Blog Prompt 1

Think about the idea of “making trouble for gender” as discussed in class and in your readings. Describe an example from contemporary pop culture that you think illustrates the idea of gender trouble. Do you think the person(s) involved intended to cause gender trouble, or was it unintentional? After describing the example, think about how other people reacted to this event at the time. What were the consequences (positive or negative) for the person(s) who caused the “trouble”? Do you think the act was effective at causing trouble for gender? Do you think individuals have the power to truly make trouble for gender?

Please post your response as a new comment on this post. In order to receive credit for this assignment, you must post by 8pm on Sunday, February 5th. You must also indicate who you are in your post (initials or a pseudonym are fine, as long as I can identify you to give you credit).

You are also encouraged to reply to other students’ comments if you find them enjoyable or thought-provoking.

30 thoughts on “Blog Prompt 1

  1. For the Video Music Awards in 2011 Lady Gaga appeared as her male alter ego Joe Calderone. Calderone had appeared before in a shoot for a magazine and on the single cover for the song You and I off of the Born this Way album. This was however the first time Calderone interacted with other people including celebrities and reporters. He opened the VMA’s with a monologue about Gaga and his rocky relationship her and then sang You and I which is a rock love ballad possibly inspired by their relationship. Only MTV knew Gaga’s plans to perform as Calderone and so the audience at the theater and at home were surprised and probably seeing Calderone for the first time. MTV reports that Gaga’s appearance as Calderone delighted audience members like Katy Perry but didn’t resonate as well with Justin Bieber. During the opening monologue and the performance the audience consistently broke out into yelling and screams of “I love you Gaga”. I couldn’t find a mainstream source that received Calderone negatively, although some did hint that they thought he became tiresome overtime. Overall though there didn’t seem to be any negative impacts of the “trouble” she caused. It certainly didn’t harm her career or negatively impact people’s perception of her. If anything it reinforced people’s view of her as eccentric, daring, and willing to try anything.

    Lady Gaga said that her reasons for inventing the character was to question what is beautiful and to get people thinking about what is excepted by society and why. She also said that she is interested in exploring the different personalities we’ve all had in the past or may have in the present and so Calderone is one of these facets of her. Lady Gaga therefore seems to have intended to make trouble for gender but this was not her only aim with the character. She wanted to make trouble for many cultural and social norms in general. It was reported that Calderone did use the male restrooms and made some vulgar remarks about Brittany Spears. Interestingly ABC News commented that it would have been inappropriate for “an actual man” to say and do some of the things Calderone did but since it was “performance art” it was ok. Calderone even attempted to kiss Spears onstage but Spears rejected the offer because she did not want to repeat her infamous kiss with Madonna.

    These events indicate that Gaga may have not been as successful at causing trouble for gender as she would have maybe liked. On one hand Gaga showed once again that gender is a performance and something that can be worn in the same way she wears any of her over the top wardrobe. However, on the other hand Calderone was almost completely brushed aside as a stunt by someone who we expect to be shocked by. Spears rejected the kiss because she didn’t want to kiss a woman again which indicated that everyone still viewed Gaga as a woman and that they think her femininity is something concrete that does not change no matter what. Then again, ABC News put aside her lewd sexual remarks about Spears because they were said by Calderone and not by Gaga, but Calderone is Gaga and so shouldn’t she be held accountable for them? Gaga is openly bisexual and so it is quite possible that she is attracted to Spears but somehow what she said was ok because she was a woman performing as a man? If society insists on viewing individuals as fundamentally a man or a woman and that nothing can change this then I think it reduces the power for individuals to truly make trouble for gender. However, I don’t think it’s totally impossible to cause trouble for gender. I think that just by getting people talking about her performance at the VMAs Gaga was successful in some aspect.

