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A genderfuck, or gender fuck or gender-fuck, is the conscious effort to mock or "fuck with" traditional notions of gender identity, gender roles, and gender presentation which assume that one's identity, role and orientation is determined by one's sex assigned at birth. This activity has also been called genderbending. Traditional notions of gender assume that one will identify, act and appear in accordance with normative values of masculinity and femininity depending on one's biological sex.
Genderfucking can also fall under the umbrella of the transgender spectrum, which includes a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups that tend to deviate from the traditional gender expectations, although the two terms are not synonymous. Trans man Max Wolf Valerio points out that "the conflation of genderfuck Into the transmovement has confused and eroded authentic transsexual voices. Although there's nothing inherently wrong with gender-bending, gender-fuck, and the assorted hyphenated identities becoming common in the queer world, I must ask: What does it really have to do with my life?"
- 1 History
- 2 Gender binary
- 3 How people genderfuck
- 4 Non-political genderfucking
- 5 Judith Butler and gender as performance
- 6 Genderfucking and childraising
- 7 Examples
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Genderfuck is a politics of identity stemming from the identity politics movements of the 1950s and 1960s, a guiding principle of which is the idea that the personal is political. In his 1974 article, Genderfuck and Its Delights, Christopher Lonc explained his motivation for performing genderfuck: "I want to criticize and poke fun at the roles of women and of men too. I want to try and show how not-normal I can be. I want to ridicule and destroy the whole cosmology of restrictive sex roles and sexual identification."
The term starts to appear in written documents in the 1970s. Sheidlower cites the definition of the term "gender fuck" in L Humphreys' 1972 work Out of the Closets: Sociology of Homosexual Liberation as "a form of extended guerilla theatre". Also quoted is Rolling Stone magazine, Aug 30th: "The new "macho" transvestism, called vulgarly "gender-fuck", a curious satire of female impersonation - dresses, pumps, full make-up and beards - Is represented by, among others, three men in WAC uniforms and big moustaches".
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To "fuck with" gender, one must have an expectation to be able to rebel against. These expectations are socially constructed so that in the United States it is only acceptable to have one of two genders. These genders are based on the sex organs a person is born with; female sex organs or male sex organs. These organs determine whether or not a person will be treated as feminine or masculine and also determines who a person couples with later in life.
Gender roles are explained throughout life, based on the sex a person is raised to be. These roles have changed over the years but still when asking children in the U.S., even now, who cooks and cleans and stays at home, most will answer with something similar to "the mommy," and when asked who goes to work, drives the car, and watches or likes sports and they will say something to the effect of, "the daddy."
How people genderfuck
Often, parody and exaggeration are used to transgress gender roles, usually to expose them as artificial. For example, a person who engages in genderfucking may purposefully exaggerate conventional notions of femininity, or masculinity. Genderfucking can also be achieved through cross-dressing and androgyny, both of which challenge and contribute to dismantling the gender binary by separating expression or performance of gender from perceptions of biological or physiological sex. Thus, genderfucking protests gender essentialism. This concept is protested not only through non-normative appearance, but by challenging normative gender roles, characteristics, or behaviors as well – for example, a female-bodied individual who is purposefully assertive and nondomestic in order to challenge the notion of essential femininity. Genderfucking is based in gender performativity: the concept of gender as a performance. It can be achieved through physical presentation (e.g. clothing, hair, make-up, and secondary sex characteristics), as well as behavior. Because much of gender performance is expressed through clothing, in societies where a gender binary can be observed, there is an established, widespread notion that some clothes are “masculine” and should be worn only by male-bodied individuals, and others are “feminine” and should be worn only by female-bodied individuals. Hawkes, sociologist and author, addresses this “dress code” and the opportunity for a resistance: “The universality of [dress] codes and their meanings allows for the [subversion of] the mainstream ‘messages’ they convey and through this to illuminate the existence of alternative [gender] identities.”
Cross-dressing and androgyny
Cross-dressing would be a form of genderfucking because the purpose is to "fuck with gender" roles and presentation. Androgyny is not specifically genderfucking, but it can be considered genderfucking if someone is being androgynous on purpose, but is more of a sign of genderfucking since many people who are androgynous may not make a conscious effort to look so. There have been many famous people who have been accused of cross-dressing and many famous people now who are androgynous.
The Rock star, Prince (musician) was very well known for his cross dressing or androgynous look.
