Hatari

Article by guestblogger Verina Romagna

The 2019 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest is open, the audience waves their flags in the stalls or collapses on the couch at home to watch the live event on TV: everyone is dazzled by the glittering, ever-smiling singers, by catchy songs obsessively repeating “love, love, love”.
It is now Iceland’s turn, a small competitor which never turned out to be very successful or surprising, and suddenly the stage turns blood red. With a harsh metallic beat, the scene is revealed: there’s a cage, and a group of androgynous creatures dressed in leather and latex; one of the singers lies like a dying man on a staircase; the other does not sing, he screams from the top of his lungs. With a growl that is not wild or liberating, but rather cold and hallucinated, the lyrics deliver a terrible message: HATRIÐ MUN SIGRA, “hatred will prevail”.

“What’s this? How could this happen?”, the shocked audience ask themselves.
Let’s take a step back.


Four years ago, on a bright summer evening, as the midnight sun was shining, two boys strolled through Reykjavík contemplating the rise of populism, the ruin of capitalism and the crimes of growing individualism in Europe. To them, the only possible answer was: Hatari.

Meet the band

Hatari translates as “haters”. The band defines itself as an “award-winning performative, anti-capitalist, anti-systemic, industrial, techno-dystopic, BDSM” band, modifying and adding adjectives at their will. Hatari is a multimedia project, chaired by a nebulous company going by the suspicious name of Svikamylla ehf. (“Relentless Scam/Web of Lies Inc. “).

The project is based on the musical band founded by the two boys of the story, singers Klemens Hannigan and Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson, together with their “drummer gimp” Einar Hrafn Stefánsson. Joining the trio is a variable team of performers, dancers, choreographers, visual artists and independent stylists responsible for a keenly designed fetish wardrobe, as well as a series of branded gym wear for the band’s moments of relax.

The legend of Hatari’s foundation is a brazen ironic hoax, regularly administered to the press by Klemens and Matthías, but there are some irrefutable facts: Hatari has indeed won several awards, and most of its members actually graduated from the Art Academy of Reykjavík. Matthías, aged twenty-five, already gained some recognition as a playwright and his writing is at the heart of Hatari’s nihilistic lyrics. Klemens is a carpenter and set designer, Einar also plays in the indie-pop band Vök.

Defining Hatari’s musical genre is a tricky task, because the band is eager to reinvent its style whenever it gets too close to being apprehended. Asking Klemens or Matthías will result in the usual long list of adjectives created on the spot: it might start off with almost fitting terms such as “techno-punk”, but will soon turn to “pop”, “bondage” and “doomsday”, and eventually end up being defined as “cabaret” and “bonanza”. Among their musical influences are Rammstein, Die Antwoord, Rage Against The Machine, Abba (“if only they were more Marxist“), the Spice Girls, Naomi Kline, Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump and Theresa May.

Hatari’s songs feature an electronic rhythmic base, enhanced by Einar’s live drumming, and two contrasting voices: Matthías’ growl delivers the main part, while Klemens will usually sing the melodic line in a soft, imploring and plaintive tone which can rise to a shrill falsetto, as in the song Hatrið mun sigra performed at Eurovision.

Music, however, is just one specific feature in Hatari’s wider concept, which is carried out through different performances: their act consists in staging a fascist dystopia set at the end of humanity, in the unmasking of the relentless scam we are subjected to in everyday life, in dismantling capitalism… and maybe, in the meantime, sell some CDs and T-shirts. After all, as the band put it, “it’s not cheap to bring down capitalism“.

Hatari’s key feature is precisely this love of contradiction, paradox, opposition. The BDSM clothing aesthetic is deemed necessary, because BDSM “liberates you, but it constrains you at the same time […], just like capitalism“.
But their use of contrast is also evident in the relationship between the singers Klemens and Matthías, a dualism ceaselessly exhibited on and off stage, which, as we shall see, might be the true focus of the entire project.

Hatari’s characters

Matthías, the leader of the group, plays the role of the absolute ruler and dictator in Hatari’s dystopia. He is brown-haired, cold and imposing, and his voice has a solemn and cavernous tone. The tyrant Matthías is characterized by rigidity, repressed movements, and a blank expression. He barely moves when he’s onstage, and he addresses the audience with a few controlled gestures, dry and theatrical, a Nazi-inspired reference. Angry screams rise from his granite, absent face, lost in a hateful frenzy of self-assertion. Even when he is not singing, Matthías maintains his apathetic composure; if he utters ironic and paradoxical sentences, he does so avoiding any hint of hilarity.

Klemens is Matthías’ right-hand man, an innocent martyr that the dictator subdues and persecutes. He’s a victim whose torment becomes obscene ecstasy: Klemens represents the compassionate undertaker of a dying humanity. He is small, with blond or sometimes bright-red hair, sparkling and ephebic. Like Matthías, he exhibits Hatari’s odd rhetoric with the utmost seriousness, but does not follow the same self-discipline. The inspiration for his body language and expressive range comes from a variety of traditionally feminine incarnations: the tender and fragile angel, the cheeky lolita sporting a blatant look, the bored prostitute, the sleepy men-eating vamp.

Beside a frozen Matthías, Klemens staggers without peace along the stage and dances to the rhythm. His arms are raised, hips swaying, his body is softly disjointed, keeping the pelvis as a center of gravity. With his skimpy costumes and orgasmic moans, Klemens becomes the spokesperson for the erotic element in Hatari’s performance: he symbolizes light, life, sex, against the darkness and dryness of Matthías.

Einar, the drummer gimp, is a silent character. But then again, he always wears a studded leather mask which hides the lower half of his face, limiting his communication possibilities. Contact lenses blacken his sclera, or narrow the pupil, so that his features are unrecognizable and the only noticeable trait is his gigantic stature.

During performances Einar beats on the drums with a metronome’s stolidity, or he spins around a spiked mace. Sometimes he just stands motionless behind the band and stares at the audience, like a fearsome Golem disguised as a sex toy. The only sentence he has spoken so far, the one time Klemens generously opened the zipper over his mouth, is the prophetic title of the song Hatrið mun sigra.

Some dancers who collaborate in Hatari’s performances complete the whole picture: the elegant and lanky slave Sigurður Andrean Sigurgeirsson and the pale, robotic dominatrices Sólbjört Sigurðardóttir and Ástrós Guðjónsdóttir. Female dancers are no less dressed than men, and even if they happen to interact with male performers, they never do so in an allusive way: in Hatari’s choreography the sensuality remains exclusively homoerotic and masculine.

