Monday, April 28, 2008

Alternate Forms of Gender Illusionment - The Japanese

I discovered this while looking for different makeup techniques. Specifically appliances such as foam latex and silicone for making the face more feminine. I found a site where men use latex masks to look more feminine. The main website for this is called Maskon. I may do a post about that another time. From there I found a link to a Japanese site called Doll House. This Japanese site is not easy to navigate, but this was my first introduction to some of these different forms of gender expression.

First of all let me state that I'm not an expert on Japanese culture. Nor have I traveled to Japan. So what I have gathered here is information I have gleaned from books, the Internet, and other people on message boards. But most recently I've talked to a fellow blogger Silphy. She has tied a lot of loose ends as it were and given me insight as to the inspiration for these forms of expression. Thank you Silphy!

I was going to talk about four different types of Japanese Gender Illusionment: Kigurumi (着ぐるみ), Cosplay (コスプレ), Zentai (ゼンタイ), and Visual Kei (ヴィジュアル系). I was not going to talk about Kabuki (歌舞伎) even though this may be an underlying source of these other four. The reason: even though there was a time that only women performed both roles in Kubki theater and then all men, this seems to correspond to European theater in Shakespeare's time. And, the most characteristic point of Kabuki is the stylized performances, not what gender plays what role. Also, Kabuki formed in a time when homosexuality was considered elegant in Japan. I'm told it is called Shudō. It is considered different than being a modern gay person in the West. I did not want to address sexual orientation within this post. This is going to be hard enough as it is.

But I'm going to tackle Kigurumi and Cosplay only in this post as they relate to the Japanese fandom of Manga and Anime.

Kigurumi in the context of this post is the portrayal of female Manga and/or Anime characters with the use of large costume heads, and elaborate costumes by male participants. Manga would correspond to our comic books, and Anime to our cartoons or animation. Now having said that, Manga and Anime have there own style of drawing and stories. You have to see the variety and diversity of the materials to understand how broad the subjects are. The one Anime you may be familiar with is Pokémon or maybe Sailor Moon, but this is a small portion of the thousands of Manga titles. The Japanese of all ages are crazy for Manga and Anime, so much so they call a person so involved Otaku or an obsessed fan. There is nothing in America to compare this obsession to, maybe pro football is the closest and even then, I don't think so. Otaku watch many different Anime shows on TV, read Manga, go to conventions and festivals that are huge. They collect figurines, pictures and posters of their favorite Anime characters. As an extension of this whole obsession, there are those that dress like their favorite Anime characters. While dressed they do role play, they go to conventions and have their pictures taken at locations around Japan where their character might be from, a sort of pilgrimage

Here's a picture from Silphy's Blog

Photo provided by Tsukino-Tsubasa:

Silphy is the second from the right, her character is Misuzu.

Kigurumi can also mean animal or what we call mascot costumes. Think Goofy and Mikey Mouse at Disney World. Or, they may dress in a Gundam type robot costumes, again think Transformers. From what I gather, the majority of Japanese associate Kigurumi with these types of costumes. So the Kigurumi that I'm talking about could be considered a sub-culture, though it is more related to the Manga/Animie scene. Like any of this stuff, it doesn't always translate well.

Cosplay which is derived from "Costume Play" is also Manga/Anime driven. It is dressing as your favorite character, except without the mask. They are going for a more realistic look. Women and girls are most attracted to this in Japan because they can easily portray both male and female characters. In my opinion, as to why they can do this more easily, is that a lot of the male characters in Manga/Anime are more androgynous than the male he-man type comic book characters here in America, such as X-men or Superman. Some males do participate in Cosplay and portray female roles, but this is not the majority. Sometimes this is called Crossplay a form of Cosplay. And again, there are female Kigurumi players, but they are in the minority.

Here's a picture of two cosplayers titled "Chii and Dark Chii"

Kigurumi attracts male participants (like Silphy by the way) because they have a harder time portraying the female characters due to (again my opinion) the female Manga characters are extremely feminine and/or young girls. It is a lot easier to use a mask and wig, and spend your time getting the female mannerisms right than to fight your biology.

Silphy told me that the history of Kigurumi started with Manga, moving to Anime, then figurines then Kigurumi. Silphy says:
But today, kigurumi (also figure, otaku related cultures) come from different sources: novel(Suzumiya-Haruhi), game(Kanon), DTM(Hatsune-Miku), or anime without original manga(Evangelion).

