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gender as a performance

ccassidy's picture

I thought it was really interesting that we compared gender to a ‘performance.’  For me, defining gender as a performance is what separates ‘gender’ from ‘sex’ because there is a certain individual agency that is associated with a performance that has nothing to do with a clinical evaluation or label.  However, I think an argument can be made that both for and against this ‘performance’ term.  I think that a performance can have elements that are completely autonomous.  As the main character of the performance, a person as the ability to change and expand to fit the truest definition of themselves.  On the other hand, the performer must also keep the audience in mind when creating the character.  This makes me question whether or not the performance changes when in a private or public setting when there is or is not an audience watching the performance?

Someone made a point in class that a woman is not less of a woman when she is alone in her room.  I thought this was a really important argument to make and it is the reason why I am struggling with the term ‘performance’ in association with gender.  I think that many different arguments could be made to support or challenge the ‘performance’ as gender but my main concern with the term is the audience factor.  Is it a performance if there is no audience?  


kwilkinson's picture

who am I performing for?

**I hope this counts as my post since Professor Dalke asked us to respond to our peers!**

I also struggled with this idea after class.  My freshman year I took the Performance of Self eSem.  This was the first time I had been introduced to the idea that gender is not only a social construction (which I had already concluded from some of my high school curriculum), but that we perform our identities everyday.  I believe that although it is powerful to use the word performance, because it implies one having agency to act instead of remaining complicit in gender norms and stereotypes.  However I must ask, who has the privilege to perform and who does not? 

For myself, I am not so much aware of my performance as Kelly, a Black American Woman, but more so who is my audience?  As I stated in class on Thursday, I am constantly evaluating who am I performing/speaking to?  I believe that my performance as a Black-American woman is incredibily sensitive to my audience.  There is a constant mental duality I must maintain, in order to filter ideas or opinions that I fear may not be well-recepted/misunderstood by people who do not look like me.  For me, I have no option but to perform.  Not only my gender, but also my race.  I am not so sure if that is a good or bad thing?  The idea of performance has definitely contributed to understanding the intersectionality of my identity.  I have come to a point where I am not scared to assert my opinion or persepctive in a conversation. However I always must be conscious of the way I am doing it.