Rise and scandal at the Eurovision

So how could this freakshow ever get to arrive at Eurovision?
The first step was to win the Söngvakeppnin, the Icelandic musical competition where every year the national representative at Eurovision is chosen.
The band’s participation in a television pop competition made a sensation, not only because so far the band only played the underground scene, but also because Hatari in theory just split up – with a farewell concert and a press statement on Iceland Music News (the “most honest information channel in Iceland“, actually another fictitious company of theirs). The motivation behind the split up is the aknwledgemtn that their pojects has failed: “We could not bring an end to capitalism, in the two years we gave ourselves“. But this farewell lasted just ten days.
Their taking part in Söngvakeppnin was announced with a promotional video designed to reassure the event’s pop audience: in the video, the smiling group is dressed in middle-class clothes (Einar’s without his trademark mask, for the first time ) and gets together to eat a cake. In order to make this family picture more intimate, Klemens’ daughter also participates, along with the daughter of Einar and Sólbjört, who are engaged in private life.
Did Hatari become a family-friendly and bourgeois band? Not exactly: the script of the video is a copycat of the electoral campaign of Bjarni Benediktsson, a controversial politician who devotes himself to cake design.

When, during the award ceremony, Hatari was proclaimed the winner, taking everyone by surprise, Matthías nodded condescendingly and repeated Hatari’s leitmotiv: “Everything’s according to the plan“. Capitalism shall be dismantled starting from the Eurovision contest, he reasoned, since having Hatari as national representative will at least cause the collapse of the Icelandic economy. Hatari already prepared an apology letter to the government, in case of victory.

So let’s get back to the Eurovision, a festival that supports peace and friendship among peoples. The 2019 edition took place in Israel, in Tel Aviv, in the scenario of an occupation that is not at all peaceful and inclusive.
It was clear that Hatari was the ideal candidate to exploit this paradox, and the band was seen as an inconvenient competitor since their first public statements. The group clamied to be backed by an imaginary sponsor, a carbonated water called SodaDream – which echoes the name of the Israeli brand SodaStream but which unlike the latter “has never operated in any kind of occupied territory“, as Hatari was eager to specify.
A video appeared in which the band challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a match of glíma (Icelandic wrestling), raffling Icelandic or Israeli territories to be colonized at will by the winner.

In the European Broadcasting Union headquarters, anxiety was growing about Hatari’s stunts and interviews: what is this “plan” they were constantly talking about? Were they planning to disregard the competition guidelines?
Warned by the EBU, Hatari agreed to change their attitude: they switched to a more glittering look, and shunned any question that could can be seen as political, including the ones about their favorite foods. They made it clear that their song Hatrið mun sigra wasn’t really meant to incite hatred, but rather to inspire the same spirit of union at the base of Eurovision: an invitation to love, before Hatari’s dystopia might come true.

Everyone began to relax. All in all, maybe Hatari were just a clique of funny jokers, and any Eurovision edition must have their “freak” contestants. As the final evening approached, it seemed clear enough that no such thing as “the plan” really existed. The very idea of bringing capitalism to an end was nothing but a joke.

But then, just as the final score was being announced, the unthinkable happened. While the band was to appear live from the Eurovision’s “green room”, a second before going on air, Matthias exchanged a quick nod with Klemens.
He then extracted from one of his kinky boots some scarves decorated with the Palestinian flag, which the band secretly managed to smuggle past the Israeli military checkpoints.

As soon as it was announced that Iceland had gained tenth place, and as the crowd booed, security broke in to seize the scarves. Meanwhile, on Hatari’s Instagram profile, a giant Palestine flag appeared, while on YouTube a new videoclip was published: a collaboration with Palestinian gay artist Bashar Murad, shot in the desert of Jericho.

Male intimacy, the ultimate provocation

Besides their transparent political alignment, and having the nerve to remind the Eurovision audience that we do not live in the best possible world, Hatari also offered one final provocation – a perhaps more subtle but insidious provocation, destined to polarize and upset even their fans: the emotional and physical harmony between Klemens and Matthías.

In public appearances Klemens and Matthías coordinate perfectly their gestures and words, finishing each other’s sentences and sometimes even talking in sync. Yet sometimes the dynamics of domination and submission they exhibit during their musical performances seem to reverse: one of their running gags during the interviews is Klemens whispering some words in the ear of his “master” Matthías, who then just reports them impassively.

Still, what’s really confusing to the public is not even this inversion of dom/sub roles, but rather the peculiar intimacy between the two characters.
Klemens often leans against Matthías and reclines his head on his partner’s shoulder; Matthías, on the other hand, holds his friend to his chest, wraps him in his arms with a protective attitude.


The two singers claim to have a special, intense and long-standing relationship: Klemens supports and encourages the stoic Matthías to express himself completely, while Matthías acts like a shield and safe haven for that “very unconstrained emotional being”. They are two opposites completing each other, the feminine and the masculine, the Yin and the Yang.
Yet – and here is where gender prejudice arise – the two singers are cousins, childhood friends and above all heterosexuals.

The reactions are of dismay. “Impossible! Are they bisexual? Is it just a hoax? They must be lovers! ”
It seems that the public prefers to imagine a homosexual incest, rather than admitting that two heterosexual males can share such a mutual trust and fondness for physical contact; the affection and tenderness Klemens and Matthias show during their effusions is an even stronger taboo than homosexuality, as it seems to question the traditional and all too fragile concept of masculinity.

In spite of all their paraphernalia, their trickster attitude, their parodistic smoke screens and raw, gloomy aesthetics, Hatari’s real message lies in the group dynamics, which stand out as a true antidote. They give each other strength and courage, they trust in one another, they consciously abandon their bodies in the hands of their fellow members. They know how to nurture each other’s most unruly and dark sides, and how to mix them as if they were ingredients of a cake “full of love, but a bit sticky“.

Hatari’s quixotic struggle against capitalism is perhaps just another one of their jokes; yet if we want to avoid living in the toxic and deadly world they foreshadow, our only tools are empathy, trust, respect, bonding.
We just need someone to accept us, support us and – why not – cuddle us, without fear of ridicule, without it making us feel less masculine; here lies the strength we need to express ourselves.
And when self-expression, creativity and vitality are allowed to shine, then hatred cannot prevail.

Aristotle’s Perversion

The ladies and gentlemen you see above are practicing the sexual roleplay called pony play, in which one of the two participants takes on the role of the horse and the other of the jockey. This is a quirky niche within the wider field of dom/sub relationships, yet according to the alternative sexuality expert Ayzad

aficionados can reach impressive levels of specialization: there are those who prefer working on posture and those who organize real races on the track, some live it as a sexual variant while others tend to focus on the psychological experience. Ponygirls often report loving this game because it allows them to regress to a primordial perception of the world, in which every feeling is experienced with greater intensity: many describe reverting to their usual “human condition” as harsh and unpleasant. Although there are no precise figures, it is believed that pony play is actively practiced by no more than 2,000 people worldwide, yet this fantasy is appreciated by a far greater number of sympathizers.

Ayzad, XXX. Il dizionario del sesso insolito, Castelvecchi. Edizione Kindle.

But few people know that this erotic mis-en-scene has an illustrious forerunner: the first unwilling ponyboy in history was none other than the greatest philosopher of ancient times1, Aristotle!

