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{June 8, 2010}   Link! Femme gender — innate or performative

Interesting post over at the Femme’s Guide, a little bit old, on innate femme gender. I really liked this. I keep reading about how gender is created — and sure, okay, to a certain extend society creates gender. But I don’t feel like I could shed my femme clothes, don Q’s guy jeans, a sport’s bra, my black Doc Martins and a man’s tank and call myself butch. Not even if I adopted the mannerisms (some of which I already have — as an aside, I was sprawled on the couch one day, reading over DK’s shoulder. She was tucked in the corner, leaning against the arm, and I had my leg across the rest of the couch, the other foot on the coffee table, one arm over the back of the couch and the other tucked up against her. She read something along the lines of, “Masculine presentation includes claiming space, so sprawling out and taking up room is something men and butches do.” We stopped, looked at her, looked at me, and cracked up.) and attitudes and did my very best to fake it — which I could probably do pretty well. I’m a hell of an actress when I want to be.

But you know? I wouldn’t be butch. It wouldn’t make me butch. It’s that old philosophical argument: If a man thinks evil thoughts but does good deeds, is he good or evil? If the world saw me as butch, would it make me butch? I’d argue no.

So when I’d read about gender being entirely performative and something we create, I’d agree… to an extent. Yes, I perform my gender — but if I didn’t, it would still be my gender. Yes, my gender is created — by a collective unconscious? By society? I’d buy the former easier than the latter, and argue that it’s a chicken-or-the-egg statement, anyway. Did society create it, and then it became? Or was it already in our minds, and we created it to express it?

Anyway. It’s always felt inborn to me. I don’t feel like it’s something I can pick up or leave off or any of the other things that are generally stated or implied. It was nice to read someone else saying the same thing.

I might have to talk more about this, some other time when I have more, uh, time. *laughs*

J

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DK says:

In my defence, it’s very hard to sprawl when your partner is draped on you. (Also you were comfortable and insanely cute, and I was being gentlemanly about the space. You betcha.)

*grins* That aside, I really like the theory of innate gender. I don’t think it’s all innate, but I think our basic personalities can, from a very young age, be divided down a faultline of characteristics that society then interprets as masculine/feminine. Things like flambouyancy and stoicness, which I reckon — to a degree — are innate. Or resiliance and hotheadedness. (Take you, for example. Two years old and furious. I reckon you were born with some of that.)

Ivan Coyote talks about gender-innateness, a little, when he writes about Francis, the cross-dressing kidlet from the Yukon. (I think it was the Yukon.) In the middle of nowhere with no encouragement or particular influence, this little boy knows he wants to wear fantastic girls clothes and be fabulous. And he does! Likewise, Ivan hirself only heard the word ‘butch’ in hir twenties, and yet ze’d been dancing the dance for years.

Also, have you read Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw? I just got hold of a copy, finally. It has the most brilliant, interesting, often funny deconstruction of gender theory I’ve ever read.



JB says:

*nods* Maybe that’s it; it’s not gender that’s innate so much as traits, which we then as a society associate with gender. I could get behind that. Because, man, some of my traits were definitely inborn… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oooh, I’ll have to look up that book! ๐Ÿ˜€

J



freyr says:

Hmm, like gender might be what feels innately most comfortable to perform :)… innate and performative… like we fight for the places that feel innate to us and natural (most correct/authentic), while taking on the performative characteristics of that…

The innate aspect maybe more like the underside of performance, while performance is the outward expression that people take information away from. The two can be different, complementary, or totally incongruous, depending on the individuals relationship to themselves and then to other people.



kb says:

I really really think this(innate and performed) is important. Nobody isn’t performing something or another, as much as I feel like people will lie and say otherwise. that said, there are some performances that seem to flow better from some people, and some performances that make a person happy while others make them feel awful. That should be embraced.



JB says:

*nods* So what performance makes you feel right comes from an innate feeling? Performance and innateness working hand in hand?

J



JB says:

You know, that would make sense. Performance as the outward expression of our innateness. I think I just flail against it when it seems like people are saying it’s only performance that matters. Maybe it is, but that performance comes from somewhere! The idea that I could simply change my performance is disturbing to me.

J



kb says:

yes, and it’s the same issue that I have with people saying “blah is a social construct” yes, it is, but that doesn’t make it not real. in the same way; yes, gender is performed, but that doesn’t make it not real to the performer. and doesn’t make all performances equal in their head. Not as in ‘butch is better than femme’ or anything but in terms of naturalness and resonating.



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