Hvorfor feminisme?

Elias, End of Male Gaze, Male Gaze, Queer Gaze, Queer Theory, Soloway

The Queer Gaze

As mentioned earlier, De Beauvoir talks about woman as ‘other’. ‘Woman’ was created and defined by the subject – the man. The woman has not always fought against this which means she has allowed herself to be defined as the object. In relation to this, De Beauvoir wonders why women are not objecting to male sovereignty (De Beauvoir(a) 1999: 16).

This question was asked in 1949, but it’s just now, with the use of new(er) streaming services and the arrival of social media’s, that something is done about it. One way of challenging sovereignty and the position as ‘other’, is through self-representation.

In feminist, psychoanalytic, queer, and postcolonial studies, the primary claim is that the subject is constituted by the gaze. You are that which others see you as, and not that which you see yourself as

(Elias 2009: 11)

A statement Elias emphasises by referring to Butler’s points in Gender Trouble where she demonstrates how our personality is formed through the repetition of our performative actions. In other words, identity is created through the repetition of social conventions (ibid.: 29).

It is therefore interesting to examine today’s media landscape in order to find out if and in what ways tv series today are breaking with ‘the male gaze’ – a term developed (in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975)) by film theoretician and professor in Film & Media Studies Laura Mulvey. According to Mulvey, the term explains how a patriarchal society has structured the form of the film (Barding et al. 2015: 11). This is, among other things, important since film and tv-/streaming-series are structured around the intention of satisfying the voyeur. This, because it provides opportunities for identification with a powerful male hero and by offering an image of woman as object of the male gaze due to her ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’ (Mulvey 1991: 69).

Producer, creator, showrunner and manuscript writer, Jill Soloway, elaborates this further while developing the term ‘Queer Gaze’, which she also calls ‘Female Gaze’.

The [white] Male Gaze is the way in which visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. Mulvey names three parts of this gaze: This gaze is conducted by the person behind the camera. The characters in the film and the spectator

(Soloway 2016: 02:24)

At a Master Class, Soloway defines the Queer Gaze as part of breaking with the Male Gaze. Soloway emphasises that this Gaze is more than just the opposite of the Male Gaze (Soloway 2016: 05:12). They (Soloway identifies as a “gender non-conforming queer person who prefers to be references with gender-neutral pronouns (Freeman 2017)) divide the Queer Gaze into three parts.

  1. Feeling seen, whereto a subjective camera is used – the image is thereby used to share a feeling of being ‘in feeling’ rather than just looking at the character (ibid.: 17:33).

So this first Female Gaze might be something that you watch where you can say, ‘I can tell a woman directed this because I feel held by something that is invested in my feeling, in my body. That my emotions are being prioritised over the actions

(Soloway 2016: 19:19)

2. ‘The Gazed Gaze’. The camera shows the viewer how it feels to be the object of ‘the gaze’ (how it feels to be seen). This is not just an emotion, but a story where an intense consciousness is unveiled in relation to the growing power of the protagonist (the protagonist talk about how they become what men see, and what kind of effect they have on the world when they are being seen).

3. Returning the Gaze. As a way of telling the viewer “I see you seeing me”. With this, it becomes a way for minorities to not only be feeling seen, or show how it feels to be seen, but a way in which it is demanded that we rewrite our culture in a way, so women (or other minorities) no longer is the object, but also the subject (Soloway 2016: 22:52).

The Queer Gaze is a political platform where it is possible to break with the idea, that women’s success is limited to ‘being seen’ (Soloway 2016: 31:40). One always writes from one’s own perspective, which is why everyone is writing propaganda for themselves. This is a way to normalise one’s own experience. The Queer Gaze, then, is: “(…) a privilege generator: it’s storytelling to get you on somebody’s side” (ibid.: 28:16) and thereby a very conscious attempt to create empathy as a political tool. Soloway points to the fact that it is important to be aware of how we are not able to talk about what meanings the male and female body are inscribed, but what we can talk about is what is ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and what these categories allow (ibid.: 44:40).

