February 3

Week 4-

RJ: What does “performative” mean?  How does the term apply to gender? What are some other key terms in Butler’s work?  What do they mean?  How is gender “performative”? Please address a specific scence in the film, as well as at least two of the three readings in your response.

– READ: Judith Butler, Gender is Burning

  • _________leads discussion.

Queens of Language Paris is Burning by Jacky Goldsby

  • ___________leads discussion

Daniel T. Contreras, “New Queer Cinema: Spectacle, Race, Utopia” (NQC)

– For 2/10 WATCH: High Art (dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 1998, 102 min.)

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15 Responses to February 3

  1. Alex Andorfer says:

    When a person imitates gender norms, he or she is performing. Basically, society writes the scripts and the character roles and we are expected to fulfill the parts. The conventions of culture and society’s expectations shape the way we act. Therefore, homosexuality, heterosexuality, transexuality is not a certain identity. Gender is an act. Drag, in particular, is scripted and crafted to demonstrate how gender conventions cannot be applied to every being.

    In her discussion on drag, Judith Butler calls into question the imitation of gender. Butler’s idea of imitation is universal to people of any sexual orientation, for gender is a role and as a person we imitate what society expects of a woman/man/girl/boy. From the time we are a babies we are expected to act in accordance with our biological sex. Acting as drag further perpetuates gender stereotypes because one strives to closely imitate gender, though it may be the opposite of his or her biological sex. This imitation, Butler argues, emphasizes the “rightness” of heterosexuality. Essentially, it puts heterosexual love on a pedestal. Butler writes, “This logic of repudiation installs heterosexual love as the origin and truth of both drag and lesbianism, and it interprets both practices as symptoms of thwarted love.” The imitation of gender norms, even if reversed, continues to reiterate that homosexuals seem to be purposefully acting out against societal norms, and that straight is, ultimately, correct.

    Venus Xtravaganza, a figure in the film, openly acknowledges that she defies appropriate gender roles based on her sex. She claims that there is nothing mannish about her, except a particular body part in between her legs but she calls that her “personal thing.” She performs as a woman by going on dates with men and using her looks to gain access to their money. She compares herself to a housewife who has to go to bed with her husband to get household appliances. Her performance is so believable that it leads to her demise. She is strangled by one of her clients, presumably because of her “personal thing.” Obviously, the client didn’t much care for Venus’ act once he’d figured out her biological sexual identity.

    Performativity is so imperative in the creation of gender that the houses in the film give awards based on a “character’s” realness. Goldsby theorizes that “The point of the competition and the categories is not only performance but, more importnatly, the re-presentation of self – to re-form a cultural ideal, to erase the signs of difference, and to be(come) an ultrafeminine ‘Virginia Slims’ girl/ a GQ hunk/ a decorated army hero/ a Merrill Lynch trader, etc..” Gender is a key factor in our everyday interactions with other people, henceforth, it is necessary to make performance as accurate as possible so that it is believable. While drag and transexual identity is usually considered subversive to society, if it can be perceived as real, then the actor is more likely to be accepted by others functioning in that society.

  2. Alyx Smagacz says:

    To perform a gender is to act like stereotype or carry one’s self in the way that specific gender is socially required to act. Such as cross dressers, a man dressed as a woman is trying to perform to be a woman and pass as a woman in society. They are almost putting on an act, like actors perform on stage, they are acting, but in real life.
    One term that Butler points out that I find interesting is the use of the word “I”. The word is in quotation marks because it changes from person to person. “I” is the socially constructed meaning of a person, or what others make of someone’s identity. I find this interesting because I would normally think of this word to be defined by the person it is referring to not by the social construction. Another term Butler goes over is lesbianism, it is said that there are different thoughts on this term and way of life. It is pointed out that one way of thinking is that women build up such a hatred for men that they are un-attracted to the gender anymore and they then look for love from women, Butler points out that this is wrong.