(Well, not really. But what is reality, dear Aristotle?)

At the beginning of the 1200s, in fact, a curious legend began to circulate: the story featured Aristotle secretly falling in love with Phyllis, wife of Alexander the Macedonian (who was a pupil of the great philosopher) .
Phyllis, a beautiful and shrewd woman, decided to exploit Aristotle’s infatuation to teach a lesson to her husband, who was neglecting her by spending whole days with his mentor. So she told Aristotle that she would grant him her favors if he agreed to let her ride on his back. Blinded by passion, the philosopher accepted and Phyllis arranged for Alexander the Great to witness, unseen, this comic and humiliating scene.

The story, mentioned for the first time in a sermon by Jacques de Vitry, became immediately widespread in popular iconography, so much so that it was represented in etchings, sculptures, furnishing objects, etc. To understand its fortune we must focus for a moment on its two main protagonists.

First of all, Aristotle: why is he the victim of the satire? Why targeting a philosopher, and not for instance a king or a Pope?
The joke worked on different levels: the most educated could read it as a roast of the Aristotelian doctrine of enkráteia, i.e. temperance, or knowing how to judge the pros and cons of pleasures, knowing how to hold back and dominate, the ability to maintain full control over oneself and one’s own ethical values.
But even the less educated understood that this story was meant to poke fun at the hypocrisy of all philosophers — always preaching about morality, quibbling about virtue, advocating detachment from pleasures and instincts. In short, the story mocked those who love to put theirselves on a pedestal and teach about right and wrong.

On the other hand, there was Phyllis. What was her function within the story?
At first glance the anecdote may seem a classic medieval exemplum designed to warn against the dangerous, treacherous nature of women. A cautionary tale showing how manipulative a woman could be, clever enough to subdue and seduce even the most excellent minds.
But perhaps things are not that simple, as we will see.

And finally there’s the act of riding, which implies a further ambiguity of a sexual nature: did this particular type of humiliation hide an erotic allusion? Was it a domination fantasy, or did it instead symbolize a gallant disposition to serve and submit to the beloved maiden fair?

To better understand the context of the story of Phyllis and Aristotle, we must inscribe it in the broader medieval topos of the “Power of Women” (Weibermacht in German).
For example, a very similar anecdote saw Virgil in love with a woman, sometimes called Lucretia, who one night gave him a rendez-vous and lowered a wicker basket from a window so he coulf be lifted up to her room; but she then hoisted the basket just halfway up the wall, leaving Virgil trapped and exposed to public mockery the following morning.

Judith beheading Holofernes, Jael driving the nail through Sisara’s temple, Salome with the head of the Baptist or Delilah defeating Samson are all instances of very popular female figures who are victorious over their male counterparts, endlessly represented in medieval iconography and literature. Another example of the Power of Women trope are funny scenes of wives bossing their husbands around — a recurring  theme called the “battle of the trousers”.
These women, whether lascivious or perfidious, are depicted as having a dangerous power over men, yet at the same time they exercise a strong erotic fascination.

The most amusing scenes — such as Aristotle turned into a horse or Virgil in the basket — were designed to arouse laughter in both men and women, and were probably also staged by comic actors: in fact the role reversal (the “Woman on Top”) has a carnivalesque flavor. In presenting a paradoxical situation, maybe these stories had the ultimate effect of reinforcing the hierarchical structure in a society dominated by males.
And yet Susan L. Smith, a major expert on the issue, is convinced that their message was not so clearcut:

the Woman on Top is best understood not as a straightforward manifestation of medieval antifeminism but as a site of contest through which conflicting ideas about gender roles could be expressed.

Susan L. Smith, Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia (2006)

The fact that the story of Phyllis and Aristotle lent itself to a more complex reading is also confirmed by Amelia Soth:

It was an era in which the belief that women were inherently inferior collided with the reality of female rulers, such as Queen Elizabeth, Mary Tudor, Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Catherine of Portugal, and the archduchesses of the Netherlands, dominating the European scene. […] Yet the image remains ambiguous. Its popularity cannot be explained simply by misogyny and distrust of female power, because in its inclusion on love-tokens and in bawdy songs there is an element of delight in the unexpected reversal, the transformation of sage into beast of burden.

Perhaps even in the Middle Ages, and at the beginning of the modern period, the dynamics between genres were not so monolithic. The story of Phyllis and Aristotle had such a huge success precisely because it was susceptible to diametrically opposed interpretations: from time to time it could be used to warn against lust or, on the contrary, as a spicy and erotic anecdote (so much so that the couple was often represented in the nude).

For all these reasons, the topos never really disappeared but was subjected to many variations in the following centuries, of which historian Darin Hayton reports some tasty examples.

In 1810 the parlor games manual Le Petit Savant de Société described the “Cheval d’Aristote”, a vaguely cuckold penalty: the gentleman who had to endure it was obliged to get down on all fours and carry a lady on his back, as she received a kiss from all the other men in a circle.

The odd “Aristotle ride” also makes its appearance in advertising posters for hypnotists, a perfect example of the extravagances hypnotized spectators were allegedly forced to perform. (Speaking of the inversion of society’s rules, those two men on the left poster, who are compelled to kiss each other, are worth noting.)

In 1882 another great philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, brought to the stage his own version of Phyllis and Aristotle, himself taking on the role of the horse. In the photographs, he and his friend Paul Rée are at the mercy of the whip held by Lou von Salomé (the woman Nietzsche was madly in love with).

And finally let’s go back to the present day, and to those pony guys we saw at the beginning.
Today the “perversion of Aristotle”, far from being a warning about the loss of control, has come to mean the exact opposite: it has become a way to allow free rein (pun intended) to erotc imagination.

Ponies on the Delta, a ponly play festival, is held every year in Louisiana where a few hundred enthusiasts get together to engage in trot races, obstacle races and similar activities before a panel of experts. There are online stores that specialize in selling hooves and horse suits, dozens of dedicated social media accounts, and even an underground magazine called Equus Eroticus.

Who knows what the austere Stagirite would have thought, had he known that his name was going to be associated with such follies.
In a certain sense, the figure of Aristotle was really “perverted”: the philosopher had to submit not to the imaginary woman named Phyllis, but to the apocryphal legend of which he became the unwilling protagonist.

Bizzarro Bazar a Palermo

Sorry, this entry is only available in Italian.

Links, Curiosities & Mixed Wonders – 12

Eli Bowen “the Legless Wonder” with his family welcome you to this new batch of oddities and news from around the world! Let’s start!