With this, we look at Transparent and Sense8. How are the creators truth(s) being told through these series? How do they create a socially relevant fight for recognition of non-normative identities?

Sources:

Barding, Antonia, Kæregaard, Marlene Bjørn, Eliasen, Kristina Maria Danielsen, Matthiassen, Anja Falkner & Stassen, Christoffer Trosborg (2015): Orange Is the New Black – Markante kvinderoller i nyere, amerikanske tv-serier. RUC, Bachelorproject. Read here

De Beauvoir(a), Simone (1999): “Første bind: Kendsgerninger og myter” i Det Andet Køn. Tidernes skifte, Nørhaven A/S Viborg.

Elias, Camelia (2009) Between Gazes: Feminist, Queer, and ‘Other’ Films. EYECORNER PRESS.

Freeman, Hadley (2017): Transparent’s Jill Soloway: ‘The words male and female describe who we used to be’. The Guardian. Read here

Mulvey, Laura (1991): Skuelysten og den fortællende film. Oversættelse af Vibeke Pedersen i Tryllelygten, Tidsskrift for levende billeder. 1. årgang, nr. 1, redigeret af Palle Schantz Lauridsen, Steen Salomonsen, Flemming Søgaard Sørensen, Jens Toft.

Soloway, Jill (2016): The Female Gaze. Master Class, TIFF 2016. See here

 

Feminism, feminismens historie, Queer Gaze, Queer Theory

Queer Gaze

Som tidligere nævnt, taler De Beauvoir om, at kvinden er ‘det Andet’. Kvinden er altså blevet skabt og defineret af subjektet – manden. Kvinden har dog ikke tidligere gjort modstand mod dette og har dermed ladet sig definere som objekt. Hertil spørger De Beauvoir: “Hvorfor gør kvinder ikke indsigelse mod mandens suverænitet?” (De Beauvoir(a) 1999: 16). Dette spørgsmål blev stillet i 1949 og begynder først nu med de nye(re) streamingtjenester og sociale mediers fremkomst at blive gjort noget ved. En måde at gøre op med suverænitet og placering som ‘den Anden’, er gennem selvrepræsentation.

In feminist, psychoanalytic, queer, and postcolonial studies, the primary claim is that the subject is constituted by the gaze. You are that which others see you as, and not that which you see yourself as

(Elias 2009: 11)

En udtalelse Elias understreger ved at referere til Butlers pointer i Gender Trouble, da Butler netop har påvist, at vores personlighed skabes gennem en gentagelse af performative handlinger. Identitet er således skabt gennem en gentagelse af sociale konventioner (ibid.: 29).

Gør tv-serier i dag op med ‘det mandlige blik’? Det mandlige blik er et begreb udviklet af filmteoretiker og professor i Film- og Medievidenskab Laura Mulvey (i Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975), der ifølge Mulvey handler om, hvordan det patriarkalske samfund har struktureret filmens form. Dette er især vigtigt, da film og tv-/streaming serier er bygget op omkring intentionen om at tilfredsstille den mandlige beskuer, da de netop giver mulighed for identifikation med eksempelvis en magtfuld mandlig helt og ved at tilbyde et billede af kvinden som objekt for det mandlige blik i kraft af hendes ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’ (Mulvey 1991: 69). Producer, skaber, Showrunner og manuskriptforfatter Jill Soloway uddyber dette i forbindelse med sin udvikling af ‘The Queer Gaze’ (også nævnt ‘The Female Gaze’ (‘det kvindelige blik’) – vi benytter os af ‘The Queer Gaze’):

The [white] Male Gaze is the way in which visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. Mulvey names three parts of this gaze: This gaze is conducted by the person behind the camera. The characters in the film and the spectator

(Soloway 2016: 02:24)

