Tuesday, June 11, 2019

trying to find a picture of a man in a black dress on google

There's a particularly fine image of a man at an awards gala of some kind in an incredibly beautiful black ball dress. The ball dress is designed for him and fits him beautifully. There is no falsifying or euphemising of his figure. He looks beautiful and handsome, manly and provocative, stylish and iconoclastic. It's a stunning picture.

But you can't find it on google because when you search for "man in a black ball dress" Google performs a truly shockingly awful heteronormative correction. Men in black formals, interspersed with the occasional black man. Halfway down the page, women in black ball dresses start to creep in (along with women in other coloured ball dresses). Man in a black ball dress? Clearly I meant man in black tie.

Perhaps I'm being too complicated. What about man in a ball dress? Well, I get the brilliant Spider Man Grad Dress, and Ant McPartlin's rather lacklustre contribution to the genre (poorly fitted, decided lack of working it going on), and some people called the Try Guys putting on wedding dresses (very campy, very comedy, a tad laddish). but apart from that it's 20 FULL ROWS of standard men in formals and women in prom dresses before I hit the image I was looking for:

And even then, when I've hit similar images, and I only have pictures of Billie Porter (for it is he) in a dress (well, for the first six rows, anyway), almost none of which are startlingly offensive, there's a still a bunch of tedious conservative formals for men in my shopping bar at the top and a rapid fall-away into women in dresses and men in formals after that.

Of course there is a lot of political and social sensitivity around all of this. You can read some of it through the links on the search for Black Man in a Black Dress. The top result is now showing an ally of the image above (result) and the second link taking me through to a good digestion of the issue (also a result) although there's still (of course) plenty to upset/offend in the results.

But given just how many pictures of guys in dresses there are on the internet, the presence of these images still feels weirdly light (for example: although some rockers and rappers have gone through stages of wearing dresses, although fashion houses frequently bring out dresses for men, and although some cultures have plenty of dresses available for both sides of the gender coin, these images are barely visible). Almost as if, even for me, with my search history and visible identity, google is feeling wary about a certain kind of image, and where it is finding them, it's still taking care not to serve me up anything that feels like it might be normalising, promoting or celebrating male glamour.

Not when it can serve me identikit American prom dress purchase opportunities as far as the eye can see.