    You can watch her monologue and her sing You and I as Joe Calderone here:

  2. Christopher Dehn says:

    In the sense of popular culture, no discussion of gender trouble is complete without mention of Chaz Bono. There has perhaps been no one transsexual individual more covered by the media that Chaz, due to the fame of his parents and the resulting nature of his life remaining in the public eye. Through his decision to go through surgical procedures to alter his physical sex to match his internalized one, he very publicly threw many Americans and indeed traditional gender perceptions for a loop. By transitioning from one of society’s genders to the other (though this is perhaps not the most accurate way to describe his transitions), he called into question the very gender binary that had been almost universally accepted for virtually all of modern society.
    Chaz was consciously aware that his level of media exposure would mean his decisions would “cause gender trouble” on a relatively large scale, and through his changes he sought to educate and serve as a sort of spokesperson and poster boy for queer issues and media attention. I believe it was definitely an effective act of causing gender trouble, and that Chaz, in taking advantage of his image and exposure, truly made gender trouble. As much of the talk surrounding Chaz as of late coincided with his commercially widespread appearance on Dancing with the Stars, Chaz seemed to get fairly positive media attention on the whole, both for his favorable dancing reviews and his “bravery” as a post-op transman unabashedly appearing on national television. I found it heartening that, aside from perhaps some “tokenization” of Chaz as a sort of gay contestant that automatically couldn’t be spoken ill of because of his orientation and struggle, the American public embraced Chaz as a person, something surprising for a pessimist like me to observe in a country assumedly too conservative for universal LGBTQ acceptance.

    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Nice post. Curious whether you think Chaz’s transition from “one gender to another” destabilizes the gender binary, or in fact reinforces the idea that there are only two genders and they are separate from each other? Maybe this is what you were getting at when you noted that Chaz’s transition might not be accurately described as following the “one gender to another” narrative…

  3. kmb471 says:

    Androgyny, or the combination of both masculine and feminine characteristics, has always been “haute” in the world of fashion, but no one has quite embodied this look as well as 20 year-old Australian model Andrej Pejic. Making international headlines, Pejic has become world renown for being able to transcend the boundaries between gender by successfully walking and modeling both men’s and women’s clothing. After watching an interview of Pejic at Toronto’s Fashion Week, I definitely believe that not only is Pejic fucking with gender through fashion but also acting as a model for undoing gender in our society. Walking in Jean Paul Gaultier’s 2012 fashion show, Pejic’s gender changed as quickly from one outfit into the next as he walked down the runway modeling both Gaultier’s men’s and women’s collections. In the interview, Pejic says, ” My career is based on gender fluidity and I do like to play with that on more than just an artistic level, I like to play with it in daily life as well. At the end of the day, the definition isn’t so strong. Gender doesn’t make me who I am.” I believe that through his complete disregard for any typical expressions of gender, Pejic is intentionally trying to make trouble for gender.

    In 2011, Pejic was the center of controversy when his topless image on the cover of Dossier Journal was banned in Barnes & Noble and Borders for looking too much like a woman without a shirt on and, as a result, Pejic received a lot of backlash and criticism. Our society’s reaction to the way Pejic looks is typical. When is is not immediately apparent what someone’s gender is, it is impossible for us (as a society) to accept and our reaction is one of fear and skepticism. Because gender has become so naturalized as a binary (masculine and feminine), it is hard for society to understand people like Pejic who fuck with the rules that everyone has become so accustomed. For so long the construction of gender has confined people and as Judith Butler puts it in her piece, Critically Queer, “The misapprehension about gender performativity is this: that gender is a choice, or that gender is a role, or that gender is a construction that one puts on, as one puts on clothes in the morning; that there is a “one” who is prior to this gender, a one who goes to the wardrobe of gender and decides with deliberation which gender it will be today.” Butler would argue that people do not have the power to truly make trouble or gender, but I believe that Pejic is definitely succeeding in fucking with gender–and looking good while doing it.

    Pejic’s Toronto Fashion Week interview:

  4. When considering the notion of “making trouble for gender,” what intrigues me the most is the broad spectrum of peoples that fall under the umbrella of the term. In modern popular culture there several iconic figures that gender-bend through their physical presentation, like performance artists and media personalities. However, there are other ways to deconstruct society’s gender standards.

    In my opinion, one of the most critical figures of our time to cause trouble for gender is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Currently, Clinton serves as United States Secretary of State, following her unsuccessful presidential campaign and withdrawal from New York State Senate in 2008. However, Clinton’s former role of First Lady is especially significant because it incorporates an element of identity that is fundamentally about gender. The First Lady of the United States is often pointed to as the essence of American femininity. Historically, that image consisted of a classy, refined, and essentially domestic lady. Hillary contributed to redefining the classic position to one of power and ambition.