I et foredrag ved MASTER CLASS | TIFF definerer Soloway ‘The Queer Gaze’ som et led i oprøret mod ‘det mandlige blik’. Soloway understreger, at dette ‘blik’ ikke blot er det modsatte af ‘det mandlige blik’ (Soloway 2016: 05:12). De (Soloway identificerer sig som “a gender non-conforming queer person, who prefers to be referenced with gender-neutral pronouns (they/them/their)” og vi vil derfor gennem specialet referere til Solway som ‘de’ og ikke han/hun (Freeman 2017)) opdeler (på samme måde som Mulvey med ‘det mandlige blik’) ‘the queer gaze’ i tre dele. Det første handler om at føle sig set, hvortil der bruges et subjektivt kamera, som bruger billedet til at dele en følelse af at være ‘in feeling’ i stedet for at karakteren bliver ‘set på’:

So this first Female Gaze might be something that you watch where you can say, ‘I can tell a woman directed this because I feel held by something that is invested in my feeling, in my body. That my emotions are being prioritised over the actions

(Soloway 2016: 19:19)

Den anden del handler om ‘The Gazed Gaze’, hvor kameraet viser seerne, hvordan det føles at være objekt for ‘the gaze’ (hvordan det føles at blive set). Det er altså ikke kun en følelse, men en fortælling, hvor vi afslører en intens bevidsthed i forhold til protagonistens voksende magt (protagonisterne taler om, hvordan de bliver, hvad mænd ser, og hvilken effekt de har på verden, når de bliver set). Den sidste del handler om at returnere blikket (‘returning the Gaze’) som en måde at sige til seeren ‘I see you seeing me’. Dette bliver på den måde den del, hvor minoriteter (her kvinder) bliver i stand til ikke blot at føle sig set, eller vise hvordan det føles at blive set, men en måde hvorpå der kræves, at vi omskriver vores kultur på en måde, så kvinder ikke længere kun er objektet, men også subjektet (Soloway 2016: 22:52).

‘The queer gaze’ er således en politisk platform til at gøre op med med idéen om, at kvinder kun kan få succes ved at ‘blive set’. Soloway understreger, at man altid skriver ud fra sit eget perspektiv, hvorfor alle i virkeligheden skriver propaganda for sig selv, hvilket er en måde hvorpå andre (seerne) inviteres til at se tingene fra ens perspektiv, så man på den måde kan normalisere sin egen oplevelse. ‘The queer gaze’ er i denne forstand “(…) a privilege generator: it’s storytelling to get you on somebody’s side” (Soloway 2016: 28:16) og dermed et bevidst forsøg på at skabe empati som et politisk værktøj. Soloway peger på, at det i den forbindelse er vigtigt at være opmærksom på, at vi ikke kan tale om, hvad den mandlige og den kvindelige krop tildeles af betydning, men det vi kan tale om er, hvad der er ‘maskulint’ og ‘feminint’ og hvad disse kategorier tillader.

Butler, Feminism, Gender Trouble, heteronormativity, Heterosexual Matrix, Performativity, Queer Theory, Sex & Gender

What Is Queer Theory?

What exactly is queer theory? Queer theory is hard to define! Tiina Rosenberg, queer scientist and Associate Professor in Theater Studies at Stockholm University writes:

I kort begreb kan man sige, at queer-teorien forskyder kønsdiskrimination fra at handle om patriarkatets udelukkelse af kvinden til at handle om den heteroseksuelle norms udelukkelse af ikke-heteroseksuelle

(Rosenberg i Munk Rösing 2001)

[Our translation] In short, queer theory shifts gender discrimination from being about the exclusion of women by patriarchy to the exclusion of non-heterosexual by heterosexual norms.

We have chosen to use Judith Butler who has paid the way for queer theory to be our main queer theorist since we find her understanding to be one of the most accurate and useful approaches to gender and sexuality – both how they affect each other, as well as what the categories ‘gender/sex’ contain.

Judith Butler

Butlers book Gender Trouble (1990) helped put queer studies on the agenda (within gender and feminist studies). Her critical analysis of feminist thinkers such as Julia Kristeva and Monique Wittig as well as Michel Foucault, Jacque Lacan and Sigmund Freud has helped shape her own philosophy (more than an actual theory) which is an attempt to de-neutralise existing discourses within gender and sexuality.