  • Could there be a solution to appeal vegans, vegeterians and meat lovers? It’s called post-animal bio-economy, and among other things it involves growing laboratory meat from stem cells.
    A totally painless method for animals, who could at last lead their happy lives without us giving up a steak, a glass of milk or a poached egg. These would note be alternative products, but the same products, developed in a much more sustainable way in respect to linear agriculture (which has proven problematic for the quantity of land, chemicals, pesticides, energy resources, needed water and work, and emissions of greenhouse gases).
    Take the highly controversial foie gras: in the near future it could be produced from the stem cells gathered from the tip of a duck’s feather. It might seem a bit sci-fi, but the first lab foie gras is already here, and this journalist tasted it.
    There are just two obstacles: on one hand, the costs of lab meat are still too high for large-scale production (but this shouldn’t take too long to fix); on the other, there’s the small detail that this is a cultural, and not just agricultural, revolution. We will find out how traditional farmers will react, and above all if consumers are rady to try these new cruelty-free products.

  • The city of Branau am Inn, in Austria, is sadly known as the birthplace of a certain dictator called Adolf. But it should be remembered for another reason: the story of Hans Steininger, a burgomaster who on September 28, 1567, was killed by his own beard. A thick and prodigiously long set of hair, which turned out to be fatal during a great fire: while escaping the flames, mayor Hans forgot to roll his 2-meters-long beard and put it in his pocket, as he usually did, tripped on it and fell down the stairs breaking his neck.
    As in the 1500s there was no such thing as the Darwin Awards, his fellow citizens placed a nice plaque on the side of the church and preserved the killer beard, still visible today at Branau’s Civic Museum.

  • But if you think silly deaths are an exclusively human achievement, hear this: “due to the humidity in its environment and how slowly a sloth moves, plant life will grow in its fur. This, combined with poor eyesight, leads to some sloths grabbing their own arms, thinking it’s a tree branch, and falling to their deaths.” (via Seriously Strange)

  • Furthermore, there’s the genius rodent who slipped into a 155-years-old mousetrap on exhibit in a museum. Slow clap.
  • You’re always so nervous and depressed, they said.
    Why don’t you learn a musical instrument, just to chill out and amuse yourself?, they said.
    It served them well.

  • The Flying Dutch of the 20th Century was called SS Baychimo, a cargo ship that got stuck in the Alaskan ice in 1931 and was abandoned there. For the next 38 years the ghost ship kept turning up and was spotted on several occasions; somebody even managed to board it, but each time the Baychimo successfully escaped without being recovered. (Thanks, Stefano!)
  • The terrible story of “El Negro”: when collectors of natural curiosities didn’t just ship animal skins back to Europe from the Colonies, but also the skin of human beings they dug out of their graves during the night.

  • Since we’re talking about human remains, the biggest traveling mummy exhibit was launched eight years ago (featuring a total of 45 mummies). You never got to see it? Neither did I. Here are some nice pictures.
  • Japanese aesthetics permeates even the smallest details: take a look at these two pages from a late-XVII C. manuscript showing the different kinds of design for wagashi (tipical pastries served during the tea ceremony. Ante litteram food porn.
  • Some researchers form the University of Wisconsin and the University of Maryland created music specifically studied to be appealing to cats, with frequences and sounds that should be, at least in theory, “feline-centric“. The tracks can be bought here even if, to be honest, my cats didn’t seem to be particularly impressed by the music samples. But then again, those two are fastidious and spoiled rotten.
  • An article published two years ago, and unfortunately still relevant today: transgender people have a hard time being recognized as such, even when theyr’e dead.

“Almost ready dear, let me put on some pearls and we can go out.”

  • Among the most bizarre museums, there is the wonderful Museum of Broken Relationships. It consists of objects, donated by the public, that symbolize a terminated relationship: the pearl necklace given as a gift by a violent fiancé to his girlfriend, in the attempt to be forgiven for his last abuses; an axe used by a woman to chop all of her ex-grilfriend’s furniture into pieces; the Proust volumes that a husband read out loud to his wife — the last 200 hundred pages still untouched, as their relationship ended before they’d finished reading the book. Well, can a love story ever last longer than the Recherche? (via Futility Closet)

In closing, I’d like to remind you that on Saturday 17 I will be in Bologna, at the library-wunderkammer Mirabilia (via de’ Carbonesi 3/e) to launch my new book from the Bizzarro Bazar Collection. You will also get to meet photographer Carlo Vannini and Professor Alberto Carli, curator of the Paolo Gorini Anatomical Collection. I hope to see you there!

Paul Grappe, the diserter transvestite

Sometimes the most unbelievable stories remain forever buried between the creases of history. But they may happen to leave a trail behind them, although very small; a little clue that, with a good deal of fortune and in the right hands, finally brings them to light. As archaeologists dig up treasures, historians unearth life’s peculiarities.

If Paul Grappe hadn’t been murdered by his wife on the 28th of July 1928, not a single hint to his peculiar story would have been found in the Archive of the Paris Police Prefecture. And if Fabrice Virgili, research manager at the CNRS, scrutinizing the abovementioned archives almost one hundred years later to write an article about conjugal violence at the beginning of the century, hadn’t given a look at that dossier…

The victim: Grappe Paul Joseph, born on the 30th of August 1891 in Haute Marne, resident 34 Rue de Bagnolet, shot dead on the 28th of July 1928.

The culprit: Landy Louise Gabrielle, born on the 10th of March 1892 in Paris, Grappe’s spouse.

This is how the life of Paul Grappe ended. But, as we go back through the years starting from the trial papers, we discover something really astonishing.

Paris-crue-1910--vue-gare-de-Lyon

In the 1910s Paris sounds like a promise to a young man coming from Haute-Marne. It was mainly a working-class context and like everybody else the twenty-year-old Paul Grappe worked hard to make ends meet. He hadn’t received a proper education but the uncontrollable vitality that would mark out his entire existence encouraged him to work hard: with stubborn determination he obliged himself to study, and became an optician. He also attended some mandolin’s courses, where he met Louise Landy.

Their modest financial means didn’t interfere with their feelings: they fell in love and in 1911 they tied the knot. Shortly afterwards, Paul had to leave for military service, but managed to be appointed to stand guard over the bastions of Paris, in order to be close to his own Louise. Our soldier was a skilled runner, he could ride, swim (which was quite uncommon at the time) and he quickly distinguished himself until he was appointed corporal. Having spent the required two years on active service, Paul thought he was finally done with the army. But the War clouds were gathering, and everything quickly deteriorated. In August 1914 Paul Grappe was sent to the front to fight against Germany.

The 102nd Infantry division constantly moved, day after day, because the front was not well defined yet. Then gradually came the time to confront the enemy: at the beginning there were only small skirmishes, then came the first wounded, the first dead. And, finally, the real battle began. For the French, the most bloody stage of the entire world war was exactly this first battle, called Battle of the Frontiers, that claimed thousands of victims – more than 25,000 in one day, the 22nd of August 1914.

Paul Grappe was at the forefront. When Hell arrived, he had to confront its devastating brutality.