    Over the years Hillary worked closely with her husband, staying true to an election campaign that promised their combined efforts in the White House. Upon assuming her position, Hillary was already an established businesswoman and lawyer. In fact, she became the first First Lady to hold a post-graduate degree. Clinton also created an office for herself in the West Wing of the White House, an unprecedented step in the development of the First Lady’s role in the U.S.

    Conservative critics deemed Hillary’s relationship with government affairs and strong influence on public policy inappropriate, despite collaborative successes of her work while in office. Following the Monica Lewinsky Scandal some criticized her as being an “enabler” to her husband’s extramarital affairs, and others proposed that she remained in a failed relationship to further her own political agenda. The question of what role gender played in such controversies is unavoidable. Would a “First Man’s” initiative under a female President’s administration be considered inappropriate in the same way? Would a man be held accountable for his wife’s sexual indiscretions?

    Clinton’s contribution to Gender Trouble can be seen as partially intentional, as she consciously took on a role that had been defined so conservatively in the past. However, Hillary was a motivated and successful individual before stepping foot into the White House and her determination didn’t cease for political convenience. Clinton’s dedication led her to be not only one of the most powerful women in the world, but one of the most powerful individuals in the world, and that is where her profoundness lies. I believe it is possible for any type of person to truly make trouble for gender; you don’t need to be Hillary Clinton to get people talking. If one has the ability to highlight the discrepancy between Expectation and Reality, whether at the mass or inter-personal level, then they are successful at making Trouble.

  5. lm1729 says:

    Katelynn was a male-to-female transgendered cast member on Real World Brooklyn. Katelynn did not intentionally cause gender trouble as drag queens do, but she certainly toyed with gender until she found out who she was. Katelynn is a post-operation woman so she not only dressed in female clothes but also became a female biologically as well. Katelynn did cause gender trouble, but it wasn’t intentional. She needed to become who she felt inside and her male body was preventing her from achieving that. Initially, her cast mates did not know that she was born a man which caused them to talk behind her back once their suspicions arose. Finally, Katelynn had to address her roommates and explain her situation to them because we still live in a world where people are curious, clueless, and ignorant. Throughout the semester, Katelynn and her roommates grew closer and her gender was no longer an issue. Katelynn may have appeared to have caused gender trouble but is she really the one we must “blame” if she merely wanted to change to feel like herself? Is it not her whispering roommates who caused the gender trouble? If people did not find issue with those who cause gender trouble then there would be “trouble” at all. I believe that individuals have the power to change gender roles and change the gender binary system, but there is no intent to cause conflict or “trouble.” Rather, it is those who do not ask questions and make assumptions who cause this “trouble.” Perhaps instead of using the phrase “gender trouble” we should find another phrase. The word “trouble” carries connotations that I don’t think are fair to associate with those who question and toy with gender roles.

    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Interesting discussion of intentionality. It sounds like you see “trouble” as having negative connotations. What do you think Butler would say about this?

  6. Morgan N. says:

    Justin Bieber may be best described as a pre teen dreamboat, but his reach in popular culture extends far beyond his albums and even takes an interesting direction in relation to gender trouble. When Bieber first became popular many claimed that with his baby face and shaggy haircut, he looked rather female. Thanks to the power of the Internet his similarities to the opposite gender did not go unrecorded, and the Tumblr “Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber” was born. Started by a self-proclaimed ‘biebian’, Dannielle Owens-Reid the site consists of pictures of females sporting Bieber’s infamous side bangs and a corresponding, usually sassy, caption written by Owens-Reid.

    The creation of this website is one of my favorite contemporary examples of gender trouble because I think it plays with gender in a lighthearted way but also with both genders at the same time. Here the gender trouble is a visual one, it plays with the idea that boys are supposed to look a certain way and that girls are supposed to look another. However, Justin Bieber and the Lesbian community are playing with traditional male and female appearances, and while the blog capitalizes on the gender trouble Justin Bieber himself caused, more interestingly it highlights the gender trouble a certain style of female gender presentation can cause. Not only does Justin Bieber look somewhat like a girl, but also these girls look somewhat like males (or at least one specific male pop singer), making gender trouble in both directions.

