Gender as performance

Butler and Doane both believe that gender identity is socially constructed and is performed by an individual within the confines of social norms, but Butler believes gender is a series of acts and Doane believes it is a mask that can be put on and removed.

Judith Butler and Mary Ann Doane agree that gender identity is socially constructed. Butler views gender identity as performative acts that are repeated to construct gender. Doane views femininity as a masquerade that can be put on and taken off. They agree that gender identity is expressed by using actions, language, gestures, symbols that contain socially meaning of gender. The social constructions are part of a binary structure of masculine and feminine. Within the binary structure, an individual can be either masculine or feminine, but not both. The physical body within itself has socially meaning relating to gender. The body can perform gender because gender norms are based on the sex of people.  Males are masculine and females are feminine.   One is what the other isn’t. Gender only exists as performance that conforms to ideal norms based on the sex of the person.

Butler believes gender expression is a series of repeated performances. It is the history of social performances that makes up their gender identity. The history of women within a society influences gender identity.  Public policies regarding   population control and family planning put restrictions on women and gender identity.  Butler believes the body should be used in different ways to change women’s political and social structures. Women need to perform acts in the name of women, while knowing that gender identity isn’t singular.  Not all women are the same. The script of gender roles is already written for women and each woman has to negotiate with the script. Women can  choose on  an individual level what  they  want to  take  and  reject  from the script  to create their  own gender  identity. An individual can choose to rebel against the script, but they will not be understood by society.   Gender identity can only change over a long course of time because it is based on a history of personal behavior of performing either feminine or masculine traits.

Doane believes the gender is constructed to have masculinity dominate over femininity.  Men are active subjects and women are passive objects, which create a masculine dominated view. This view creates a social environment in which women don’t signify anything outside being a pleasurable object for male voyeurs.  Voyeurism is gaining pleasure in watching someone in controlling way. Women can’t represent ideas because they are too closely identified with their bodies. Femininity is seen as natural or inherits to women. The male gaze is structured to make women be image of desires and desirous images. Femininity has representations that don’t reflect women’s desires or allow women to receive pleasure from these images.  These images reflect the social norms women are defined by their bodies, while men are not.  Males can look at images of themselves and women can only look at themselves from a male view point.  Social norms of gender create the idea that women don’t have desires and their gaze does not exist. The masquerade of femininity created when a person over acts or exaggerates performances of femininity. Hyper-femininity allows her to be active, which is a threat to the binary of gender representation. The mask allows the women to become the subject, instead of object by performing masculine traits. The masquerade of being a subject is a masculine trait, which allows women to have more sexual mobility than men.  Women can make masculine traits feminine by performing them. Unlike Butler, Doane believes that one can alter their gender identity over time by performing different gender acts, language and gestures.  One example, females wearing glasses is masculine because it gives her control of the look or gaze, and gives her intelligence. Her new gender identity  makes  her less desirable  from  the  male perspective  because  she  isn’t conforming  to norm of passive femininity. Her masculine performance is punished for not conforming.

Judith Butler and Mary Ann Doane agree that gender identity is socially constructed. Butler believes gender is a series of acts and Doane believes it is a mask that can be put on and removed.


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