43mm, but wears like 40mm
Day of week, analog time, and a bunch of menu-accessed functions
Cyborg Feminism & Post-Gender Fashions
In 1985, feminist author Donna Haraway published The Cyborg Manifesto in the journal Socialist Review. This post-humanist manifesto advocates for intergroup affinities that transcend the ruts of divisive human identity politics, like gender, race, and so on. Cyborgs are partly organic/biological and partly mechanical/technological beings, and, according to Haraway’s manifesto, cyborgs can be “post-gender” and “post-race” and so on because cyborgs are not bound solely to human culture. I loved this essay when I read it in the early 1990s, and I assumed – as only someone in their early 20s could have – that by 2021 humanity would have transformed into a diverse and peaceful global community of loosely gendered cyborgs. Cut to the actual 2021, and ouch. We seem to have become cyborgs, that’s clear. But Haraway’s imagined transcendence of oppressive human categories looks more like a dystopian fixation on dividing ourselves up into opposed camps and waging ideological wars against each other.
I’d always taken the Cyborg Manifesto, along with gritty dystopian science fiction like that of William Gibson, as indulging a techy, vaguely (and, I’m sure, stereotypically) Asian-styled, aesthetic. We saw it throughout rave culture in the 1990s, with its fixation on Japanese street fashion. We saw endless transparent plastic backpacks and fuzzy Hello Kitty slippers at the trendy new bubble-tea bars around the world, but we also saw a more nuanced appreciation for how Japanese fashion designers interpreted a loosely-fitting American Hip-Hop style into a loosely-gendered International Style. Electronic music fractured into a thousand sub-genres, and before long the emerging dystopian sci-fi fashion trends went international while designer drugs like ‘E’ and ‘X’ took ravers way out past the oppressive identities of mainstream culture. Tech was such a big part of this gender-blurring aesthetic, because tech – as Haraway and Gibson insisted – was a big part of liberating our species from its own ideological cages.
Though I have nothing but my own vague notions to go on here, I can see a G-Shock on the wrist of every cyborg-raver I’ve ever known. My friend who helped start Bunning Man wore a G-Shock, and every time I look at any G-Shock today I see this kind of idealized, Japanese, techy aesthetic that, during the 1990s, seemed so full of revolutionary feminist promise.
And that is why I find it absolutely hilarious that I chose a G-Shock marketed as a “Ladies Watch.”
I Bought a Ladies Watch
There’s a great conversation about gender happening in The Watch Space. Hodinkee, the largest megaphone in said Space, published Cara’s excellent essay about how women are sick of gendered offerings from watch companies, and I’ve just heard more about ditching the Men’s and Women’s categories this year than ever before. In what seems like a response to these voices, Watchfinder, a rather huge online watch retailer, is removing “gender labels” from all of its watch listings. Some brands are following suit. G-Shock is not.
As a dude possessing a rather dubious masculinity, I can say that the gendering of watches feels off to me, mostly because I seem to fall for what some brands still insist are Ladies Watches pretty regularly. Many of us effete and fey people possessing XY-chromosomes fall for Ladies Watches, and more than a few of us have felt the not-so-subtle raising of the eyebrow from those who might see our preferences as bending gender a bit too far. Walter Von Kannel, at the time CEO of Longines, literally raised his bushy salt-n-pepper eyebrow at me when I told him I personally preferred the 36mm version of one of Longines’ dive watches, and he said, without irony but with a measure of sarcasm, that I was “welcome to wear a Ladies Watch” if I wanted to. I’d like to dismiss Von Kannel’s comment as a fading echo of old-school gender rigidity, but I’m afraid that – perhaps because Horology Inc. is so committed to tradition – Von Kannel’s comments are more epitome than anachronism in the watch industry.
All this to say that the gendering of watches can really suck for men, too.
Maybe I Am A Lady
I didn’t even know that I was wearing a Ladies Watch when I tried on the whited-out Casioak GMAS2100-7A on review here. Greg Bedrosian handed it to me over coffee, and everything about this watch was so alluring. It’s a great size at around 43mm, but you’d never think it was that big; it wears like a tallish 40mm watch, really. The all-white colorway is super cool, summery, but also kind of high-end feeling, like wearing a ceramic Hublot or something. And more than anything, I just got that special warm-hearted feeling I get when I know a watch is right for me.
I could go on about the dial and functions and all that, but that’d be boring. Just look at the pics, and if you really need a detailed tour of the fifty-thousand sub functions of the digital section of this watch, then you can download the manual and bore yourself to death. 🙂 I don’t plan to ever use those subfunctions, because navigating tiny menus annoys me to no end. Honestly, I will only be wearing this white plastic post-human Japanese street-style bracelet as a decorative accessory.
