It’s All a Lie: Gender and Performativity
My last article was talking about non-binary gender identities and what those entail, specifically from my perspective because I can not speak for the entirety of my non-binary community. However, this time, I’m starting to take a more critical approach towards gender as a whole.
As we’ve read in Foucault, we live in a society that thrives over the docile body. The idea that we are all clay, existing purely to be molded by the “powers-that-be.” One could argue that this is scare tactic used to make people conform a particular way. In this case, the docile body is making people conform to gender in a particular way. Consider people who rebel against gender norms, aren’t they also conforming by acknowledging the existence of gender norms in the first place, and then doing something that goes against those norms. Usually by doing the opposite? By doing the “opposite” (ex: a woman cutting her hair short and deciding to not wear makeup) you’re also supporting these roles and confirming they exist by “going against them.”
At the end of the day, consider; Is performing gender even a real thing? Think about it, we’re conditioned to behave a particular way since the moment we are born based on our biology? How is that still a thing? We live in a society where, if you think about it, we color code our infants so we know what their genitals look like. We live in a society that permits the unnecessary gendering of infants, and truly we must consider that these constructs have no legitimate reason to exist in the first place. From the get -go, we’re conditioned to perform a gender. We’re conditioned to yell “Susie no! Don’t climb up there! You’ll fall on your dress!” And we’re conditioned to believe that the name “Susie” is a ‘girl name’ and the dress is something a girl wears. There are certain names that belong only to a gender. A combination of letters and phonetic sounds can only exist when used on a boy or girl. Weird right? Is gender more than just clothes? Of course. It’s beyond that; it is how we exist with one another. It’s how we live our day to days lives interacting with one another and the genders of those around us.
While I can talk about socialization of trans people, specifically trans women of color having violence committed against them in the name of “socialization” and how fucked up it is until the cows come home, I won’t. I can only speak for my own experiences. For me, I have experienced a very feminine socialization. I claim this as something I experienced because up until much later in life, I identified as a girl. Since then I have spent ages trying to deconstruct what it means to experience gender. Through thinkers like Judith Butler, we are challenged to think about how we experience gender in our day to day lives. Is it our clothes? Our behavior? Whether or not we wear make-up? All of these contribute to the social aspect of gender and how we experience it.
We live in a society that thrives on the unnecessary gendering of consumable goods. Why? Capitalism and binary thinking. Some notable examples include:
In the end, some of us need to exist within the binary for our own safety. It’s a dangerous world outside of academic spaces. Gender, as we know it, is a construct that we’re forced to interact with every single day. Does this make us a docile body to the capitalistic interests of large companies? Or by critically thinking about how we interact with our gender as well as other genders makes us an activist body. Are we swimming against the current with the hopes of inevitably breaking down ridiculous and tired standards of “performing gender”? Perhaps so.