I'm a big fan of these different expressions of femininity. I'm amazed at the inventiveness of the Japanese, and surprised it hasn't caught on as much here in the states. The younger generation is more in tune with these things, and it maybe more prevalent in the future.

New Slide Show at the Bottom

Just a quick note. I've gotten one vote for more pictures. So,to prove to you I'm sincere about improving my blog, I've added a Photobucket Slide Show at the bottom. If you want to leave a note about how to improve this site, email me or leave a comment. I want to hear from you!

Love, Tracy

Friday, April 25, 2008

Did your parents name you Tracy?

Ah, no, I picked the name Tracy when I started this blog. I had a name for my feminine self a long time ago, it was Michelle but I never felt Michelle was me. I think for a name to ring true you have to be called by that name.

Since I started this blog and started to participate on the crossdesser message boards, I've been called Tracy a lot. I finally feel I'm Tracy and it's a good feeling.

So then mystery person, how did you decide on Tracy Schapes?

The last name of Schapes is a variation on a family name. My 4th great-grandfather who was German had a last name similar to Schapes. He was born before 1810 in Lower-Saxony a province in Germany. He lost his last name to his wife's last name because the family farm was in her name. That was the tradition. It was more important to keep the farm's name than the male surname. So to honor him, I used his surname that was replaced by a woman's, and replaced my male name with his, so that I could create a female name. Does that make sense?

The name Tracy I picked because it was an androgynous name from the 1960's. That's truthfully how I feel, neither exclusively male nor female. Since I was born in the 1950's I figured I have already taken ten years off my age with that name!

The combination of the two names sounds like "Tracing Shapes" which to my way of thinking is what I'm trying to do. Trace the shape of a woman on my male frame.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's time to send in the Army!

The Salvation Army that is. Talking to other like minded individuals I discovered that the Salvation Army Stores and other re-sale shops are some of their favorite places for clothing, shoes, & accessories. This is great because sometimes I like to go with some sort of vintage or "costume" look. The prices are real cheap and the money you spend (namely for the Salvation Army) is going for a good cause.

It had been a long time since I had shopped in drab (translation: as my male self). I went to the Salvation Army on an early Saturday morning when there were few people there. I picked out all kinds of stuff, and went in the common dressing rooms and tried on the clothes. If I got any weird looks, I wasn't looking for them. I did my business and paid for it. Took home 3 skirts and one top for just under $20! It did cost me $20 because I just donated the change.

I did go to another Salvation Army Store on another day, on kind of an impulse. There are three good size stores within a short distance of where I live. This experience was also nice. Just one thing different about this Salvation Army was there were fewer dressing rooms and it was busy so I didn't have time to try anything on. But I did find this "School Girl" plaid skirt (complete with large brass safety pins). It was around $6 and fortunately fit. I was taking pictures of it with progressively more sexy shoes. Going from a school girl Mary Jane with socks, Mary Jane patent wedge heels, red high-heel pumps, to a pair of 5" red ankle strap sandals.

I've got two posts sitting in the wings waiting on pictures. There maybe an explosion of posts if this keeps happening to me. Till next time, Tracy

Again, if you have any questions about the things I talk about, I would love to hear from you! Just sent an email to: tschapes [at] gmail [dot] com. Or post a comment. I don't bite, at least since that time...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Thoughts About Legs

One of the few natural assets I have as far as portraying the opposite sex are my legs. I've been told they really look sexy, both in person and in photos. So when I tripped over this article (again science to the rescue) it seemed to at least explain a possibility why.

Why Kylie Minogue could have the perfect legs

Come to find out Polish researchers at Wroclaw University (isn't higher learning grand?) found that if a person's legs are 5% longer than average, they will be perceived as more attractive.

So here we go Tracy does math! yuk. The average woman is 5'4" and has an average leg length of 29". If that same woman has a leg length of 30.5" she is thought to have more attractive legs. So if we do percentages of heights, the average woman has legs that are 45.3% of their height and the ideal length is 46.7% of height. With these percentages you can compare your own inseam against your height.

Therefore, remember I'm 6'4", the average leg length for a woman of 6'4" is 34.5" and the ideal is 36". Yes, my legs have an inseam of 36".

Now the article says if your leg length is longer than that 5% say 10% of average, you are not perceived as being any more attractive, in other words, the golden percentage is 5%.

So the same gene's that made me this Amazon height has at least made my leg proportions ideal. Well, you be the judge, I have some pictures in a previous post about wigs that show off a lot of leg. It's one of the few things I can hold on to while I struggle to get the other things right.