Shakespeare used cross dressing in his performances. Over the centuries some readers have posited that Shakespeare's sonnets are autobiographical, and point to them as evidence of his love for a young man. With this said, Shakespeare had characters in his writings that were considered cross-dressers. The four of the five main female characters in his plays were seen as women who cross dress as men or boys; Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Rosalind in As You Like It, Viola in Twelfth Night. Genderfucking is seen through many forms of life. One of these forms is Drag.
Drag shows are the performance of gender using music and dress to accomplish a specific look. To accentuate the traditional “feminine and masculine” characteristics that society has decided that makes a person female or male.
"In order to understand the differences and similarities between gay male drag queens and female-bodied and transgender drag kings and bio queens, we consider how the personal gender and sexual identities of drag performers affect and are affected by their gender performances in drag.
A typical drag performer is a person who “impersonates” a member of the opposite sex/gender than their day to day identified gender/sex. The performer dresses to accentuate the gender they are portraying. The makings of a Drag King or a Drag Queen.
A faux drag performer is a person who performs as the gender they identify as in day to day life. For instance a female bodied person who performs as a drag queen is a faux queen or the other way around for a faux king.
Literature, in particular erotica, is another method that has been used to explore genderfuck scenarios. The basis of the literary genre of genderfuck is that It's unimportant whether someone is a man or a woman during the sex act. Doris Libetseder points to Carol Queen's short story The Leather Daddy and the Femme, where a lesbian femme uses a strap-on dildo to have sex with a gay leather daddy as a fitting example of the genderfuck genre.
Genderfucking is not always a purposeful political standpoint. According to Butler, gender is something that is performed; it only holds cultural significance to the extent that this is ascribed to it. Despite the gender binary roles society imposes, there are many ways for individuals to express gender variation and not all of them are intentionally political radicalism. Further, in 1995 Tamsin Wilton argued that:
Gender-fuck is not intrinsically radical - otherwise gender-benders such as Boy George, Prince, Annie Lennox, David Bowie etc. would not get away with it to the extent that they do. A politically aware gender-fuck - such as that of Ru Paul or (to a limited extent) Madonna - gets much closer to radicalism, but it is only by incorporating a critique of gender as an axis of power that playing about with gender signifiers can be more than wickedly entertaining
Judith Butler and gender as performance
Judith Butler is one of the most well-known theorists regarding the idea that gender is something that is performed by individuals. Her concept of gender performativity is the idea that people choose to perform gender in a context in which we are given very little socially acceptable choices, but can be explained as being similar to what actors do in front of the camera. Due to the importance we place on the belief that men need to act like men and women need to behave like women, it is often believed that gender is an innate attribute and not a social construct. In her article Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory, Butler explains that if gender is something that sexed bodies assimilate to in order to follow the societal codes of what is appropriate behavior, then those actions can be conceptualized differently to allow more flexibility for individuals. In the same article, she asserts that in U.S. culture, the gender binary and its strict social repercussions against those that act against the "normal" script, this script is policed by harassment, parental pressures to fill expectations, and peer influence. All of which are a way to guarantee that the culture will repeat itself from generation to generation.
Judith Butler's theory about gender roles and their social implications and need for reconstruction is more fully developed in her book, Gender Trouble. She argues that the limited acceptance of variation in gender roles does great harm to individual expression. With the limited options for both men and women, there is little room for their combined forces, because men are constantly focused on becoming the financial supporters of their families which leaves women with the sole option of being the maternal expert she is expected to be. This idea excludes the masculine women or feminine men from being acceptable parental figures for their children because it may lead to a child growing up and conceptualizing the world differently.
Genderfucking and childraising
According to Susan Witt's recent study, children generally come to their first conclusions about being male or female from their parents since typically they are the first people the child relates to and the nature of the relationship is intense. Besides parents giving children gender specific clothing, toys, and expectations, there are often many subtle messages about what is acceptable or not regarding gender. Witt's study showed that children that grow up with more androgynous gendered parents are more focused on achievements and typically have a better sense of self. Conversely, in cases of gender nonconformity, when a child exhibits gender performances that are atypical of their prescribed gender role, Kerry Robinson reports that a parental figure may respond with hostility. According to the Official Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics, people who do not conform to the gender binary are often subject to abuse from society, from within the family and within their community. Types of abuse range from physical and sexual to psychological abuse and are not associated with homosexuality alone.