He was wounded in the leg at the end of August, he was treated and sent back to the trenches in October. The situation had changed, the front was stabilized, but the battles were not less dangerous. During a bloody gunfight Paul was wounded again, in the right index finger. A finger hit by a bullet? He was strongly suspected of having practiced self-mutilation, and in such situations people were not particularly kind to those who did something like that: Paul risked death penalty and summary execution. But some brothers in arms gave evidence for him, and Paul escaped the war court. Convalescent, he was moved to Chartres. December, January, February and March went by. Four months seemed to be too much time to recover from the loss of one single finger, and his superiors suspected that Paul was willingly reopening his wounds (like many other soldiers used to do); in April 1915 he was ordered to go back to the front. And it was here that, confronted with the perspective of going back to that horrible limbo made of barbed wire, mud, whistling bullets and cannon shots, Paul decided that he would change his life forever: he chose to desert.

He left the military hospital and, instead of going to the barracks, he caught the first train to Paris.

17-123245464a951320f3

We can only imagine how Louise felt: she was happy to learn that her husband was safe and sound, far from the war, and afraid that everything could end at any moment, if he was discovered. During the spring of 1915 the army was desperately in need of men, even people declared unfit for military service were sent to the front, and consequently the efforts to find the missing deserters were redoubled. For three times the guards burst into the home of his mother-in-law, where Paul was hidden, but couldn’t find him.

As for Paul – that had always had a wild and untamed temper – he couldn’t stand the pressure of secrecy. He was obliged to live as a real prisoner, he didn’t dare stick his nose out of the door: simply walking down the streets of Paris, a young man in his twenties would have aroused suspicion at that time because all the young men – maybe with the exception of some ministry’s employees – were at the front.

One day, overcome by boredom, joking with Louise he chose one of her dresses and wore it. Why not dress up as a woman?

Louise and Paul took a turn. He had a careful shave; his wife put a delicate make-up on him, adjusted the female clothes, put his head into a lady’s little hat. It wasn’t a perfect disguise, but it might work.

Holding their breath, they went out in the streets. They walked down the road for a little while, pretending to be at ease. They sat down in a café, and realized that people apparently didn’t notice anything strange about those two friends that were enjoying their drinks. Coming back home, they shivered as they noticed a man that was intensely gazing at them, fixing them… the man finally whistled in admiration. It was the ultimate evidence: disguised as a woman, Paul was so convincing that he deceived even the attentive eye of a tombeur de femmes.

From that moment on, to the outside world, the two of them formed a couple of women who used to live together. Paul bought some clothes, adopted a more feminine hairstyle, learnt to change his voice. He chose the name of Suzanne Landgard. For those who take on a new identity, it is very important to choose a proper name, and Landgard could be interpreted as “he who protects (garde) Landy?”.

Now Paul/Suzanne could go out barefaced, he could also contribute to the family economy: while Louise worked in a company that produced educational materials, Suzanne started working in a tailor’s shop. But maybe she struggled to stay in her role, because, as far as we know, she frequently changed job because of problems concerning her relationship with her colleagues.

War was over, at last. Paul wanted to stop living undercover, but he was still in danger. Like many other deserters used to do at the time, also our couple left for Spain (a neutral country) and for a short time took shelter in the Basque Country. They returned to Paris in 1922.

But the atmosphere of the capital had changed: the so-called “crazy years” had just begun and Paris was a town that wanted to forget the war at any cost. It was therefore rich in novelties, artistic avant-gardes and unrestrained pleasures. Louise and Suzanne realized that after all they may look like two garçonnes, fashionable women flaunting a masculine hairdo and wearing trousers, shocking conservative people. Louise used to paint lead toy soldiers during the evening, after work, to make some extra money.

Paul couldn’t find a job instead, and his insatiable lust for life led him to spend some time at the Bois de Boulogne, a public park that during those years was a well known meeting point for free love: there gathered libertines, partner-swappers, prostitutes and pimps.

Did Paul, dressed as Suzanne, whore to bring some money home? Maybe he didn’t. Anyhow, he became one of the “queen” of the Bois.

From then on, his days became crowded with casual intercourses, orgies, female and male lovers, and even encoded newspaper ads. Paul/Suzanne even tried to convince Louise to participate in these erotic meetings, but this only fuelled the first conflicts within the couple, that was very close until then.

His thirst for experience was not yet satiated: in 1923 Suzanne Landgard was one of the first “women” that jumped with a parachute.

You are not tall enough, my dear, I am a refined person, I want to get out of this mass, this brute mass that goes to work in the morning, like slaves do, and goes back home at evening”, he repeated to Louise.

In January 1924 the long awaited amnesty arrived at last.

The same morning in which the news was spread, Paul went down the stairs dressed as a man, without make-up. The porter of the apartment building was shocked as she saw him go out: “Madame Suzanne, have you gone crazy?” “I am not Suzanne, I am Paul Grappe and I am going to declare myself a deserter to apply for the amnesty.” As soon as the authorities learnt about his case, even the press discovered it. Some newspaper headlines read: “The transvestite deserter”. Prejudices started to circulate: paradoxically, now that he was discovered to be a man (so the two supposed lesbians were a married couple) Paul and Louise were evicted. The Communist Party mobilized to defend the two proletarians that were victims of prejudices, and in a short time Paul found himself at the core of an improvised social debate. The little popularity he gained maybe went to his head: believing that he may become a celebrity, or have some chance as an actor, he started to distribute autographed pictures of him both as a male and as a female and went as far as to hire a book agent.

But the more prosaic reality was that Paul told the fantastic story of his endeavours mostly in the cafés, to be offered some drinks. He showed the picture album of him as Suzanne, and also kept a dossier of obscene photographs, that are lost today. Little by little he started to drink at least five litres of wine per day. He lost one job after another, and turned aggressive even at home.

As he recovered his manhood – that same virility that condemned him to the horror of the trenches – he became violent. Before the Great War he had shown no signs of bisexuality nor violence, and most probably the traumas he suffered on the battlefield had a share in the quick descent of Paul Grappe into alcoholism, brutality and chaos.

He used to spend all the salary of his wife to get drunk. The episodes of domestic violence multiplied.

In a desperate attempt of reconciliation, Louise accepted to participate in her husband’s sexual games, and in order to please him (this is what she declared later in her deposition) took an attractive Spanish boy named Paco as her lover. But the unstable Paul didn’t appreciate her efforts, and started to feel annoyed by this third party. When he ordered his wife to leave Paul, Louise left him instead.

From that moment on, their story looks like the sad and well-known stories of many drifting couples: he found her at her mother’s home, he threatened her with a gun, and begged her to go back home with him. She surrendered, but she quickly discovered she was pregnant. Who was the father? Paul, or her lover Paco? In December 1925 the child was born, and Louise decided to call him Paul – obviously to reassure her husband about his fatherhood. The three of them lived a serene life for some months, like a real family. Paul started again to look for a job and tried to drink less. But it didn’t last. Crises and violence started again, until the night of the murder the man apparently went as far as to threaten to hurt his child. Louise killed Paul shooting twice at his head, then ran to the police headquarters to give herself up.

