Tags: gender, theory, feminist theory, judith butler, performativity theory, queer theory, 00 to 05 mins
Length: 1:22; 3:12
Access: YouTube (clip 1; clip 2)
Summary: Key concepts in Judith Butler's "gender as performance" theory are illustrated by a simple close reading of these two mainstream Hollywood films from 1963, (the very same year, incidentally, that Betty Friedan published The Feminist Mystique). The first shows the tom boyish Nancy (Hayley Mills) and Nancy's girly cousin Julia (Deborah Walley) teaching the dowdy Una (played by Mariah Popham) that being a socially successful woman is simply a matter of walking, talking and smiling in a feminine way, as well as dressing in equally feminine clothes. As Butler suggests, gender is something we "make" and "make-up." The next clip takes this idea a little further, with popular and newly pinned Kim (Ann Margaret) singing about the virtues of growing from a girl into a woman. However, importantly, although Kim's lyrics remind us that being a woman is all about "wearing mascara" and "smiling a woman's smile" she is, at the same time, pulling a sweet, vaguely flirtatious switcheroo by almost completely disrobing, taking off her dress and pulling on an oversized sweater, socks, jeans and a baseball cap. As Butler might describe it, she is "subverting" her gender through "parody" or "drag," for the perfectly socialized Kim, as distracted by love as she may seem, is herself still very well aware that defying gender norms are as easy as following them, especially when the naked body is only hinted at and never fully exposed or seen.
Submitted By: Audrey Sprenger
5/22/2012 03:40:40 am
Not to be difficult, but Judith Butler does not argue that gender is a performance. She argues that gender is produced through performative gestures. While her argument is a little vague in Gender Trouble, she spends a lot of time in Bodies that Matter explaining how she is NOT arguing that gender is a performance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performativity
2/8/2013 02:32:44 am
Excellent comment. In her book Excitable Speech she explores the consecuences of the capacity of our language to generate social reality through performative acts of speech.
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