Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!


leamirella's picture

Hey Everyone! I'm Mirella and I'm a sophomore at Bryn Mawr majoring (hopefully) in Comparative Media Studies as an independent major. I'm really interested in the creation of an identity in online, 'virtual' spaces and I feel like looking at gender is really interesting. I'm also really excited to be using Serendip again.

"Precarious, Performative, Playful, Potential"
To be honest, I had no idea how these terms really fitted into the theme of the class until I started really thinking them through and focusing on how I thought about what these four words meant. I looked them up on my Mac dictionary and found these definitions:

1 not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse: a precarious ladder.
2 dependent on chance; uncertain: she made a precarious living by writing.

relating to or denoting an utterance by means of which the speaker performs a particular act (e.g., I bet, I apologize, I promise).

fond of games and amusement; lighthearted: a playful tomboy who loves to dress up.
• intended for one's own or others' amusement rather than seriously: he gave me a playful punch on the arm.
• giving or expressing pleasure and amusement: the ballet accents the playful use of movement.

having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future: a two-pronged campaign to woo potential customers.

nce I had come up with solid definitions for all four terms, I decided that I could work off them and come to my own initial conclusions about what I felt they stood for and represented in terms of gender. For precarious, I thought about the ability to create and recreate gender - the examples given in Wilchins exemplify this. We can play with gender stereotypes (i.e. the butch/femme lesbian) yet still conform to it. (the example he gives where no gay man in the room will admit to being a bottom). These ideas of what gender is (and indeed sexuality too in the case of intersexed individuals) are not fixed. There are no set, universal rules about what it means to be 'feminine' and 'masculine' and each individual flows between the two quite freely.

In terms of performative, I thought of how, as individuals, we subconsiously let our gender influence the ways in which we act. Think of when you go to the bathroom - as a female, I head straight for the door with the sign of a figure in a skirt. I don't even think about it, it's all part of one big act that I put on every single day to somewhat announce to the world that I am a she. I would be interested, however, to see how this changes when we no longer just look at the 'physical' world around us.

The definition for playful was really interesting to me - "a playful tomboy who loves to dress up". The use of the phrase "playful tomboy" not only links us back to the idea of gender-bending and gender stereotypes but it also makes me think about how playful it can be to go back and forth between the feminine and the masculine. Given that gender is also precarious, the idea of crossing between the masculine and the feminine seems quite fun and full of possibilities....

.... which leads me to my reaction of the word potential. As gender is not as fixed as we like to think it is, I feel like there is also a lot of potential to mix the feminine and the masculine together to form a variety of different combinations. In a different context, there is also a lot of potential to raise awareness of gender issues and, as we discussed in class about what we would like to see in the future, there is potential to make great changes in how the world (not just America!) views the differences between men and women.

As a final note, I made a mistake with the due date... For some reason I thought it was Monday and not Sunday. My apologies and I hope it isn't too big of a problem for anyone!