    However, even with all the gender troubles at play here, I do not think Owens-Reid set out to make gender trouble on the scale that she did. In interviews she has said that the website started as a joke between her and friends, but grew in popularity suddenly and surprisingly. These followers, along with a positive response from Bieber himself, have made the gender trouble caused by the blog positive and lighthearted in nature and in turn the response to the blog has been positive. You can buy t-shirts from the site that proclaim, “I’m not Justin Bieber”, or even t-shirts that declare that you are interested in Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber. And although Justin has cut his hair since then, the blog still posts pictures of ladies sporting the now defunct side bangs, showing that this gender trouble causing internet meme will live on.

    Here’s Justin’s response to Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber:

    And the website itself:

    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Love this example!! I like your discussion of the “trouble in both directions.” We’ll have to talk about Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber again when we read Halberstam’s Female Masculinity.

  7. wbm228 says:

    Dennis Rodman’s wedding dress stunt was a highly mediated example of gender trouble. There was a lot of hype surrounding the release of the NBA superstar’s biography and what better way could he draw attention to this book than to show up at a huge NYC book signing in a wedding dress. There were a lot of rumors surrounding Rodman’s sexuality and this biography confirmed his bisexual identity.

    Prior to the stunt, Rodman had announced that he would soon be marrying a beautiful and intelligent woman. When he showed up in the wedding dress, he said that he would be marrying himself. Because of this, I believe Rodman’s gender trouble was definitely a conscious effort to cause trouble. While he might not have been causing trouble to show anything about gender, he definitely caused trouble that would end in publicity for him. As a player for the NBA, Rodman was associated with the hyper-masculine world of sports. His appearance in a wedding dress starkly contrasted his original image which resulted in a controversy that many would see and hear about. People definitely reacted as the act was so outrageous, but I don’t think it caused any substantial trouble for gender. Rodman was (and still is) known for being weird, spontaneous, and not following the norms so I believe this little stunt had more of an impact of adding to his image than causing gender trouble. He even went on to be in a 2003 issue of Bride’s magazine, which further pointed out the absurdity of Rodman rather than the question of a man in a dress.

    While I think Dennis Rodman’s wedding dress stunt had the potential and status to create gender trouble, I don’t think it succeeded. In order for an individual to create gender trouble on their own, I think the act has to be extremely out of character and not just another “crazy act.” This act was an interesting way to gain publicity, but I think that’s all it was.

    If you would like to see the pictures, here are a few. He looks ridiculous!

  8. roxannedyer says:

    This response is about an episode of True Life that I saw on MTV a while ago. I decided to look up the episode and watch it all the way through this week because a lot of what we’ve been talking about in class really reminded me of this particular episode. It is called True Life: I’m Changing My Sex. For anyone unfamiliar with MTV’s True Life series, it is a documentary stye television show that covers “controversial” lifestyles. This episode follows two individuals as they struggle with getting surgical sex changes. Elle is a male-female transgender and Ted is having his female chest augmented in order to appear more masculine.

    It’s easy to argue that both Elle and Ted are causing trouble for gender. Both of these individuals were raised with the values of the gender that reflected their sex, though Elle recalls enjoying spending time with girls as a child and playing with Barbies and Ted struggled with the idea that when he got his first period, his mother’s words were “You’re a woman now!” As a man, Elle was so persuaded by the values and ideals of the gender that he was raised with (male) that he felt pressure to get married to a woman. In the episode, Elle reflects that after a certain point, behaving like a man was so stressful that she almost took her own life. In this way, it seems that Elle especially had a large stake in intentionally causing trouble for gender. Although neither of the individuals in this episode go so far as to say that society’s gender cults, as Bornstein might say, caused so much pressure that they needed to tear down the construct of gender, both often allude to having these feelings. However, it seems that both Elle and Ted acted in order to conform to gender norms, by simply (and I use that qualifier with reservation) undergoing surgery to align their genitalia with the gender that they felt they were. In this way, it seems that they did not intend to cause harm to gender, and might have even reinforced it in a way.