  3. Sean Biggs says:

    Performativity in this context means to conduct one self’s behavior to match that of an archetype of something else. In regards to gender, performativity is the act of emulating the modeled behavior of men and women in terms of what clothes they wear, sexual preference, class, and sometimes personality. Another important key term featured in Butler’s work is the term “denaturalization”. Butler demonstrates this as the process of changing one’s sex to that of another, one that was not their “natural” state. Venus Extravaganza is an example of one who is denaturalizing themselves by changing her appearance, performing in the manner of a woman, and desiring to have female sex organs. I feel that both performativity and this term can demonstrate not only the act of changing one’s sex, but can be used to the describe the normative societal opinion of undergoing such a procedure. Although denaturalization can be used to describe the process of a sex change, I feel that when I read this word in this context, I think of “dehumanization”. This idea is supported by the movie in discussing how some parts of society regard transsexuals, transvestites, and drag queens as “nothing” or expendable and how some people do not view them a human. “Queens of Language” sites this idea on the last page, referencing the scene in the movie where she is confronted by teens about her lifestyle and she says “if you cut me, I bleed, just like you”, marking the effort put forth by the queer community to be seen as humans and to not be ostracized from society.

    Additionally, in the reading, “Gender is Burning”, in the section that cites the scene of Venus imagining her future, Butler underscores the social implications of “denaturalizing” oneself, stating that although one may undergo a sex change successfully, it does not mean that they defy the hegemonic constraints of society. Venus desires to transform into the archetype of the modern housewife, with a house in the suburbs and escape from racism, class constraints and persecution through her performativity of life as a woman. However such idealistic expectations of life after undergoing a sex change can cause more harm as not only will they still be challenged by the same class battle as we all face, but they will still be challenged with society’s negative and sometimes lethal view on denaturalization and trans-performativity.

  4. Joao Gomes says:

    The philosopher Judith Butler introduced the term Gender Performativity. Butler believes that gender concerns a performance that is constantly repeated and thus assimilated. Gender is an act that individuals are expected to follow, pursing specific roles that society determines. For instance, girls will fantasize with the color pink, while boys will be repulse by it. Traditions, conventions and a variety of social assumptions frame how male and female have to act. In “Bodily Inscription, Performative Subversions” Butler notes, “Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis” (420). Specifically, the author refutes gender as a genuine and inherent mechanism, as individuals learn how to “perform” their genders.

    Gender Performativity, as a socially constructed phenomenon, is demonstrated in “Paris is Burning.” The documentary focuses in New York’s black and Latino drag community, presenting the popular Harlem’s balls. Here men challenge gender norms by performing and acting like women with vibrant dresses and wigs – a rich and colorful mise-en-scene. As Butler notes, “Drag is subversive to the extent that it reflects on the imitative structure by which hegemonic gender is itself produced and disputes heterosexuality’s claim on naturalness and originality” (384). Exposing the lives of the various queens, the documentary challenges the binary frame of gender. As Jackie Goldsby, “If the world according to ‘Paris is Burning’ seems disorienting that’s because (wo)men …defy simple categorization” (108). The documentary defies gender social norms, rejecting a disciplinary heterosexual coherence. In particular, there is one scene in which Willi Ninja, a gay dancer and choreographer, teaches women about femininity. As he notes, “Do not believe because I’m a guy I cannot do it…I am trying to bring their femininity back, bring some grace and poise.” The scene presents gender as a performative action, in which femininity is not innate: it is taught and eventually achieved. Hence, “Paris is Burning” challenges preconceived ideas of gender demonstrating and reinforcing Butler’s Gender Performativity theory.

    One of the most striking ideas that “Paris is Burning” introduces is the term “realness.” As one of subjects claims, “when they can walk from that ball room into the sidewalk and into the subway and get home, and still have all their clothes and no blood running of their bodies….those are real queens.” “Realness” refers to the capacity to be blend into a normative heterosexual society. To be undetectable is a triumph regarding a faultless gender performance: “If you look like one, you can be one!”

    Finally, the expository documentary presents various scenes, which demonstrate the world that Livingston constructs. As Butler articulates, “Livingston’s camera enters this world … as an instrument and effect of lesbian desire” (391). Cinematography, editing and mise-en-scene illustrate and support the filmmaker views through an ensemble of interviews, stills and footage.