Men hvilken sammenhæng mellem køn og seksualitet forsøger jeg at fremhæve? Jeg vil bestemt ikke hævde, at former for seksuel praksis producerer bestemte køn, men kun at kontrollen af køn under den normative heteroseksualitets betingelser undertiden bruges som et middel til at sikre heteroseksualiteten

(Butler: XXI)

[Our translation] But which connection between gender and sexuality am I trying to emphasize? I am not trying to claim that one specific sexual practice produces specific genders but merely the fact that by controlling gender within the conditions of normative heterosexuality it is sometimes used as a way to secure heterosexuality

Butler presents the idea of ‘biological gender’ (sex) as oppose to ‘social gender’ (gender) and the connection as well as the differences between these – with the fundamental understanding of gender as a performance.

In addition, she talks about the relation between the understanding of gender and sexual desire: A heterosexual ‘woman’ and a heterosexual ‘man’ make up ‘the Heterosexual Matrix’.

‘Woman’ as a Category

“Strictly speaking, “women” cannot be said to exist”

(Kristeva in Butler 2008: 1)

Inspired by Michel Foucault, Butler points to problematic, dominating tendencies when it comes to women (in society, language as well as politics), since all women are placed in just one shared category. Existing discourses which society is subjected to produces gendered (masculine and dominating) subjects, that excludes the category ‘women’ by placing all women in one category both politically and culturally, thereby creating just one identity. Butler criticizes this:

If one “is” a woman, that is surely not all one is; the term fails to be exhaustive (…) because gender is not always constituted coherently or consistently in different historical contexts (…)

(Butler: 4)

Another point of critic is the lack of: “(…) racial, class, ethnic, sexual, and regional modalities of discursively constituted identities” (Butler: 4).

Butler is, as mentioned, inspired by De Beauvoir who sees gender as more than something that is biological determined: you are not born a woman, you become a woman (which is not to say, that there are absolutely no biological differences between women and men), and because of this, one cannot assume that there is only one women’s category.

Sex & Gender

flexiblegenderidentity

By deconstructing binary understandings and truisms of gender and sexuality that are dominant in our current society, Butler questions some of the naturalized truths which determine the general understanding of gender. She argues that gender is culturally determined and that the biological body is connected to the categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ because society is subjected to cultural compulsion that teaches us how we should think about these (Butler: 8).

Historically, there has been a clear distinction between gender and sex. Gender was seen as ‘destiny’ and sex as a cultural construction, which is to say it is changeable. Thus, Butler doesn’t think you can separate sex and gender since they depend on each other:

Gender ought not to be conceived merely as the cultural inscription of meaning on a pregiven sex (a juridical conception); gender must also designate the very apparatus of production whereby the sexes themselves are established. As a result, gender is not to culture as sex is to nature (…)

(Butler: 10)

With this in mind, the physical (biological) body is nothing but an ‘instrument’, a ‘construction’, without meaning until it has been ‘assigned’ a gender at (or even before) birth (boy or girl), predetermined by culture and existing discourses. This means that a person born with what is acknowledged as a biological ‘male’ body is also able to embody the female category the same way women born in a body acknowledged as ‘female’ can (De Beauvoir in Butler: 11).

Butler points out, that it is not just about choosing freely when it comes to one’s understanding of gender since gender identity is influenced by existing, powerful discourses.

Butler’s frame of understanding is thereby based on interpellation, where gender identity as a social construction is displayed: a subject becomes part of a gender discourse at birth since it is assigned the label: boy or girl.

The Heterosexual Matrix and heteronormativity

Butler explains that “”Intelligible” genders are those which in some sense institute and maintain relations of coherence and continuity among sex, gender, sexual practice, and desire” (Butler: 23). This definition constitute the Heterosexual Matrix. The matrix is to be understood as a structure that creates norms in which one (because of one’s sex) has a heterosexual desire that produces a heterosexual practice. Since this heteronormative understanding is dictating how vi think about sex, gender, and desire, identities that differ from the norm (gays, bisexuals, and trans*) are tabooed. As a result, these identities are viewed as intelligible genders and evolutionary failures (udviklingsmæssige fiaskoer). Since the understanding of gender is based on a heterosexual construction regulated by its reproductive sexuality, a false stabilization of gender emerges.