The trial had a certain media echo, because of the sensationalist hues of the story: the accused, the wife that shot dead the “transvestite deserter”, was represented by the famous lawyer Maurice Garçon. While Louise was in prison, her child died of meningitis. Therefore the lawyer insisted on the fact that the widow was also a mourning mother, a victim of conjugal violence that had to kill her husband to protect their infirm child – on the other hand he tried to play down the woman’s complicity in her husband’s desertion, transvestism, and shocking behaviours. In 1929, Louise Landy was declared innocent, which rarely happened in the case of trials for murder of the spouse. From that moment on Louise disappeared from any news section, and there was no more news about her except that she got married again, and then died in 1981.

The story of Paul Grappe, with all that it suggests about those troubled times, the traumas of the soldiers, the inner conflicts implied by gender, was discovered by Fabrice Virgili who told it in his book La garçonne et l’assassin : Histoire de Louise et de Paul, déserteur travesti dans le Paris des années folles (the title is ironical, and the garçonne is obviously Paul, whereas Louise is the murderer), and also inspired the comic strip by Chloé Cruchaudet entitled Mauvais genre.

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Cronache di un corpo inesatto

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Francesco è un nostro affezionato lettore, e una delle migliori amicizie di penna che abbiamo avuto la fortuna di instaurare grazie a questo blog. Giovane, brillante, simpatico – in breve, una persona piena di idee interessanti. Un esempio: sei mesi fa, Francesco decide di tagliarsi i capelli, fino ad allora molto lunghi, e questo fatto che per qualsiasi altra persona sarebbe tutto sommato banale e scontato, diventa per lui un vero e proprio atto magico, un’occasione per instillare un po’ di meraviglia nella sua vita: invece di farli spazzolare via dal pavimento come rifiuti, decide di donare i propri capelli alla Banca dei Capelli, un’associazione che si occupa di fabbricare parrucche per i malati di cancro. “È strano pensare come questa persona, che non conosco, porterà in testa ogni giorno una parte così intima, in fondo, di me. Qualcuno avrà accanto a sé ben sei anni di emozioni e ricordi, e fra quelle ciocche tesserà anche il suo futuro di speranza. Saranno non solo un oggetto d’uso, ma una muta consolazione, una carezza a distanza ad uno sconosciuto”.

Francesco è una persona affascinante, e non vi abbiamo ancora detto tutto.

Francesco è biologicamente una femmina di nome Silvia.

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Potrebbe sembrare che “siamo tutti uguali” oppure “siamo tutti differenti” siano due espressioni il cui risultato in fondo non cambia, eppure qui su Bizzarro Bazar abbiamo sempre dato più valore alla seconda. Sono le visioni alternative, le esperienze non conformi, le vite non allineate che stimolano la nostra ricerca (oltre a cambiare veramente le cose, visto che spesso sono proprio le minoranze che fanno la storia).

Abbiamo quindi deciso di approfondire la strana condizione di chi ogni giorno deve fare i conti con un corpo in cui non si riconosce: Francesco ha accettato di rispondere al fuoco di fila delle nostre domande. La doverosa premessa è che il nostro interlocutore si definisce gender-fluid, vale a dire che non si sente strettamente transessuale ma piuttosto un mix dinamico di elementi di entrambi i generi sessuali al tempo stesso (da questo il suo peculiare uso intercambiabile di pronomi e aggettivi maschili/femminili).

Quando si sono manifestati i primi turbamenti della sfera identitaria? Come e in che modo hai cominciato a comprendere che eri in parte estraneo al tuo genere biologico di nascita? Quali conseguenze pratiche (di socializzazione, di integrazione, di autoimmagine) ha comportato all’inizio? Che rapporto avevi con il tuo corpo durante la pubertà?
Io sono nata in un paese veramente piccolo: le conseguenze dei pettegolezzi e delle aspettative sono facili da immaginare. Ci sono state persone tanto invidiose della mia nascita da femmina da odiarmi.
La prima volta che ho avvertito il disagio di essere qualcosa che non mi corrispondeva è stato quando, in terza elementare mi sono dovuto confrontare per la prima volta con la guerra “maschietti contro femminucce”.
I maschi hanno cominciato ad evitarmi, ad accomunarmi alle bambine, a pretendere (insieme agli adulti) che io mi conformassi a loro ed ai loro giochi: a me non interessava, non volevo, l’ho fatto a forza per sembrare normale.
Non volevo mettere la gonna per uscire, non volevo imparare a truccarmi per essere bella anche se mi piaceva farlo per giocare. Ho provato per anni e anni a conformarmi, ma… non era semplicemente possibile farlo. Anche vestita da donna, sembravo (e sembro) una specie di mostro, qualcosa che non veste la sua vera pelle. Sembrare normale è la cosa che cerco di combattere ora: sono ossessionata dallo sguardo onnipresente e giudicante del mondo.
Poi a 14 anni ho provato a giocare con i vestiti da uomo e, beh, è stata una scoperta incredibile. Ci stavo bene, in un modo sorprendente. Solo adesso, che sono molto più grande, ho capito che quello non era un semplice cambio d’abito.

Credi che vi sia nel tuo caso un qualche tipo di rapporto fra il genere che avverti come tuo, e il tuo orientamento sessuale?
Non esattamente. Mi ha creato e mi crea problemi, questo sì. La mia omosessualità (in realtà sono bisessuale, ma caso ha voluto che ultimamente abbia avuto solo compagne donne) è stata una specie di trauma.
Tutt’oggi sono in terapia per gli attacchi di panico, per il terrore, che mi provoca anche solo ammettere che mi piacciano le donne… figurarsi il resto.
Il fatto che io sia poi gender-fluid peggiora la situazione: ti porta a pensare che non sarai mai abbastanza per una persona. Chi vorrebbe stare con un ibrido che non è né uomo né donna?

L’androgino o l’ermafrodito sono figure simboliche estremamente potenti (certo, potresti dirmi che c’è differenza fra la simbologia e la vita pratica e quotidiana; ma non ne sono così convinto). Tu ti vedi davvero come “un ibrido che non è né uomo né donna”, oppure potresti pensarti positivamente come un ibrido che è sia uomo che donna?
Dipende dalle giornate. Ci sono volte in cui mi vedo in modo molto positivo, in cui mi sento parte della bellezza del tutto. In quei momenti mi sento un essere completo e felice, ma più spesso…
Più spesso è soltanto doloroso, perché non è facile capirsi, perché semplicemente non sono un ermafrodito perfetto quindi ci sono cose che mi sono precluse dal mio stesso corpo. È come essere spezzati. Mi ci è voluto tempo per comprendere che non si trattava di doppia personalità o qualcosa di simile: Francesco e Silvia non sono due entità separate, ma una sfumatura di colore che va dall’una all’altro.