  5. Elyse Brey says:

    Elyse Brey
    February 3, 2011
    Queer Cinema
    Heitner
    Queer Cinema Weekly Response 3
    The term performative means the role or character that a person takes on to be part of a particular community. Whether that community is a family, a sports team, a school, or even the drag queen balls, there is always a code of conduct that dictates how a person should act and dress. Accordingly, gender applies to this code of conduct. Girls and women are supposed to act and dress like the “typical” girl or woman and the same for men; But what about those who are biologically one thing, but identify with the other. One of those individuals may only ever feel at home when they are dressed in drag which is a state of being that most would assume is the performative piece, but really the role that those individuals plays in the real world that the rest of us live in is their performative ground.
    The opening scenes of the film where the film crew is interviewing the Gay population that enjoys going to and participating in the Balls. All of them explain how the experience is “[their] real world…where they feel it’s ok to be gay… There is always something there for everyone.” If dressing up in drag is the real world to them, then the world that the rest of us call “real”, these people feel as though they are performing a role that is not their own there. “Drawing upon Foucault’s formulation of the productivity of power, Butler looks at the film for ‘what it suggests about the simultaneous production and subjugation of subjects in a culture which appears to arrange always and in every way for the annihilation of queers, but [also for]… those killing ideas of gender and race [to be] mimed, reworded, resignified’. Butler recognizes that the oppression(s) caused by racial and economic exploitation can produce a counter-narrative; the creativity displayed in the drag pageants is made possible by the very exploitation that makes them necessary.” (NQC, 123)
    I was so awestruck by the idea that Lesbians are just women that have had bad experiences with men, and Gays are just men that have had bad experiences with women that Butler talks about. It makes it seem as though the queer community is nothing but a performance, (at least in my interpretation of this reading.) But it is the idea that Butler credits the negative image of drag to: “The problem with the analysis of drag as only misogyny is, of course, that is figures male-to-female transsexuality, cross-dressing, and drag as male homosexual activities—which they are not always—and it further diagnoses male homosexuality as rooted in misogyny. The feminist analysis thus makes male homosexuality about women, and one might argue that at its extreme, this kind of analysis is in fact a colonization in reverse, a way for feminist women to make themselves into the center of male homosexual activity (and thus to reinscribe the heterosexual matrix, paradoxically, at the heart of the radical feminist position).”
    I continually feel guilty about any negative notion I have ever felt about drag after watching these films in this class. These “Queens” are people too and are dressing to express themselves just the way I do, they just dress in clothing that society has deemed performatively wrong. I obviously have a lot to learn and I look forward to the eye opening experience

  6. Caroline Tibbetts says:

    Butler theorizes that sexuality is the product of a “social construct”. I believe she is saying that the presentation of our sexuality is a “copy” of what we have been socialized to think how we are meant to act according to our gender. Butler finds everyone to be performing their gender it is just that those who practive homosexual gender tendencies are not considered to be “normal” and or “correct”. The heterosexual performance is socially accepted where as the drag queen is not, because they do not have the hardware and or the physical appearance that is associated with their performance. From Paris is Burning, Octavia Saint Laurent is a prime example of this idea, she is performing her gender, she may technically be a man due to her genitals, however, she appears to be a woman in every other aspect. In the scene of her modeling she looks exactly like a woman to me, in a bikini. But she feels that she can never fully be accepted by society until she has a sex change.
    This is film is so interesting because it is the ball that is “the closest way to reality” that they can get. I agree with Judith Butler’s theory that gender is peformative, I think that each of us perform everyday, although for me I am in the “right” because I am a heterosexual woman, with a woman’s physical attributes, therefore, I am accepted. Queens of Language describes the ball participants as “specifying the body as both subject to and the instrument of re-vision because of its (dis)engagement with commodity culture. One of the Queens on the beach deemed themself “I am my own special creation” these individuals are only doing what they feel is right for them. The film highlights each of the dreams the ball goers have, Octavia and Vens reveal their need for a sex change to feel complete, the desire for a domestic life, “a normal happy life”. Venus talks about leaving the city going somewhere where no one knows her and starting a new life. It seems that they are tired of pretending in the sense that society only accepts people if their physicality matches with their personality, when in reality life is not that black and white. “the children who opt to reproduce themselves through cosmetic applications or surgical procedures find meaning and a kind of freedom in their actions.”