Butler points out that it is problematic (in more than one way) to equate gender and sex with desire in modern queer theory since a given sex does not necessarily presuppose a certain desire and vice versa. She elaborates by saying:

The second and related move within queer theory is to argue that gender is not reducible to hierarchical heterosexuality, that it takes different forms when contextualized by queer sexualities, indeed, that its binariness cannot be taken for granted outside the heterosexual frame, that gender itself is internally unstable, that transgendered lives are evidence of the breakdown of any lines of causal determinism between sexuality and gender

(Butler 2004: 54)

Performativity

The many identities that are placed outside of the Heterosexual Matrix are proof that the matrix is constructed and constantly controlled and upheld by repetition, language, and representation. Butler thinks that it is necessary to recognize that rather than viewing gender/sex as a cause of sexual experience, behavior, and desire, it is important to acknowledge that the cause must be understood as an effect of the heteronormative discourse that creates certain subject positions. Which is to say, gender/sex is a label created performatively by hegemonic discourses.

It may seem, however, that there is a difference between the embodying or performing of gender norms and the performative use of discourse. Are these two different senses of “performativity”, or do the converge as modes of citationality in which the compulsory character of certain social imperatives becomes subject to a more promising deregulation? Gender norms operate by requiring the embodiment of certain ideals of femininity and masculinity, ones that almost always related to the idealization of the heterosexual bond

(Butler 1993: 231)

Butler views gender/sex as fluent. To become one’s gender/sex, one is forced to perform in order to live up to the social and public discourse on “intelligible” genders. Gender is thereby produced in order to create stabile, primary, and recognizable identities. These identities can be interpreted as performative, since being placed outside the norm has negative consequences. Those who does not perform their gender/sex in accordance with the norm are challenging the political construction and our way of understanding gender/sex (Butler: 192) (note: This is not to say, that gender/sex is merely a performance (Serano 2016: 336)).


Sources

Butler, Judith: Gender Trouble – Feminism and the subversion of identity

Butler, Judith (2004) Undoing Gender. Routledge. ISBN: 978-0415969239

Butler, Judith (1993): “Critically Queer” i Bodies That Matter – On The Discursive Limits of “Sex”. pp. 223-283. Routledge.

Ravn, Flemming (2014): HVAD ER HETERONORMATIVITET? Læs her

Munk Rösing, Lilian (2001): De skæve kønsidentiteter. Information. Læs her

Butler, Femininity, Gender Trouble, Queer Theory, Sex & Gender, Trans theory

Queer Theory

(Link)

We want to look at what women’s liberation really means, as well as working towards an understanding of what gender as a category is. This, we believe can open up towards a different and new understanding of the category ‘woman’ as well as ‘man’.

As mentioned earlier, second-wave feminism in academic circles developed into various disciplines that each focused on equal rights. An example of a discipline that has developed a few of the points of criticism surrounding feminism further, is queer theory. Judith Butler states that queer is an expansion within feminism:

As I wrote [Gender Trouble], I understood myself to be in an embattled and oppositional relation to certain forms of feminism, even as I understood the text to be part of feminism itself (…) I sought to counter those views that made presumptions about the limits and propriety of gender and restricted the meaning of gender to received notions of masculinity and femininity. It was and remains my view that any feminist theory that restricts the meaning of gender in the presuppositions of its own practice sets up exclusionary gender norms within feminism, often with homophobic consequences

(Butler: VII)

We’re using Butler to achieve a better understanding of what ‘sex/gender’ as a category actually is and/or connotes. Inspired by a queer-theoretical approach towards media representation surrounding (as well as within) new american streaming-series, we want to account for the ground principals within queer theory – which will lead to a short exposition of trans* theory.

