[opinion] Gender Codes

Gender codes are confusing – and impractical. This is the conclusion I came to early on in my life as I observed how the “real world” differed from what I saw on TV. Women, for example, are depicted as being emotional and wanting to look desirable. However, I knew some men (including my father and brothers) who exhibited emotion, lacked rationality, and invested in self-care. Simple things like long hair, accessorizing, and body language have constantly befuddled me as well. For some reason, a person’s biological sex was not always obvious to me, let alone their gender or sexuality. As a result, from a young age, I have always stereotyped people by their actions and words, while allowing for difference to shape my judgments over time. Advertising and media suggest that women have long hair. If I see a person with long hair, I might instantly think they are a woman, but looking closer, I may recognize the person to be in fact someone else entirely. Sometimes a person’s skull shape, body language, fashion, or behavior does not fit the gender “norms” provided in advertising, but that neither surprises me, nor does it worry me.

In an age where acceptance is required, proclaiming that you have a naturally open mind seems suspect. Yet, when it comes to gender codes embedded within advertising and other forms of media, I struggle a little to understand how they may have affected me, mostly because I have had a complicated relationship with media in the past. Due to conservative parenting, I was not exposed to TV and films much as a child (I was 18 when I first went to a movie theatre), and the only TV we watched was TVO which was devoid of advertising, so I escaped media pressure about what women ought to look or behave like. Initially, my parents informed my views on “masculinity” and “femininity”– a man who focused on hard work over aesthetics and a woman who under-emphasized external self-care. My parents were more concerned about gender performance, yet there was always an underlying awareness that not everyone is the same. Furthermore, my personality naturally resisted pressures (from both family and media) as to what women can do, wear, and say. I came to believe that personal authenticity was most important and that other people’s “reality”, be it in magazines or in everyday life, had no real grounding in my everyday life.

As a result, my person-hood has become very suspect to people on either sides of the spectrums of tolerance and intolerance, for I am neither conventional, nor am I transgressive. I merely do what feels comfortable to me – and that often disappoints others. As a result, most girls find me abrasive, harsh, and hyper-rational, and most men find me intimidating and unattractive (I do not wear makeup or sexy clothing). Although this “in-between-ness” has confused people around me, I have found contentment while boys and girls around me exercise, diet, and beautify in order to fit in or find happiness.

It comes as no surprise then that I am attracted to men who express more “feminine” codes of gender. Tom Hiddleston, like most male celebrities, fulfills his quota of masculine poses in bespoke suits. However, he caught my eye because I believe that he also offers other kinds of positioning as he continues to explore his truth. I will be looking at the Gucci Cruise campaign for which Tom Hiddleston modeled. In the article “Tom Hiddleston Is The New Face Of Gucci Cruise”, photos show him splayed out or resting his weight on one leg (Chung, 2016). The photo below is also part of the same photoshoot: Tom sitting down with some dogs.


Here, Tom Hiddleston has allowed himself to be coded in alternative ways: off-balance and vulnerable. His distant gaze off-camera gives him a more vulnerable feeling, for he does not seem to be in the moment. His left hand rests on his thigh, which is yet another a common trait in female encoded advertising. Note his odd posture as well – leaning down with his foot turned in slightly. This posture evokes the sensation of uncertainty, which is not as grounded and in control as most male coding. In fact, Tom here seems more boy than man – a de-aging transformation many women undergo in advertising. I think this ad campaign perfectly shows the allure (and to some, detestation) of Tom Hiddleston’s image. As Bloomer in “No, Tom Hiddleston Should Not Be James Bond” suggests, Tom Hiddleston, with his “circumspect, nuanced masculinity” and “decidedly ruminative film CV”, would be hard put to carry off the ultimate masculine coded figure: Bond (2016). My reaction: why can’t we have a new image for Bond?


Bloomer, Jeffrey. “No, Tom Hiddleston Should Not Be James Bond.” 26 May 2016. Slate. 29 November 2017.

<http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/05/27/tom_hiddleston_does_not_prove_he_sho uld_be_james_bond_in_the_night_manager.html>.

Chung, Madelyn. “Tom Hiddleston Is The New Face Of The Gucci Cruise.” 2016. The Huffington Post Canada. 29 November 2017. <http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/09/26/tom-hiddlestongucci_n_12199726.html&gt;.

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