    ‘According to these views, drag is nothing but the displacement and appropriation of “women”, and hence fundamentally based in a misogyny, a hatred of women; and lesbianism is nothing but the displacement and appropriation of men, and so fundamentally a matter of hating men – misandry.” -The performers plays these roles so perfectly- Are we who we perform?

  7. Amy Slay says:

    Performativity is the precondition of the subject. According to Judith Butler, it is not a choice, it is not something that the subject performs, but rather something that is performed on the subject. Jennie Livingston’s “Paris is Burning” documents the New York ball circuit which constitutes the world of many transsexual, transgender, and gay men. This world is made up of alternative family structures and rival houses that compete in drag shows and vogueing for the title of “legendary.”
    Judith Butler discusses interpellation, heterosexual performativity and privilege, gender identification and the idea of “Realness.” In “Paris is Burning,” “Realness” is “to be able to blend,” to achieve such a high level of artifice when competing in the ball that it is impossible to distinguish the impersonator from what (s)he impersonates. Realness is the meter by which the judges rank the competitors and what everybody at the ball strives for and dreams of. They are safe at the ball; they are themselves. If they can walk out of the ball into the sunlight and make it home without having their blood spilt, they are truly “Real.” Butler defines “Realness” as “the ability to compel belief, to produce the naturalized effect” (387). She says that the idolization of “Realness” is “the result of an embodiment of norms, a reiteration of norms, an impersonation of a racial and class norms” (387). Butler then raises the question, if these norms are so important in defining counter culture and establishing “Realness,” is this opposition in fact only a reiteration and confirmation of the “trueness” of heternormitivity?
    In “Queens of Language,” Jackie Goldsby answers this question. She states that “the point of the competition . . . is not only performance, but more importantly, the re-presentation of self – to reform the cultural ideal, to erase the signs of difference” (110). The desire of all of these men is to be legendary, to be the most “Real,” to come as close as possible to the hegemonic ideal of the white, straight, upper class. In one category in which the competitors try to look like businessmen, Dorian Corey explains that despite the fact that they live in poverty and will probably never have that kind of comfortable lifestyle, when they perform they are saying that they could do it, they could have that life because they can look the part. Everything is about looking the part, looking “Real.” That is performativity. It is not about satire or insult to the norms, but about living the way they want to live in one of the few safe environments in which such behavior is allowable. The men compete in the balls to live out their fantasies and to prove that they can do it the best. The categories are so many that there is a place for everybody. The balls allow them to cast away gender norms and the limitations of the outside world where they cannot live the lives they wish. The face they wear outside the ball circuit is the performance.

  8. Alicia Fischer says:

    Performative is enacting a role to convey a specific meaning or significance. Performances can be evaluated on behavior as well as interactions with others, actions. Performing roles suggests that there is no true self and everything is a performance. Gender is performative because individuals carry out actions and behaviors that identify with masculinity or femininity. Some individuals also enhance their physical appearances to fit a gender. For instance, in Paris is Burning, gay men, transvestites, and transsexuals remain prominent parts of the drag society by wearing women’s clothing, makeup, and jewelry when walking in the drag balls. “This documentary is probably the only genre that will acknowledge this world as it is: colored and queer” (114).The individuals involved in the drag society shown in the film perform race and gender. They do this by incorporating their black or Latino identities into their drag identities.
    Butler brings up the idea of formation; she states that if an individual is reprimanded for an action or behavior, the reprimand “forms a crucial part of the juridical and social formation of the subject” in addition to controlling the subject (381).
    Some of the men in the film discuss what performativity means to them. “ The drag balls go beyond female impersonation” (109). One male said that dressing in drag address realness and the idea is to look like you’re straight counterpart. Other males state that these balls are so significant because they are as close to fame as these individuals will ever get. The majority of the black/Latino drag society consists of poor men. These men; however , are so entranced by fame and fortune that walking in the drag balls allows them to feel a connection to wealth and fame. Performing/ dressing as wealthy conveys a unique way of life.