In addition, we include femininity in order to understand how it is represented in the media and which subject-positions this understanding of femininity has created, as well as masculinity – how has masculinity shaped our understanding of femininity and vice versa? By bringing these fields of study together, we investigate which limitations this categorical thinking creates when it comes to which subject-positions we are offered.

butler.jpg.preset.sixteen-nine

(Link)


Sources:
Butler, Judith : Gender Trouble – Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.

Queer Theory, Trans theory

Trans* theory

In order to elaborate on Butler’s understanding of gender, we include Serano who points to the fact that there is a problem within feminism both when it comes to not understanding one’s cis-privileges and the devaluation of femininity. She thinks trans women are an important example of that. I line with Butler, she thinks (social) gender is constructed by the way others perceive and interpret one’s identity:

I can modify my own gender all I want, but it won’t change the fact that other people will continue to compulsively assign a gender to me and to view me through the distorted lenses of cissexual and heterosexual assumption

(Serano 2016: 193)

Trans* describes a variety of gender identities that are extremely different, and yet share one, simple common denominator: they don’t fit the traditional conception of a cisgender woman or man.

In the preface of the Peer Reviewed Journal Kvinder, Køn & Forskning (Eng: Women, Gender & Research which) ) from 2011, Danish gender scientists Tobias Raun, Maja Bissenbakker Frederiksen and Michael Nebeling Petersen describe how trans* studies are increasingly making up more and more of gender research. The reason for this is, that trans* studies contribute with critical and theoretical ideas on gender, and because the identity category ‘transgender’ historically, theoretically, and socially make up a figure that illustrate naturalized assumptions of gender.

Trans* studies and trans* theory arise out of lived experiences of stigmatizing and invisibility in society as well as within a psycho-medicinal health system, in gender research, and in the social general public (Raun et al. 2011: 3).

More poststructural theoreticians and queer theoreticians have been part of creating a focus on trans* people (and ‘drags’) as perfect examples of the idea of gender identity as a performance (as seen with Butler). As seen here, trans* people are not just read negatively as the embodiment of a binary gender system, but also positively (ibid.: 6).

Raun (et al.) point out, that some of these readings by trans* theoreticians have been criticized for their lack of theorizing ‘transgenderism’ as an actual embodiment and actually lived subject category that is subjected to both juridical and social discrimination. It has thereby become increasingly important to many trans* theoreticians to focus on ”(…) det komplekse forhold mellem kropslige erfaringer og sociale/institutionelle diskursiveringer af subjektivitet og køn” (Raun et al.: 6).                 Our translation: the complex relation between bodily and social/institutionally discursivations of subjectivity and gender.

Breaking with trans* as a ‘non-identity’

What is most worrisome, however, is how the diagnosis [GID: Gender Identity Disorder] [Transkønnethed] works as its own social pressure, causing distress (…) to be called unreal, and to have that call, as it were, institutionalized as a form of differential treatment, is to become the other against which the human is made. It is the inhuman, the beyond human, the less human, the border that secures the human in nits ostensible reality. To be called a copy, to be called unreal, is thus one way in which one can be oppressed

(Butler 2004: 99, 217)

Graduate in sociology and educator at Sexuality, Gender- & Trans* Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Sonny Nordmarken, emphasises this in his article “Becoming Ever More Monstrous: Feeling Transgender In-Betweenness”, in which he writes that trans* identities are seen as non-existing as opposed to cisgendered people:

(…) they are assumed to “actually” be something else—something that can be known by viewing their bodies. Biological essentialism thus discredits trans identity. Trans people must therefore continually re-assert their identities. As a trans person, I occupy a particularly between kind of betweenness

(Nordmarken 2014: 40)

Nordmarken elaborates the issue concerning moving from this ‘in-betweenness’ to a more recognisable gender identity, when society at large still refuse to recognize this ‘move’, which is exactly the reason why trans* people remain obscure:

As a transgender being, my gendered shifting moves me into more betweenness. I am queerly between: I occupy multiple positions at once, and different positions at different positions at different times, depending on how people read me – in regard to age and ability as well as gender. I am socially subjugated as transgender, even as I am beginning to experience in a new way what White male privilege is

(Nordmarken 2014: 38)

Because of this form of ‘non-identity’, both due to the ‘diagnosing’ from society and a lack of representation in general, Raun (et al.) emphasizes that there is a need for a trans* vocabulary.

