Black Panther icon Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul On Ice (1968) is a fascinating document for feminist thinkers. Cleaver delineates between the omnipotent administrator and the supermasuline menial (white and black men respectively). The omnipotent administrator, though the dominator of the supermasculine menial, is also gendered feminine, as he is linked to “weakness, frailty, cowardice and effeminacy,” whereas the supermasculine menial embodies “strength, brute power, force, virility and physical beauty” (180). White women are thus “ultrafeminine” as the subordinate of the omnipotent, and black women become “subfeminine”.

I suggest the document is consulted if you’re interested in further explication of these, uh, provocative categories. For those predisposed to outrage: at times you will be so– just try not to make it of the blind variety. As always.

Amazingly, when Cleaver was living in exile in Paris 1975, he founded (of all things) a line of menswear to put his politics on the runway. Cleavers’ basic idea is that the supermasculine menial must celebrate his phallic prowess and masculine prowess he’s been forced to conceal (the case of the castrated and murdered Emmit Till is a stirring symbol in Cleavers’ political rhetoric). In an interview with Newsweek, Cleaver claimed “My design has a tremendous future both artistically and commercially, because not just the intellect–the head and face– is honored. The other half of man’s identity, the sex organs, is too.”

(click on the image to enlarge)

The (amazing, strangely confessional) copy reads:

Life is just a chain of daisies when you slip into (careful, now) these revolutionary hot pants–with their ever-so-daring accent provocateur–just unveiled by famous radical designer Eldridge Cleaver of Paris. They’re bad, they’re mad, they’re up front (but never out of sight)…and, of course, they’re for men only…real men…the three-fisted variety. “There is no mistaking they are men’s pants,” says M. Cleaver (seen here modeling a high-waisted two tone pair of “Clavers” with side zipper and matching “appurtenance”). “The pants that men wear now will be looked upon as girls’ pants after my models are sold.” So far, Eldridge admits, none have been, either wholesale or retail, but he’s busy working on that problem right now in his Latin Quarter office. He’s also orking on some new designes, including a red-and-white-striped appurtenance for the U.S. Bicentennial.
Up your revolution! And don’t forget…heavy on the starch!


Quotes via “Pinks, Pansies & Punks: The Rhetoric of Masculinity and American Literary Culture from the Depression to the Sexual Revolution” by James Lon Penner of UCSC.