    There seemed to be no implications from the surgeries, except the understandable amount of pain that go along with cosmetic surgery. I wonder if the friends and families of these two people would have been as supportive if Elle and Ted were more disruptive for gender. Even as Elle went out into the world as a transexual, she seemed not to experience any sort of positive or negative consequences. Both were visibly happier after their operations though, which seems to be evidence of the force of gender norms.

    I would love to hear what others think about this episode because it was fascinating for me to watch. Just as a warning, there are a lot of very graphic scenes in the operating room full of blood and implants and staples. Here is the link from MTV’s website:


    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Good example (I’m going to try to show this later in the semester too). I like how you question whether the transsexual transformation these individuals undergo is really an instance of gender trouble. Interesting to compare your analysis with Chris’s above, as well!

  9. sef333 says:

    When Ellen DeGeneres first came out as a lesbian on The Oprah Winfrey show, it opened a series of doors and windows for the discussion of LGBT issues on national television through a normalized viewpoint. Ellen’s sitcom character also came out of the closet in 1997; this was one of the earlier explorations of the coming out process to be aired on television as part of a scripted television show and as such led the way to the exploration of other issues a recently “out” character would have.

    In her next television adventure Ellen became a talk show host. As a talk show host she continued to appear in pants and blouses as opposed to skirts, dresses and strappy heels as many other female hosts had been known to do. On her talk show, Ellen enters dancing and joking with the audience members. Her entire show has a carefree and lackadaisical attitude while most talk shows hosted by females address issues of femininity with gravity or mockery. On Tyra, the host, Tyra Banks, frequently exaggerates her feminine personality or approaches topics with such seriousness that even the viewers feel intrusive. Ellen sticks to a lighter, more grounded and real approach to talk shows making her stand apart from other talk show hosts of the same gender.

    Her role in gender trouble is unintentional yet very interesting. She does not stand apart from her gender by acting masculine; The Ellen DeGeneres Show is not a show about health and muscle building or paternity tests and guessing the gender of transvestites. Ellen creates gender trouble by not conforming to the teary-eyed or ultra-femme typical female talk show host or talk show format as seen on Oprah and The View. Ellen’s gender trouble is created simply because she does not conform to the typical hetero-normative roles in her profession and because she exists as a lesbian woman in a position usually occupied by straight women that can give advice on long hair and boy problems.

    When Ellen’s character came out in the sitcom Ellen, the TV show was met with enough controversy to warrant a parental advisory at the beginning of each episode. The show was eventually pulled because of the ratings’ plummet and backlash from religiously conservative groups. While Ellen’s actual coming out was met with decent support her character’s was not. The overall event led to her eventual premiere as a talk show host. While most of the public controversy she caused was due to her coming out, a lot of gender trouble has accompanied her talk show persona. Because she is female but does not conform to the traditional female characteristics of her profession, her talk show causes some gender trouble. There were not many intensely negative or positive reactions to Ellen’s gender trouble. I think subtle gender trouble like Ellen’s could eventually make a difference in how we perceive gender and is therefore the best way to make lasting “trouble” for gender. If people continue to subtly undermine the ways we define social institutions in terms of gender, I think it is much more likely that gender trouble could be successful in making perceptions more gender-blind.

    • sef333 says:

      Also here is the clip of Ellen’s character’s authorization as gay. Her recruiter gets a toaster, part of a running joke about the gay community at the time.

    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Very interesting idea that “subtle gender trouble” is the best strategy for actually effecting change in gender on a society-wide level…

