Frida Kahlo’s Gender Identity and Feminism

Frida Kahlo, born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, was a Mexican artist. She has been described as a surrealist, painting many portraits of herself. She describes herself as a painter of her own reality, painting herself because she is alone and is the subject she knows best. She was born on July 6, 1907 to parents Matilde Calderón y González, a catholic mestiza, and Guillermo Kahlo, a Jew of German-Austro-Hungarian descent. They lived on the outskirts of Mexico City. Three years after she was born, the Mexican Revolution breaks out and Frida decides that she is going to claim this year, 1910, as the year of her birth. When Frida was six years old she contracted polio, causing her to walk with a limp. Then in September of 1925, she was in a terrible bus accident, leaving her in with several broken bones and bed ridden for about a year. It is at this time that she begins to paint. Both her gender identity shaped her life.

Fridas gender identity has shaped her into the person she was and has made her into an icon for woman. Her gender identity was brought out in the way she dressed. As mentioned, Frida Kahlo contracted polio when she was only six years old. This resulted in one of her legs being shorter than the other. Also as mentioned previously, when she was 18 years old she was in a bus accident, with her bus crashing with a tram. She suffered from a broken pelvis, more than twenty bone fractures mostly on her spine, as well as other injuries. Because of her polio and the accident, Frida dressed to hide her injuries and disabilities. She was particularly interested in clothes worn by the woman within the matriarchal society from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. (NYT Fashion) Some of the pieces of clothings were full skirts, embroidered blouses, headdresses and jewelry. The long skirts allowed her to cover herself from the torso down, hiding her leg. The flowing of the skirts hid her limp. Therefore, all the attention was drawn to her head and shoulders. The flamboyance and femininity of her outfits distracted people from seeing her disability. While her clothes was a symbol of femininity, her unibrow and facial hair contradicted gender norms and were seen as masculine. Kahlo wrote in her diary, “of my face I like my eyebrows and eyes.”