  9. Brittney DeBo says:

    The word “performative” to me has always meant acting in ways that nature doesn’t teach you at birth. In other words pretending or acting as something you are not. As we discussed last week in class, and now specifically addressing how it relates to gender, “Gender is performative, not because it is something that the subject deliberately and playfully assumes, but because, through reiteration, it consolidates the subjects. In the respect, performativity is the precondition of the subject, “(Queer Theory, 83). In other words you are acting in roles and it is kind of something you have made up. Most people aren’t conscious about their gender performativity on a daily basis. In Gender Is Burning a subject can be seen as performative in a sense that some actions initiate the individual into the subjected status of the subject (Butler, 381).
    Gender Performativity, the term that Butler introduced to us, is definitely reiterated and enhanced in the film “Paris is Burning”. This film is focused on a drag community, in which men are going outside of social norms to act or perform as women. One example of “performance” in Paris is Burning would be the life of Venus. Venus acts as a woman and goes out with men. A term that Butler brings up that many may see this act as doing would be the term “denaturalizing”. In other words, it is not natural and nature did not intend for a man to ever act as a woman, or vice versa. To denaturalize many may see as to degrade which is another term that has been brought up by feminist. Society is so set on and comfortable with the normal, and the normal would be what we were given at birth.
    The world of performance and the world of “realness” is a controversial topic. Although some may always see these individuals as performing, they see themselves as real, as Butler describes, when they can no longer be “read”. So where is the line between real and performativity?

  10. Courtney Faulstick says:

    Courtney Faulstick- Journal #3
    I like how in Judith Butler’s “Gender Is Burning” she explains performative as sort of an extra defining term of formative. Obviously formative meaning the ability to transform or change into something else depending on the surroundings or other factors. So by adding the prefix per- onto this word it is interesting on how much or little the definition changes. The word performative relates to what a person does and how they act rather than whom they actually are. I think Butler would say people choose to act queer rather than being born queer. The process of repeating the statements of who someone is, is another way to explain performative.

    A Butler comment about gender in saying it is an action rather than a set social norm. She says that people perform their gender roles and whichever gender they choose, is their gender, even if it doesn’t fit into standard gender roles. One example of an interesting gender roll in Paris Is Burning is Venus Extravaganza. She was a drag queen that very much considered herself a women. She acted, dressed and portrayed herself as feminine. The only thing she considered not womanlike was as she explained it the “thing down there.” She in a sense decided to switch the socially accepted gender roll and both acted like so feminine and pretended to herself and others that she was indeed a woman.

    Judith Butler also talks about displacement in gender roles. This word is alluding to the nonnormative way in which a woman acts as a man or vice versa whether it is as lesbian or through drag. Also the word repudiation is used to explain the reason the queer community acts in nonnormative ways. This way of explaining it is a hasty generalization or an easy explanation of a person’s sexuality. “This logic of repudiation installs heterosexual love as the origin and truth of both drag and lesbianism, and it interprets both practices as symptoms of thwarted love” (Butler, p. 386). This explanation of gay and lesbian says the only reason people act like this is because they have been hurt while participating in heterosexual love or have seen sadness in a similar relationship, and I do not agree that is a reason for gayness.