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Come gestisci il divario (se c’è) fra il privato e l’immagine che di te hanno gli altri?
Lo sto affrontando da quando mi sono trasferito: ora riesco a vestirmi come voglio (che non vuol necessariamente dire sempre da uomo, anzi; il mio stile è maglione sformato, jeans e scarpa da ginnastica), a parlare e a comportarmi come voglio.
Attualmente, per quanto riguarda il fisico, sto lavorando un po’ di più: la mia forma non mi permette di fingermi facilmente un ragazzo. Dopo un mese di pianti (l’ho già detto che sono pauroso?), ho comprato un binder (un accessorio simile a una canottiera che serve per modellare il petto) ed i miei primi veri vestiti da uomo. Ho tagliato i capelli proprio per non dover indossare una parrucca… e per sentirmi più me stesso.
Al lavoro e in famiglia mi chiamano tutti Silvia, ma i miei amici e talvolta anche altre persone mi chiamano col mio nome maschile, Francesco, e alcuni usano anche (per rispetto) il maschile per parlare. Per me il genere è indifferente, anche se mi piacerebbe che ci fosse un neutro o un modo per non doverlo specificare, come in inglese.

I movimenti LGBT, le lotte sociali, ti interessano oppure, pur riconoscendone l’importanza, sei uno di quelli che preferisce mantenere certe questioni nel privato?
Credo che il modo migliore di combattere sia far vedere al mondo che circonda me cosa voglia dire la vera felicità e la normalità della mia vita.

Alcune culture non distinguevano soltanto due generi sessuali, come la nostra, ma ne contemplavano un terzo, una via di mezzo fra i due principali, che spesso veniva considerato sacro: hai sentito o senti la nostra società come un peso oppressivo?
Sì, decisamente, perché tutti ti chiedono di scegliere. Io invece… non credo di voler MAI scegliere. Non ho bisogno di farlo, non ne provo il desiderio. Sono una via di mezzo e trovo SPLENDIDE le vie di mezzo come me. Un ragazzo con la gonna, un Kathoey, una ragazza vestita da uomo o meglio ancora un androgino/a sono quanto di più bello io possa contemplare.
Questa è una realizzazione degli ultimi mesi: finalmente ho capito che, se gli altri scelgono (per così dire) un ruolo preciso, non lo devo per forza fare anch’io.
Nella vita di tutti i giorni, in fondo, i caratteri sessuali non sono così definiti: anche le donne hanno i baffi, gli uomini possono avere il seno, i peli crescono anche sulla pelle femminile, così come gli uomini in molte culture si truccano. È troppo facile dividere tutto con una riga netta, senza la minima sfumatura.

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Amici, parenti, genitori: come hanno affrontato la cosa, e come si è evoluta la loro posizione nel tempo? Come vivi oggi la tua condizione e quali progetti hai per il futuro (“piccole” e “grandi soluzioni” incluse, ma non solo)?
La maggioranza non sa della mia condizione. Questo a volte mi fa star male, perché vengono dette piccole cose (come insinuare che fingo, o chiedermi costantemente di prendere una decisione, di avere un figlio, di adeguarmi o rassegnarmi al fatto che io sia solo donna e che non possa essere altrimenti) che mi feriscono a fondo.
È anche vero che non posso biasimarli. Non è un modo di vivere che conoscono, non possono capire cosa si provi. Non è colpa loro, se mi feriscono.
Per il momento solo la mia compagna e alcune amiche sanno di me. Hanno avuto reazioni molto diverse, ma sostanzialmente tutte e tre dicono la medesima cosa: sii quello che ti senti. Sono la mia forza per combattere la paura. Parlarne è già un modo di sconfiggerla e cercare di andare oltre.
Attualmente la vivo con meno disagio rispetto a prima: qui posso anche infilarmi i vestiti da uomo e uscire, perfino parlare al maschile, nessuno osa dirmi nulla. Sul sesso (inteso come rapporto fra le coperte) ho ancora molti dubbi, molte paure.
Vorrei semplicemente continuare a capirmi, sconfiggere il terrore, operarmi e… beh, essere ME.

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Aspetta un secondo… “operarmi”? Hai appena detto che non vuoi scegliere, che vorresti rimanere per sempre una “via di mezzo”…
Vorrei farmi sistemare il seno. È veramente di troppo per me, e qualunque cosa io faccia al proposito falsa la mia impressione sugli altri. Per i fianchi larghi, il sedere e la pancia posso anche soprassedere o al limite lavorarci dimagrendo e andando in palestra, per questo maledetto seno non posso fare nulla se non operarmi. Il problema è che, come saprai, queste operazioni sono abbastanza pericolose, hanno una degenza lunga, costano molto e se non sono eseguite bene il risultato è spesso deludente. Vorrei sostanzialmente adeguare il mio aspetto a me stesso… e poi si vedrà. Non credo di avere la necessità (né la voglia) di operarmi anche ai genitali.

Mi hai confidato che sei credente: Dio, se c’è, ti ha fatto un’ingiustizia o un regalo? La tua è una battaglia o un percorso di crescita? Nasciamo e moriamo su questo piccolo pianeta: c’è una risposta che sei riuscito a darti, sul perché nello schema delle cose ti sia capitata questa strana avventura?
Non credo che Dio abbia deciso di farmi soffrire. E lo dico semplicemente perché, da credente, SO che è un essere che mi ama, qualunque sia la sua forma, il suo nome, il suo aspetto.
Se mi ha creata così, se mi ha messa in questo corpo, c’è una ragione. Gli chiedo spesso perché l’abbia fatto proprio con me, ma in definitiva le mie domande a Lui non sono di solito riferite a me stessa: mi ritengo una persona molto fortunata.
Non credo neppure, dal momento che sono cattolico, che mi odi per come vivo. È stata certamente una cosa che mi ha molto pregiudicato, e lo fa tutt’ora. Io non mi cambio con le donne negli spogliatoi, né accarezzo bambini, perché, purtroppo, mi vedo come un germe contagioso. Non voglio rischiare di infettarli, anche se razionalmente so che, beh, sono solo un po’ sfasato.
Sì, è vero, ho dei problemi, ma non sono nulla di paragonabile al dolore che provano altri: non so cosa sia la fame, non so cosa sia la paura, né ho provato la guerra, nessuno mi ha mai fatto del male (consapevolmente).
Dio ha messo sulla mia strada le persone più belle che io abbia mai visto, e di questo e di molto altro posso essere grato: mi ha regalato un mondo che è talmente pieno di bellezza, amore e sogni, che sono fortunato anche solo a poterlo gustare.

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Rubberdoll: nei panni di una bionda

Vi sono talvolta delle estreme frange dell’erotismo che prestano il fianco ad una facile ironia. Eppure, appena smettiamo di guardare gli altri dall’alto in basso o attraverso il filtro dell’umorismo, e cerchiamo di comprendere le emozioni che motivano certe scelte, spesso ci sorprendiamo a riuscirci perfettamente. Possiamo non condividere il modo che alcune persone hanno elaborato di esprimere un disagio o un desiderio, ma quei disagi e desideri li conosciamo tutti.