  10. Britt Simpson

    While reading the recent assigned works, particularly that by Gauntlett, and discussing the concept of “making trouble for gender” in class, one person continually came to mind for me: Chaz Bono.
    In his piece Queer Theory and Fluid Identities, David Gauntlett cites and explains much of Judith Butler’s ideology and academic work surrounding the concepts of gender, queer theory, and making trouble for gender, paying particular attention to the work Gender Trouble. Gauntlett focuses on Butler’s “heterosexual matrix” – a paradigm in which one has a fixed sex, male or female, which dictates your gender presentation, feminine or masculine, which determines your desire (towards the “opposite” sex). Butler argues that each of these facets are independent of one another, that you have a body; you may perform an identity; you may have desires – none of these aspects of identity affect one another. In this respect, Chaz Bono is definitely causing trouble for gender, as he disallows his body/sex to dictate his stable gender and does not necessarily have desire towards the “opposite” sex. (I think the case of transgendered/transsexual-identified individual really proves Butler’s idea that sex, like gender, is a socially and culturally constructed concept. When we discuss the “sex” of a transgendered/transsexual-identified individual who has had sexual reassignment surgery (is that even a politically correct term anymore?), are we referring to their current sex or their sex at birth? It becomes too tricky to say their sex and gender ditates their desire for the opposite sex, because who is the “opposite” sex at that point?)
    According to Gauntlett, when we talk about queer theory, we are accepting a few key facts. First, nothing within your identity is fixed. Second, identities are nothing more than the way you express or have expressed yourself or the way other people see you; identities are social and cultural constructs. Another accepted truth when discussing queer theory, according to Gauntlett, is that gender is a performance, even if it is not necessarily a conscious one, reinforced through repetition. This means, then, that people can change. Something else Gauntlett believes we should bear in mind is that the gender binary of feminine and masculine is derived from the binary of male and female, both of these binaries being social constructs. Lastly, Gauntlett states that we should “challenge the traditional views of masculinity and femininity, and sexuality, by causing ‘gender trouble.’”
    When reading through this list of qualifications for queer theory, I could not stop myself from continually thinking of Chaz Bono. My mom is an avid Nancy Grace fan (no, not because she agrees with Nancy or calls in to talk about John David and Lucy, but because Nancy Grace is, admittedly, highly entertaining); so, when Nancy was on Dancing With the Stars last season, my mom was kept up to date with the show. On numerous occasions, my mom would talk about how, when she was younger, she used to watch Chaz on his parents’ show, back when he was still Chastity. Keeping this is mind, let’s go back to the queer theory qualifications set forth by Gauntlett. Chaz clearly demonstrates that identities are not fixed. He also shows identities are determined by how you express yourself or have previously expressed yourself (once expressing himself as feminine and a woman, now expressing himself as masculine and a man) or what has been said about you (I’m sure many people remember Sonny and Chers’ show where they introduced their daughter Chastity – the identity of girl/feminine/female being thrust upon her by what her parents said.) Chaz shows that gender is a performance, as he was still masculine/male-identified before he underwent any type of sexual reassignment surgery. I think it is also quite obvious through Chaz’s case that people can change and that the gender and sex binaries are social constructs. I think Gauntlett would be very happy with Chaz rising to Gauntlett’s call for everyone to “challenge the traditional views of masculinity and femininity, and sexuality, by causing ‘gender trouble,’” even if Chaz was unaware of the extent of the impact his actions would have.
    That being said, I’m not completely convinced Chaz Bono intended to cause gender trouble when he decided to transition from female to male, feminine to masculine; I truly believe he was simply attempting to be comfortable with his identity – to have his gender and sexual identity read and perceived in a manner aligning with his feelings. In class, we discussed the term “genderfucks,” and decided on a definition where the individual uses playful deconstruction of gender categories, deprives gender categories of normative properties, or makes a political statement by fucking with gender. According to the NYU office of LGBT student services, “genderfuck” is “the idea of playing with ‘gender cues’ to purposely confuse ‘standard’ or stereotypical gender expressions, usually through clothing.” I do not believe, then, that Chaz intended to “genderfuck” or even have as much of an impact as he did.
    At the time of Chaz’s transition, he gained much publicity – both negative and positive. Groups such as Protect the Family crucified Chaz while other groups, such as the HRC honored and supported him. As a consequence, Chaz found himself in the spotlight in his private life, and under it on Dancing With the Stars. What’s interesting, however, is that much of Chaz’s impact on causing trouble for gender came after his transition while he was on the show. Chaz was constantly made fun of for his weight by the judges on the show, while the plus sized women were almost applauded for their size. Chaz noticed this trend and spoke publicly about it. And his assertions did not go unnoticed; many groups and individuals alike noted the double-standard in gender expectations. In this sense, Chaz was unwittingly breaking the gender binary through one simple medium: health. While Chaz had the power to make trouble for gender by both shedding the traditional concepts of the gender binary and by pointing out the hypocrisy of gender expectations, he never could have made as much trouble for gender if his actions and words went unnoticed.
    Additionally, Chaz continues to make trouble for gender. In an article I found yesterday ( – which is, by the way, both poorly written and equally as frustrating to read), it seems many “pro-family” organizations, such as the American Family Association, still take issue with Chaz Bono being a recognized, respectable individual, as opposed to a “psychologically disturbed soul.” Psychiatrist Kieth Ablow even goes as far as to dismiss Chaz’s transgender identity as a psychotic delusion and links sexuality and gender (two unrelated aspects of identity) by suggesting “Cher’s megawatt sexuality could have played a part in Chaz’s gender issues.” However, there is a minor victory in these “pro-family” organizations’ bashings: they claim Chaz “promotes gender confusion” and attempt to link sexuality to gender. Both of these ideas prove that we have society thinking about gender, sexuality, and, probably, sexual orientation. Whether he meant to or not, Chaz Bono is definitely making trouble for gender, and in a very productive manner.