  11. Sam Herron says:

    From reading Judith Butler, I understand the word performative to be defined as reiterated acting (Butler, 417). I think of performative as people acting in order to act a certain role or even to conform to a certain role they are supposed to be acting. The acts that a person does which relate to the gender they claim to be is performative because they are just continuously putting on an act to be a certain gender (Butler, 417). Therefore, I understand this as Butler’s idea of looking at gender as something in which people perform. This acting is something that happens every day, and it can even be seen as a process through which a person becomes gendered (Butler, 418). Queer Theory helps to explain that gender seems to favor heterosexuality (Jagose, 83). Therefore, in a sense people that do not act in ways according to their gender are looked down upon. If they were not what the normal idea of being male or female consists of then this is when they are looked down upon, which Butler also touches on.
    Butler also talks about drag being a good example of how there can be a conflict between the inside and the outside of a person (Butler, 417). This could mean that a person might think of himself as being feminine on the inside but on the outside he looks masculine (Butler, 417). We can relate this to Hedwig in that while he was growing up he felt some sense of femininity on the inside but looked like a boy on the outside. Then in order to get married to a man, he was forced to get a sex change. At that time, Hedwig dressed as a woman, but seemed forced into the decision of a sex change. This is an example of how Hedwig was forced to conform to the gender roles that society had put in place of what being a woman consisted of. This scene shows us how Hedwig is trying to pick a gender to conform to, and when he is unsure of who he really is, he lets his mother and husband decide for him. Then he performs and acts like a woman until two males both leave him. By the end of the movie, Hedwig decides that he does not actually need to perform or declare that he is one gender or another.
    From Paris is Burning, there was a lot of talk about “realness”. This meant that the gay person was able to walk down the walkway with a certain outfit and style about him which made it impossible for anyone to tell that they were gay. The goal of “realness” was to look at a homosexual person and through their clothes not be able to tell they were homosexual, but were able to blend in with heterosexuals. This part of the movie seemed performative, because even though people could be anything they wanted among many different categories at the Ball, they had a category called “realness” in which they tried to look like what they thought heterosexuals looked like. This would be an example of how in the movie, they performed to look like heterosexuals, even though that is not how they dress. Although, in all of the categories this is what they were doing, but this most relates to heterosexuality and what people think constitutes normalcy.
    In Queens of Language, Jackie Goldsby describes the term “realness” as the point of the competitions and that the categories are based on performance and also re-presentation of the self (Goldsby, 110). Therefore, this can help to explain how gender is performative and how the movie Paris is Burning shows examples of being performative. Goldsby talks about how in the movie the older performers recalled wearing larger outfits and more exaggerated clothes, but now it is more based on looking like a supermodel (Goldsby, 111). Judith Butler talks about “realness” as well in her article, in which she describes this idea of “realness” to be performative and conforming to the idea of masculinity and heterosexuality (Butler, 387). Butler also explains this “realness” as being judged in how well people can act natural in a sense (Butler, 387). They formed ideas of norms from society and also try to impersonate these norms (Butler, 387). Therefore, they are performing to act heterosexual which is what they might assume to be normal from society.

  12. Emily Weber says:

    Judith Butler suggests that performative is something we create and do through our actions and through the roles already outlined for us. She writes, “such acts, gestures, enactments, generally construed, are performative in the sense that the essence of identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means” (Butler, 417). This applies to gender because gender is something that exists in side of us that we need to actively perform as to express our individual identity. We perform through the already outlined structures and stereotypes. The idea of gender being performative is fascinating because we can sometimes distinguish between normative performance and queer performance. Is gender still performative even if it is not hetero-normative? This question makes what we see in the queer films so important.
    In terms of drag, Butler makes the claim that drag does not necessarily undermine and denounce gender norms, but it is used to denaturalize them and then reidealize these heterosexual gender norms. It is different in the sense that men and women and women are men, but it doesn’t change the fact that men dressing as women are taking on the stereotypical hetero-normative gender roles of the women they are enacting. There is a queerness involved, but this queerness is quieted by the the realness that is the most important element of drag judgement for the wo(men) in Paris is Burning. (Butler, 384). This is to say that identifying with a gender that may not be your biological sex is not some revolutionary statement, it is rather further reiteration to how desirable these gender acts are. In NQC the author acknowledges Butler again saying that “the creativity displayed in the drag pageants is made possible by the very exploitation that makes them necessary…which leads to Butler to question whether parodying the dominant norms is enough to displace them?” (Contreras, 123).
    In Paris is Burning, the scenes in which there are various real categories that these men compete in is the most striking in terms of what we read for this week. These men are performing and they are performing a gender specified role. However, in conforming to these stipulated categories, we do not see an individualized self expression of a queer identity, we see rather a man longing to be seen (through actions, dress, mannerisms, gestures, attitude, language, etc.) as a real socialized stereotypical women. The interplay of wealth and status is another aspect of the film that I found fascinating but in terms of acting and performing, this is most clear at the actual balls when you see men that sacrifice a lot—they’re starving, they steal, they compete– for a 1 minute chance to be seen as a real woman. The idea of realness is one that resonates throughout the whole film and it resonates based on the hetero-normative society queer films speak against.