Parliamo oggi di una di queste culture underground, un movimento di limitate dimensioni ma in costante espansione: il female masking, o rubberdolling.

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Le immagini qui sopra mostrano alcuni uomini che indossano una pelle in silicone con fattezze femminili, completa di tutti i principali dettagli anatomici. Se il vostro cervello vi suggerisce mille sagaci battute e doppi sensi, che spaziano da Non aprite quella porta alle bambole gonfiabili, ridete ora e non pensateci più. Fatto? Ok, procediamo.

I female masker sono maschi che coltivano il sogno di camuffarsi da splendide fanciulle. Potrebbe sembrare una sorta di evoluzione del travestitismo, ma come vedremo è in realtà qualcosa di più. Il fenomeno non interessa particolarmente omosessuali e transgender, o perlomeno non solo, perché buona parte dei masker sono eterosessuali, a volte perfino impegnati in serie relazioni familiari o di coppia.
E nei costumi da donna non fanno nemmeno sesso.

Ma andiamo per ordine. Innanzitutto, il travestimento.
L’evoluzione delle tecniche di moulding e modellaggio del silicone hanno reso possibile la creazione di maschere iperrealistiche anche senza essere dei maghi degli effetti speciali: la ditta Femskin ad esempio, leader nel settore delle “pelli femminili” progettate e realizzate su misura, è in realtà una società a conduzione familiare. In generale il prezzo delle maschere e delle tute è alto, ma non inarrivabile: contando tutti gli accessori (corpo in silicone, mani, piedi, maschera per la testa, parrucca, riempitivi per i fianchi, vestiti), si può arrivare a spendere qualche migliaio di euro.
Per accontentare tutti i gusti, alcune maschere sono più realistiche, altre tendono ad essere più fumettose o minimaliste, quasi astratte.

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Alla domanda “perché lo fanno?”, quindi, la prima risposta è evidentemente “perché si può”.
Quante volte su internet, in televisione, o sfogliando una rivista scopriamo qualcosa che, fino a pochi minuti prima, nemmeno sapevamo di desiderare così tanto?
Senza dubbio la rete ha un peso determinante nel far circolare visioni diverse, creare comunità di condivisione, confondere i confini, e questo, nel campo della sessualità, significa che la fantasia di pochi singoli individui può incontrare il favore di molti – che prima di “capitare” su un particolare tipo di feticismo erano appunto ignari di averlo inconsciamente cercato per tutta la vita.

Trasformarsi in donna per un periodo di tempo limitato è un sogno maschile antico come il mondo; eppure entrare nella pelle di un corpo femminile, con tutti gli inarrivabili piaceri che si dice esso sia in grado di provare, è rimasto una chimera fin dai tempi di Tiresia (l’unico che ne fece esperienza e, manco a dirlo, rimase entusiasta).
Indossare un costume, per quanto elaborato, non significa certo diventare donna, ma porta con sé tutto il valore simbolico e liberatorio della maschera. “L’uomo non è mai veramente se stesso quando parla in prima persona – scriveva Oscar Wilde ne Il Critico come Artista –, ma dategli una maschera e vi dirà la verità“. D’altronde lo stesso concetto di persona, dunque di identità, è strettamente collegato all’idea della maschera teatrale (da cui esce la voce, fatta per-sonare): questo oggetto, questo secondo volto fittizio, ci permette di dimenticare per un attimo i limiti del nostro io quotidiano. Se un travestito rimane sempre se stesso, nonostante gli abiti femminili, un female masker diviene invece un’altra persona – o meglio, per utilizzare il gergo del movimento, una rubberdoll.

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Nel documentario di Channel 4 Secret Of The Living Dolls, questo sdoppiamento di personalità risulta estremamente evidente per uno dei protagonisti, un pensionato settantenne rimasto vedovo che, avendo ormai rinunciato alla ricerca di un’anima gemella, ha trovato nel suo alter ego femminile una sorta di compensazione platonica. Lo vediamo versare abbondante talco sulla pelle in silicone, indossarla faticosamente, applicare maschera e parrucca, e infine rimirarsi allo specchio, rapito da un’estasi totale: “Non riesco a credere che dietro questa donna bellissima vi sia un vecchio di settant’anni, ed è per questo che lo faccio“, esclama, perso nell’idillio. Se nello specchio vedesse sempre e soltanto il suo corpo in deperimento, la vita per lui sarebbe molto più triste.
Un altro intervistato ammette che il suo timore era quello che nessuna ragazza sexy sarebbe mai stata attratta da lui, “così me ne sono costruito una“.

Alcuni female masker sono davvero innamorati del loro personaggio femminile, tanto da darle un nome, comprarle vestiti e regali, e così via. Ce ne sono di sposati e con figli: i più fortunati hanno fatto “coming out”, trovando una famiglia pronta a sostenerli (per i bambini, in fondo, è come se fosse carnevale tutto l’anno), altri invece non ne hanno mai parlato e si travestono soltanto quando sono sicuri di essere da soli.
Provo un senso di gioia, un senso di evasione“, rivela un’altra, più giocosa rubberdoll nel documentario di Channel 4. “Lo faccio per puro divertimento. È come l’estensione di un’altra persona dentro di me che vuole soltanto uscire e divertirsi. La cosa divertente è che la gente mi chiede: cosa fai quando ti travesti? E la risposta è: niente di speciale. Alle volte mi scatto semplicemente delle foto da condividere sui siti di masking, altre volte mi succede soltanto di essere chi voglio essere per quel giorno“.

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Al di fuori delle comunità online e delle rare convention organizzate in America e in Europa, il feticismo delle rubberdoll è talmente bizzarro da non mancare di suscitare ilarità nemmeno all’interno dei comuni spazi dedicati alle sessualità alternative. Un feticismo che non è del tutto o non soltanto sessuale, ma che sta in equilibrio fra inversione di ruoli di genere, travestitismo e trasformazione identitaria. E una spruzzatina di follia.
Eppure, come dicevamo all’inizio, se la modalità adottata dai female masker per esprimere una loro intima necessità può lasciare perplessi, questa stessa necessità è qualcosa che conosciamo tutti. È il desiderio di bellezza, di essere degni d’ammirazione – della propria ammirazione innanzitutto -, la sensazione di non bastarsi e la tensione ad essere più di se stessi. La voglia di vivere più vite in una, di essere più persone allo stesso tempo, di scrollarsi di dosso il monotono personaggio che siamo tenuti a interpretare, pirandellianamente, ogni giorno. È una fame di vita, se vogliamo. E in fondo, come ricorda una rubberdoll in un (prevedibilmente sensazionalistico) servizio di Lucignolo, “noi siamo considerati dei pervertiti. […] Ci sono moltissime altre persone che fanno di peggio, e non hanno bisogno di mettersi la maschera“.

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Ecco l’articolo di Ayzad che ha ispirato questo post. Se volete vedere altre foto, esiste un nutritissimo Flickr pool dedicato al masking.