Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Definition of Gender Performance

Gender is defined as sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture; The condition of being female or male; sex; females or males considered as a group:expressions used by one gender*. Performance is defined as the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.; the execution or accomplishment of work, acts, feats, etc.; a particular action, deed, or proceeding; the act of performing; or the manner in which or the efficiency with which something reacts or fulfills its intended purpose*. In accordance with Judith Butler’s idea of gender performance, it seems as though the best definitions to be used are “sexually identity, especially in relation to society or culture,” and “the manner in which or the efficiency with which something reacts or fulfills its intended purpose.” Males and females within society, especially American society, are expected to comply with certain gender roles according to the sex of which they are born. Females are expected to be caregivers, motherly, good cooks, cleaners, and still able to look good in a bathing suit. Males must be into sports, show less emotion than women, and be the provider. At least these are what are still thought of as “traditional” gender roles in our society, even though with time they are beginning to change.

However, there is this mythical norm of male and female, but no one falls in complete accordance with it. Gender is a socially constructed idea, yet people generally follow those norms and those who deviate are viewed as strange or “queer.” Butler states, “The body is only know through its gendered appearance,” (406)** and most people tend to fall into this category. What are we but confines of our gender based on are sex? Those who deviate are the brave, because most people will stay with the norms of society, because, as Butler warns, “Those who fail to do their gender right are regularly punished,”(405)** and there is definite evidence of that in American society. People are regularly harassed or shown violence because they do not fully identify (or identify at all) with the sex that they were born. Gender performance is a crucial part of society, because gender and gender identity seem so important to society.


** Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Writing on the Body. Ed. Carolyn G. Heilbrun and Nancy K. Miller. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. 401-417. Print.


  1. Gender is very interesting. It is the same as queer and modernism in the way that it is hard to define. Gender also aims to put us into the categories again. "You have to be this way to be a boy." It's like there is a large checklist and if you do not have those particular qualities, "sorry, you are not a boy." Again, this goes with our goal of not classifying people based on social constructions. Gender relations have come a long way, but I still feel that as a culture, Americans have a lot of progress to make in expanding their knowledge of gender and the difference between gender and gender performance.


  2. Rachel,
    This post was great! I am in another class this quarter through the Multi-cultural Center focusing of gender roles. As I was reading your entry, I could not help to reflect on some of the other discussions we have had in my other class. For example, we discussed how it is ok for women to have some "manly" characteristics; however, society deems it as "taboo" for men to have feminine traits! Automatically, I think of some of the political figures we see in the news. People respect Hillary Clinton because of her inner strength and abrasiveness(manly traits), but if a male politician started getting sentimental over something people would say he is incapable of being our "commander and chief". Very interesting post!