  13. Syndhia Javier says:

    scence in the film, as well as at least two of the three readings in your response.
    Performative is meant as something done for external validation, an action undergone to prove something to the world. However, in the context of gender this action occurs as not merely a way to prove something to the world but to also prove something to oneself; it is a display of a desire or feeling, not an act or mask, but a reality. In her essay” Queens of Language: Paris is Burning”, Jacky Goldsby writes “ If personal reputation and community stature are on the line, so is one;s very sense of identity , because in the ball world, drag goes beyond female impersonation” ( Goldsby 109). This Quote is a direct responese to the idea of drag as merely gender performance or mimicing. Whiel the actions, and “features” of gender may be emmulated, the world that we are privvy to in the documentary Paris is Burning surely surpasses just pure emmulation. For example, Venus Xtravaganza is a perfect place to see this performances as something more. She does not merely adopt the mask of woman , but embodies the space of woman, leading to the thought that if shee can do so is the binarry dynamic of male and female as crystal clear as we have thought? In her close up moment as she lounges in bed, talking about her desire for a sex change operation we witness not someone who merely acts feminine but someone who inhabits the place of femininty. To go even further , we never see her outside of this feminine role.Could it be said that what she does as a ball is a heightened state or caricature of femininity? Possibly. But even outside of that limelight, she is a “she” for the entire world to see. This may be in part due to the concept that Judith Butler discusses in her essay “ Gender is burning: Questions of association and subversion” , she discusses how the place of authority either defines or denounces the legitimacy of the act.(381) In always being “Venus” we never see beyond the stage she performs on, so who are we to question if it is a stage at all?

  14. kaneja muganda says:

    Performative means to act or do a series of actions that has a unique meaning behind it. In our last movie Hedwig there was a series of performative actions that took place. The scene between Hansel and the Sargent was a very performative scene. The use of gummy bears represented the curious and unique relationship the two individuals were getting ready to embark in. This term performative relates to gender in many ways. Gender is usually described by actions that follow someone’s true identity. In NQC Aaron says that feminist theory has “assumed that there is some existing identity, understood through the category of women”. Gender is based off the way an individual acts. In the film our main character Sid, troubles to find her true self. She works in a corporal magazine company as an assistant editor with little to no major responsibility. When she meets Lucy her whole identity shifts. She no longer plays this inferior sub assistant; rather she becomes a strong and controlling assistant to Lucy. Lucy then represents the part of society that does not like to live by all the stereotypes about women and gender. She is very talented and lesbian but she is strong willed. What becomes queer in this film is the way Sid transforms her face in light to her boyfriend but as well to her boss and co-workers. It is very unexpected but real at the same time. She has no limits and after watching our first four films, ive noticed that our main characters have no limits. They feel free to do as they want and it doesn’t matter if society says that’s inappropriate. They don’t care and that’s where all the magic comes from.

  15. Elyse Kraft says:

    “Performative” refers to the idea that people establish themselves through a reiteration of acts and gestures. Rather than having a true identity that is natural, performativity implies that people are doing things each day within created roles. In Judith Butler’s notion of performative, both gender and sex are made concrete by acts and gestures. Rather considering gender a concrete concept, performativity in gender implies that gender is a socially constructed construct rather than a biological description of a person. In the film Paris is Burning, gender is seen as performative in the quest for realness seen by the people who participate in the drag ball. The nature of the drag performances are evidence the heterosexuality itself is performative because it can be imitated. Judith Butler discusses the children seen in Paris is Burning and notes that their quest for realness results in “an embodiment of norms, a reiteration of norms, an impersonation of racial and class norm, a norm that is once a figure, a figure of a body, which is no particular body, but a morphological ideal that remains the standard that regulates the performance, but no performance fully approximates.” (Gender is Burning, 387). Butler is saying the ideal of a certain norm is influencing the performance of the people in the balls; however, because gender is peformative, no performance can actually achieve this. Goldsby notes that realness is the “aesthetic imperative defining the ball and its culture” and that the competition’s point is for the contestants to put themselves together in as real a way as possible. Goldsby notes that some categories, such as race, cannot be erased even if the performances of the children are as good as they could possibly be. During the film, Dorian Corey notes that the categories at drag balls have become extremely specific and then the people in charge of the ball give the contestants a hard time about the exact interpretations of these categories. This comment further reinforces the quest for “realness” and the nature of performativity
    Butler also discusses the notion of “passing” noting that Venus Xtravaganza
    “passes” as a light-skinned woman on some levels but not on others. When Venus is killed, it is a result of her not fully passing as a woman. The notion of “passing” is to be understood by the masses as a person who is closest to the norm.

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