This is further underlined by Butler, who explains that in order to be allowed to start a transition, trans* people must learn how to present themselves within a discourse they have no influence over. This means that they must give up their freedom by sacrificing the right to use language properly. Put differently, they must give up a form of freedom in order to achieve another freedom by subjecting themselves to: (…) a discourse that denies the language you might want to use to describe who you are, how you get here, and what you want from this life” (Butler 2004: 91).

Raun (et al.) points out that trans* is a determination that covers a person who crosses the border of what is understood as a ‘normal’, binary gender since they move across the gender categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’ (Raun et al. 2011: 9). Furthermore, he wants to break with the misunderstanding that they are born in ‘the wrong body’:

En transkvinde er en person, der er udpeget som dreng ved fødslen, men som identificerer sig som og præsenterer sig som kvinde. En transmand er en person, der er udpeget som pige, men identificerer sig og præsenterer sig som mand

(Raun et al. 2011: 9)

[Our translation] A trans woman is a person, who has been labeled ‘boy’ at birth, but identifies as and presents herself as a woman. A trans man is a person, who has been labeled‘girl’ at birth but identify as and presents himself as a man (ibid.)

This can be conceptualised by using Seranos term ‘subconscious sex’: the biological gender one is born with that does not depend on genitals. She explains this further by pointing to studies of the brain (brain-hardwiring hypothesis), the area BSTc, where the structure of trans women’s look like ‘understandable’ women’s. This means that everybody is born with an inherent understanding in the brain of what biological gender one’s body should be. In regard to this, she underlines how everybody is born with a subconscious gender, but it is only a few that has to deal with this, since most people are in line with their assigned gender (cisgendered people), as opposed to trans* people (Serano 2016: 81).

Serano also talks about the importance of focusing on ‘gender entitlement’: “(…) the arrogant conviction that one’s own beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions regarding gender and sexuality are more valid than those of other people” (Serano 2016: 89), which is necessary to be aware of in order to create a stronger sense of unity within the queer community so that those who identify within the binary gender system (as either ‘man’ or ‘woman’) are not excluded from this community (ibid.: 359).

In order for those who suffer under this limited understanding of gender and how this category should control the way one is in the world to become free, it is important to be aware of cis-privileges and give equal status to all forms of gender identification. By understanding the gender category it is also possible to gain a better understanding of what women liberation means, since it is not just about understanding biological gender, but also social gender.

Effemimania

Effemimania

The fear of ‘girl’s stuff’ can be explained with the term ‘effemimania’ (cultural obsession with- and anxiety towards male femininity) (Serano 2016: 129, 286).

Effemimania is especially directed towards femininity which is evident in the difference between how much masculinity, women are allowed to express as opposed to how much femininity men are allowed to express without being degraded.

This is best expressed in ‘gatekeeper’s’ (psychologist’s) understanding of FTM and MTF’s, since FTM are seen as more stable. This might be because: “(…) masculinity and the desire to be male are, in and of themselves, more rational and healthy tendencies than femininity and the desire to be female” (Serano 2016: 134).

‘Effemimania’ is increased by a cultural need to sexualize feminininty and womanliness in generel, which is why male femininity is almost always viewed in a sexual way (the media image is often dominated by ‘she-males’, ‘chicks with dicks’, sexual imposters, prostitutes, and sex workers). Adding to this, very few people understand why trans women would want to give up male privileges to become a woman. Because of this, there is a general misconception that trans women go through transition to achieve the only power women supposingly have: to attract men, which presupposes that a “(…) women as a whole have no value beyond their ability to be sexualized by men” (Serano 2016: 259).

