Dorian Electra’s Queer Ethics Win Another Round in Battling the Binary on “Man to Man”

PHOTO: Julian Buchan

PHOTO: Julian Buchan

When Dorian Electra brings a queer take on a stereotypically cishet concept, they send a message, too – and the takeaway extends beyond emphasizing that queer folks are entitled to same spaces as anyone else (duh, we are). Whether in the VIP lounge of a luxury nightclub or the capitalist corporate world, Electra reminds us of how, in queering spaces, we change them to our benefit – but potentially for the good of the people whose ease of access is inherent, too. It shouldn’t be our job to educate, but simply by existing, we challenge their gender and sexuality norms, and the patriarchy itself – because with queer people comes queer ethics.

That’s not to say that queer people are homogeneous in ideologies, values, or thinking; at best, though, queer ethics leave no room for toxic masculinity to go unchecked. So “Man to Man,” Electra’s latest video, is more than a critique on masculine tropes – a street fighter, a sword-wielding knight, a matador, and a boxer who ultimately opts for hugs and kisses over additional bloody rounds. The pop artist is not only dispatching commentary, but also decidedly actionable advice: Queer your thinking, and you can redefine masculinity, helping to eradicate the harmful effects of its rigid norms.

In a press release accompanying the video, Electra explains:

Man to Man” is about redefining masculinity as a progressive force for good. It's about
redefining it to mean being courageous enough to be honest, tender, straightforward,
intimate, sensitive, and kind.

In a society that constantly tells people to “man up,” men are forced to reject anything
deemed “feminine” (i.e. emotion, vulnerability, and openness), which leads to a broken
approach to conflict resolution. This sort of misdirected aggression also mirrors a rise in
unproductive, online discourse that only seeks to attack and punish, rather than
rehabilitate and discuss. In both instances, we viciously critique others thanks to the
masks provided to us by the facade of masculinity and the anonymity of the internet.

Throughout the track, Electra modulates vocal pitch for a gender-bending spectrum, shifting so often and so smoothly between the literal “male” and “female” production plug-in knobs, blurring the binary until rendered indistinct. Instructions for de-escalating harmful aggression (put your fists away, lay your weapons down) are delivered in a deep tone, while the opportunities for resolution – like opening up for an honest one-on-one, battling it out not physically but with words – are offered on a higher plane.

The same person who believes a particular pitch of voice signals masculinity is probably the same one who thinks working out an issue through discussion, not fighting, is strictly feminine. With that juxtaposition, points to a specific cause of toxic masculinity: The gender binary itself.

And, of course, Electra’s musical TED Talk is an impeccably catchy one, and the video – co-directing with frequent creative partner Weston Allen, Electra also styled every single person in the clip, themselves included – is like seeing genderfluid iconography being painted, and watching it dry is enthralling. Let’s hope the binary-breaking directive issued in the mix sticks, too.