My dissociation from G-Shock functionality is yet another deviation from how men more typically engaged with G-Shocks. I told you my masculinity was dubious. Every other man I know who is into G-shocks speaks of wearing them when doing Manly things, like being a cop or a fighter pilot (I know both of those guys personally), or digging a hole, or shoveling gravel, or hunting with a crossbow (I know that guy, too), and so on. G-Shocks are so overly associated with military, cop, and badass-jeep-driving culture, that my falling for a whited-out Ladies model just cracks me up. Am I the only man who wants to wear a G-Shock for reasons that actually pull my gender away from stereotypically capital-M Masculinity? I know I’m not, and that suggests that maybe G-Shock should reconsider their use of binary gender categories.
G-Shock Is Uniquely Positioned To Lead In The Post-Gender Era
The G-Shock catalog is so vast and varied that it is hard to really say that G-shock markets this way or that way. G-shock’s marketing is like a huge net loosely woven together and cast over the entire planet to snag every last one of us consumers with one of its 5-million special editions. In fact, the G-Shock catalog is so vast, colorful, and imaginative, that it seems to me to be full of potential for creative gender play; and such gender play is already borne out in the G-Shock catalog to some degree. This is a rainbow-colored catalog that could so easily (and playfully) transcend rigid gender categories simply by letting its own diversity shine. And yet the G-shock website’s first line of demarcation is Men’s & Women’s.
I’m not here to rant about the oppression of the gender binary, but rather to point out that G-shock as a brand is missing an opportunity to help lead a post-gendered global culture, to maximize and promote the brand’s association with cyborg-aspiring rave culture, global hip-hop, street style, and all kinds of subcultural movements that are questioning traditional gender binaries. Further, the super high-tech vibe of G-Shocks generally is so often (and so easily) devoid of traditionally gendered aesthetic cues that the brand seems pre-aligned with the sentiments of Harraway’s Cyborg Manifesto and other post-gender movements. Were I CEO…blah blah blah…
How It Feels To Dress Your Wrist In Drag
This Casioak GMAS2100-7A has me turning away from a life-long dedication to looking like a lumberjack in repose toward looking like a cyborg-inspired raver who recently went on a youthful shopping spree in Tokyo. And that, dear reader, is really liberating. This is specifically a liberation from gender norms, from the narrow confines of American Masculinity 2021, from the anti-intellectual assertions of Men-as-Men and Women-as-Women that’s dominating the national conversation about gender since right-wing-nut-jobs took over. For the cost of just $99 and the humiliation of knowing that you only really want a Ladies Model, you, too, dear reader, can transcend oppressive binary gender categories and bend freely in the winds of change along with the rest of us liberated cyborgs. And it feels good.
The moment I first put this watch on I was wearing my full motorcycle kit that matches my Ducati crotch rocket. This attire is red and black and white and has exposed magnesium sliders and full body armor; if you didn’t know I rode a motorcycle, you might mistake me for a superhero in this get-up. That’s the outfit that makes the most sense with this watch so far, but I immediately thought I needed to get some high-tech hoodie, some loose-fitting drawstring pants, and maybe a pair of bright white vegan sneakers so that I could really wear this all white Casioak. That a $99 watch can upturn a highly cultivated, life-long lumberjack aesthetic kind of blows my mind. The “Casioak” GMAS2100-7A is like an invitation to the future.
Just as when I’m wearing my Ducati-red superhero consume, wearing the “Casioak” GMAS2100-7A feels like a permitted transgression (oxymoron noted). I feel emboldened to step outside the narrow spotlight of mainstream masculinity and try something a little more femmy. And when I do that, I feel a softening of my mental manhood, a willingness to wonder more openly about not only who I am individually and where we humans generally are headed as we devour Big Tech’s monthly subscriptions to the future. Again, quite a bit of oomph for $99 and little gender trouble.
I don’t ever want to make the mistake of speaking for women. I’m smarter than that. But Haraway suggests that there is something liberating about women developing relationships to machines, that cyborging (or becoming one with a machine) might be a pathway to freedom from solely human expressions of gender, and that this freedom is on offer to women who have been the primary victims of global binary gendering schemes. This is such a fascinating idea: that women, by becoming intimate with machines, might transform gender on a global scale. As Haraway says in The Cyborg Manifesto:
“Up till now (once upon a time), female embodiment seemed to be given, organic, necessary; and female embodiment seemed to mean skill in mothering and its metaphoric extensions. Only by being out of place could we take intense pleasure in machines, and then with excuses that this was organic activity after all, appropriate to females. Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth.”