The Performance Of Drag Artists And The Social Construction Of Gender Roles

Submitted By sc925
Words: 748
Pages: 3

In the next part of the essay examines the performance of drag artists and states that the social constructions of gender are seen in drag performances. She explores the ideological construction of all gender roles, and rejects the view of drag as copy or imitation of true gender identity. She analyzes drag performances to explain how the gender performativity used by drag artists are not a subversion of the normative gender roles as they initially appear to be. Although drag performances are superficially a presentation of gender binaries, it is more useful to construe the drag act a hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine gender performance. This then raises questions as to what is ‘normal’ for any given gender and undermines the binary oppositions set up for gender roles. Instead Butler asserts that drag exposes the truth that there is no such thing as gender and all gender roles are imitations of an ‘idealised fantasy’ of superficial ‘normative’ gender roles. The performance of the drag act and the extreme carnivelesque nature of drag roles, illustrates how masculine/feminine gender performances are culturally defined attributes, and not tied to physical bodies. Butler states: “There is no proper gender, a gender proper to one sex rather than another, which is in some sense that sex’s cultural property…there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is nor original…” ((Butler 1990 p127).

She also asserts that drag should not be exemplified as a deliberate subjective gender identity. She states that an individual in drag is not ‘one’ prior to gender performance, who then decides to adopt the ‘wardrobe’ of a particular gender; as such drag is not an ‘honest expression’ of the performer’s intent. She concludes the essay in her assertion that the terms ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ are constructions, and illustrates this in reference to Aretha Franklin singing “You make me feel like a natural woman”. Butler challenges the notion of what constitutes a ‘natural’ woman and the suggestion that this can only be construed in the completion of binary opposition in that one can only feel like a ‘natural woman’ if it is in relation to a man (Butler 1990 p128). Because Aretha wants to feel ‘like’ a natural woman, this implies that she wants to be ‘like’ a heterosexual woman; it also means that the feeling is a repeat of something, or copied from what a ‘real’ woman should be (Butler 1990 p133). Butler concludes the essay by saying that gender produces performance of gender identity but that nothing is essential or on the inside, everything is on the surface and external and in the signs of gender performance (Butler 1990 p135).

Butler says that sex is biological and gender is a performative act. Gender is constructed or reified by performing certain acts such as wearing certain clothing, cultural interests, expressing sexuality and/or sexual preference, etc. Gender is performance. To be born with a female's anatomy is to be a