Arts Look of the Week

LOTW: Karsten Rynearson ’22 Challenges Gender Presentation with “Femme-Divinity” Style

For Halloween, Karsten Rynearson ’22 wore fishnet stockings, a black skirt with white trim, black stockings with an orange shirt, and long rainbow pigtails. His mascara angled up into a cat eye, and streaks of orange and black makeup ran down his face. His costume was inspired by Grimes, a Canadian musician.

“I came up with this phrase during the summer during my research as a Brace Fellow, but I would describe [my style] as sort of ‘Femme-Divinity.’ It is representing a form of femininity that’s not the patriarchally sanctioned kind, specifically giving that kind of femininity to people who are not supposed to represent that,” said Rynearson.

As one of this year’s Brace Student Fellows, Rynearson will present his research in January. His presentation is entitled, “No Fats, No Femmes, No Asians: The Impacts of Hegemonic Masculinity on Body Image, Gender Presentation, and Gendered Racism in Gay Male Communities.”

“I think my Brace research sparked my aesthetic in general because I really got to look into what femme meant and think about what is feminine to me, even in the face of a society that’s really, really quite femme-phobic. I would say that there’s significant femme phobia here at Andover and in the general world,” said Rynearson.

Avivit Ashman ’22 has noticed that in the last few years, Rynearson’s style has evolved in a way that reflects his authentic self. Ashman admires Rynearson’s willingness to take risks, especially with his hair.

“For Karsten, fashion really is a way to explore your own identity, body, and stuff, so I think this year he changed his outlook. Fashion has changed that. I think he’s embracing self-discovery and self-expression and is using fashion as a way to express himself,” said Ashman.

According to Rynearson, living in Alumni House his Lower year helped him explore and challenge fashionable gender presentation. Although his fashion can sometimes draw looks, he has found a new confidence in his evolved style.

“I feel like whenever I get weird looks from people, it means I’m doing something right because I’m doing something to disrupt their own preconceived notions of what people should be wearing, what gender presentation can look like, and if I can do that for somebody, I think it’s worth getting a bunch of weird looks,” said Rynearson.

Recently, Rynearson has been playing around with bold and unexpected daily pieces, such as face gems and flower crowns. As he continues to experiment with his style, Rynearson hopes that people will question their internalized notions of fashion and gender.

“If there’s one person on this campus who’s questioning if they can express themselves more authentically and fashionably, and they see me in my clothes and they realize that they can, I think everything I’m doing is worth it,” said Rynearson.