‘”In what senses, then, is gender an act?” Who asked that question?
Whose ideas are very understandable, but whose writing is very dense.
So… I am trying to demonstrate some of her thoughts using my appearance…
I want you to consider the following:
- Am I in drag?
- Am I cross-dressing?
- Am I a transvestite?
Butler writes of publicly encountering someone whose appearance apparently contradicts their gender:
“From the point of view of those established categories, one may want to claim, but oh, this is really a girl or a woman, or this is really a boy or a man, and further that the appearance contradicts the reality of the gender, that the discrete and familiar reality must be there, nascent, temporarily realized, perhaps realized at other times or other places” (Butler, ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution’)
For the purposes of today’s seminar, my name is Pierre.
But oh, this is really Eileen, is it not? Who is really a woman…
Her stable and real identity as a woman is realized properly at other times and other places, in previous seminars and tutorials – a drawn on beard cannot fool us!
But what if I said that really every morning I shave off my beard, before I teach, and that this morning I have done the same, but drawn it on again… to “pretend” to be a man? How could you possibly know the truth?
No really, I am a woman, but a woman who clearly, in Butler’s words, “performs her gender wrong”, as I am often mistaken for a man… So even though you look at my beard, and think, “Pathetic, she is obviously a woman”, several people today – who both do and do not know I am really a woman – have not noticed my beard at all.
In this seminar, my Pierre persona will help you consider Butler’s statement that:
“[G]ender is a basically innovative affair, although it is quite clear that there are strict punishments for contesting the script by performing out of turn or through unwarranted improvisations […] Gender is what is put on, invariably, under constraint, daily and incessantly, with anxiety and pleasure” (Butler, ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution’)’