A ‘man’ that shows femininity in public challenges the predator/prey dichotomy

Indeed, the sexualization that occurs in both media imagery and public harassment reinforces a power dynamic between the sexes in which men are invariably viewed as predators and women as prey

(Serano 2016: 255)),

that circulates in society, as well as the aforementioned man/woman dichotomy (including hegemonic discourses around masculinity as being better than femininity), since a ‘man’ that (in the eyes of society) chooses to become a ‘woman’ hereby proves that men can be victims and at the same time, they question the very foundation of the legitimacy of men’s masculinity and superiority (ibid. 258).

Serano therefore thinks that a united feminist movement:

(…) encompasses both those who are female and those who are feminine has the potential to become a majority, one with the strength in numbers to finally challenge and overturn both traditional and oppositional sexism

(Serano 2016: 343)

 

Sources

Serano, Julia (2016): Whipping Girl – a Transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity. Berkeley CA, Seal Press. ISBN-13: 978-1-58005-622-9

Femininity, Masculinity & Femininity, Why Feminism

Femininity

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The very idea that there are “opposite” sexes unnecessarily polarized women and men; it isolates us from one another and exaggerates our differences” (Serano 2016: 103). In this way, according to Serano, it is possible to project other oppositions on to ‘men’ (and ‘masculinity’) and ‘women’ (and ‘femininity’), such as aggressive and strong (men) in contrast to passive and weak (women).

In the documentary Miss Representation (2011) (Investigates the under-representation of women in powerful positions in the States and challenges the media’s very limited portration of what it means to be a woman in power) Ed.D., writer, and filmmaker Jean Kilbourne, state that:

Girls get the message from very early on that what’s most important is how they look. That their value, their worth, depends on that (…) We get it from advertising, from films. We get it from television shows, videogames – everywhere we look

(Kilbourne i Newsome & Acquaro 2011: 01:46)

The things young girls are submitted to as natural truths affect how they do their gender later in life. This is evident in relation to the sexy body as a power tool. Because of this belief, it is important to make sure the body remains sexy through constant attention, surveillance, and discipline. This is reinforced by the media, since the sexy body is central to the discussion of what it means to be feminine, which is why, the sexy body is one of the most important aspects of being a woman (Gill 2016: 255). The way in which the media constructs this need to look a certain way can be seen in relation to the focus on ‘reclaiming’ the right to sexuality (jf. Fourth Wave Feminism), in which a new subject position has been created: The sexual entrepreneur (Harvey & Gill 2013: 52). Sexual entrepreneurship, inspired by Foucault’s notion of power, is a term, that can be used to explain gender, power, and resistance. In Foucault’s later work, he viewed the subject as a result of ‘technologies of the self’, where the subject has a form of co-determination though it is still limited by certain discourses .

This is useful when looking at sexuality in which there are two notions that both make up the idea of sexual entrepenaurship: : ‘sexual subjectification’ (Gill) (how power works in and through subjects) and ‘technology of sexiness’ (Radner) (the literary heroin has gone from having to protect her virginity to appearing as a attractive, heterosexual individual, that focuses on her looks through makeup, clothes and training).

This subject-position (offered by prevalent discourses) means that women today present themselves in an objectifying way, since they see themselves as sexual subjects rather than objects (interpellation):

Nowhere is this clearer than in advertising which has responded to feminist critiques by constructing a new figure to sell to young women: the sexually autonomous heterosexual young woman who plays with her sexual power and is forever ‘up for it’

(Gill 2016: 258)


 

Sources

Gill, Rosalind (2016): Gender and the Media, Polity Press. ISBN-10: 0-7456-1273-3

Harvey, Laura & Gill, Rosalind (2013): “Spicing It Up: Sexual Entrepreneurs and The Sex Inspectors” in New Femininities. Postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity. Scharff, Christina & Gill, Rosalind. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: 978-1-137-33986-7

Newsom, Jennifer Siebel and Acquaro, Kimberlee (2011): Miss Representation, Girls’ Club Entertainment