color being murdered literally all the time. The media telling trans stories only in the context of murder or suicide. Trans people, especially transwomen, being denied housing, employment, basic rights, services, and resources. A culture that continues to prioritize masculinity and perpetuate misogyny, internalized misogyny, transmisogyny. Devaluation of feminized labor. Women getting paid less than men. The enduring perception that women are less capable than men are. The flip side of that in which women are looked down on for not leaning in enough or doing things that are considered stereotypically feminine. Reinforcing toxic masculinity in men. Shaming men for displaying feminine behaviors. Gender essentialism and daily enduring violence perpetuated in the name of the gender binary… it goes on.
Learn more at genderisover.com.