Welcome To Sheila In The Modern World!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ask me about the gender binary...

Or really, ask Tommy. Because to some extent I'm worried that I pretty much failed at addressing that part of my story... This is a mistake that I tend to make a lot in story telling, I forget to give my readers or viewers the context that I assume but they might not be familiar with. I don't want to be obvious or to beat people over the head with points, I really do try to be subtle. But when I'm not careful, "subtle" becomes "lost."

For example, what the heck am I talking about right now? My second primary character, Tommy, is supposed to be a "gender anarchist"... or at least a subverter. He cross-dresses for political not fetishistic reasons. He isn't transgendered, just a little gender-queer. 

Well, isn't transgendered depends on your definition of the word... Tommy does not identify as female, so he isn't trans in that sense of the word. Authors such as Riki Wilchins have encouraged people to look at transgendered to mean transgressively gendered, a rather broad and provocative paradigm. 

Gender as a binary - male/female - is a deep and important part of our culture. We hold it to be a self-evident truism, when in my opinion it deserves some very heavy scrutiny. On some levels this is starting to be deconstructed in a major way - for example most people have started to differentiate between "sex" and "gender." On the other hand I wonder if ways in which we are deconstructing is always useful. To take the above example, people tend to think that "sex" is a biological reality, "gender" is a more flexible cultural construct. While I'm not convinced that I completely disagree with this perspective, it is an over-simplification at best. When we say that sex is biological and binary what part of biology are we referring to? Anatomy? Hormones? DNA? These different aspects of biology don't always match up. At best a biological binary is a human likelyhood, not an absolute. 

Okay, I'm pretty much rambling now. Long story short, I believe in a multitude of gender experiences, from biology on up.  Tommy as a character is designed to challenge some of the "trappings" of gender through visual juxtaposition, and political camp. But as I said at the beginning, he isn't quite where he needs to be for this notion to be clear on camera.

If anyone has any favorite drag/camp/gender subverting movies or art I can hit up for inspiration I'd love to hear them. : )

If you are interested in an actually coherent version of what I was talking about above please check out Kate Bornstein http://www.katebornstein.com/KatePages/indexkb.htm, or Riki Wilchins, http://books.google.com/books?id=RysbAAAAYAAJ&dq=inauthor:Riki+inauthor:Anne+inauthor:Wilchins&ei=j-QmSrDVHZCGkAT2sLTaCg&pgis=1 in my opinion two of the most accessibly intelligent authors writing in this area.

1 comment:

  1. I think you get the need to watch the subtlety or it gets lost altogether from me :)