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Singer-songwriter and political activist Annie Lennox began her career As lead singer with The Tourists in the late 1970s. In The 1980s she fronted synthpop band the Eurythmics but has focused on solo work since the 1990s with the exception of an album an tour as the Eurythmics In 1999. The Spin Alternative Record Guide described her in 1995 as "Gender-fuck goddess Annie Lennox."
The Cockettes were a psychedelic drag queen troupe, founded in San Francisco In the late 1960s. According to the journal Maledicta in 1987: "Real transvestites and transsexuals are... embarrassed... [by]... The gender-fuck Cockettes and such (in dresses and beards)."
Pat, a character from the television show Saturday Night Live, served as the basis for the movie It's Pat. The sketches and film feature an androgynous main character, Pat. People are unable to determine Pat's sex, including one male who cannot determine it after having sex with Pat, while stranded on a deserted island.
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the movie, Rocky Horror Picture Show, is a male bodied person but wears lingerie, clothing, and accessories thought to be feminine. The character also wears make-up. In one of the songs featured in the musical Dr. Frank-N-Furter sings, "I'm just a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania."
New York Dolls
The American singer-songwriter and artist Phranc began her career in 1978 with punk band Nervous Gender. In 1985 Village Voice wrote: "Part of Phranc's appeal is the genderfuck of her sweet feminine voice coming from such a masculine frame." She later worked with queercore band Team Dresch.
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
The charity, protest and street performance organisation Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was formed by gay men in 1979, originally using nuns' attire and high camp to draw attention to social conflicts in the Castro, San Francisco. Currently they fundraise for AIDS and other LGBT causes and promote and educate on safer sex issues. The Cambridge Guide to American Theater identified them as one of the "more anarchic uses of "gender-fuck"... [which]... "parodied traditional drag".
WisCon, the world's oldest and foremost feminist science fiction convention, sponsors an annual "Genderfloomp" dance to "seek to explore and expand our concepts of gender via dance party. Gender play/blurring/queering/drag, both in dress and manner, is highly encouraged but hardly required".
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- Quoted in Bergman, David (1993). Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-87023-878-7.
- Sheidlower, Jesse (2009). The F-Word. Oxford University Press. pp. 189–190. ISBN 0199751552.
- Wilkinson, Sue and Celia Kitzinger (1996). "The Queer Backlash". In Bell, Diane; Renate Klein (eds) (1996). Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed. London: Zed Books. pp. 375–382. Quoted in Weedon, Chris (1999). Feminism, Theory, and the Politics of Difference. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers. pp. 74–75. ISBN 0-631-19824-5.
- Hawkes, G. (1995). “Dressing-up – cross-dressing and sexual dissonance”. Journal of Gender Studies 4(3): 261-270.
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- Rupp, Leila; Taylor, Verta and Shapiro, Eve (June 8, 2010). "Drag Queens and Drag Kings: The Difference Gender Makes". Sexualities 13 (275): 278. doi:10.1177/1363460709352725.
- Leibetseder, Doris (2013). Queer Tracks: Subversive Strategies in Rock and Pop Music. Ash gate Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1409472035.
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- Wilton, Tamsin (1995). Lesbian Studies: Setting an Agenda. Routledge. p. 109. ISBN 0415086566.
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- Robinson, Kerry. "Tomboys and Sissy Girls: young girls’ negotiations of femininity and masculinity". International Journal of Equity and Innovation in Early Childhood. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
- Roberts,Rosario,Corliss,Koenen and Austin, Andrea L.,Margaret,Heather L.,Karestan C.,and S. Bryn. "Childhood Gender Nonconformity: A Risk Indicator for Childhood Abuse and Posttraumatic Stress in Youth". Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Journal of Pediatrics. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- Kaufman, Scott Barry. "From George and Lennox to Gaga and Lambert: Androgyny, Creativity, and Pop Culture". Psychology Today. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- Walters, Barbara (2009-12-30). "Lady Gaga: 'I Love Androgyny'". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
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- Official description of Genderfloomp dance
- Altman, D. (1996). "Rupture or Continuity? The Internationalization of Gay Identities". Social Text 48: 77–94.
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- Stepp, Meredith (2005-07-15). "Playing our parts in ‘genderfuck’". South Florida Blade[dead link]
- Reich, J.L. (1992). "Genderfuck: the law of the dildo". Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture 15: 112–27.
- Thomas, Calvin, ed. (2000). Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06813-0.