    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Great reflection! I would not have realized that Chaz Bono has so much currency, so it was eye-opening to see both you and Chris write about him this week. Good thoughts too on the issue of how he has been received in the media.

  11. kareenabirafeh says:

    Kareen Abi Rafeh

    La Roux is an English electro-pop duo made up of Elly Jackson (singer, keyboardist) and Ben Langmaid (producer). Elly Jackson, the lead singer is well known for her androgynous style. After the debut of her third single, “Bulletproof” she shot to fame. The band name is modeled after Jackson’s red hair and tomboyish look. According to the band “La Roux” means “red-haired one” – and it does, vaguely. It’s just a male version of “red-haired one”, which I think is even cooler, because I’m well androgynous anyway. So it kind of makes sense.” When she shot to fame, her look and sexuality had often been set into question.
    People wondered, is she straight or not, or why androgyny? This is from the caption of an interview she did in which she “refutes lesbian rumors”: “ Sorry to be the bearer of bad news to all you hopeful music fans, but Elly Jackson, the adorable androgynous singer of British electo-pop duo La Roux is, in fact, not gay. It’s hard to wrap your head around, I know.” ( Elly Jackson doesn’t intentionally cause trouble as much as she inspires discussion on style and being an individual. She refuses to change her style because it is who she is, she defends her individuality:

    “But within a minute of chatting to Elly, we sort of get it. She isn’t being awkward for the sake of it. Instead there sits a surprisingly polite, gracious, slightly gauche girl, a touch confused at being labelled difficult. Because for her she’s simply very uncomfortable in anything other than her own androgynous gear. And, she explains, she’s super-protective over said gear because she’s fought hard to find the courage to create and wear it.” (

    La Roux was subjected to a lot of rumors and criticism for her style but she defended her style. It was effective in that she refused to change and continued to stick to her style. Maybe it would have been better if she didn’t “refute rumors” or answer questions about her sexuality and let people wonder because, by indulging peoples curiosities, it seems like she cares, but La Roux cares that she is her own self. I think that individuals have to ability to make trouble for gender, maybe not La Roux alone but by inspiring others, people come together and cause trouble.

  12. The Squeeze Juice says:

    Gender Trouble, Male Lesbianism, and The L Word

    In the first season of The L Word, Lisa, a “lesbian-identified man,” creates trouble for gender categories by challenging what Luce Irigaray calls “the old dream of symmetry,” or the supposedly natural link between gender, sex, and desire within the human subject. Lisa is alternately teased and respected, both for her non-normative identity practices and new age sensibilities: her self-description is initially contested by Dana, the most straight-acting lesbian character on the show, who laughingly remarks, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed but you’re a guy [and hence can’t be a ‘lesbian.’]” Afterwards, however, Lisa’s alternative worldview seems less arbitrary and outlandish when she scorns heteronormative hegemony: “[Straight people] think just because they have traditional families and cleave to the ruling class model that you [referring to Alice, but arguably to all gay, lesbian, or queer-identified individuals] should be compelled to give up your chosen freedom and autonomy… just because we haven’t followed down their strict, limiting, bullshit path to legitimize ourselves in their eyes.”

    Here, Lisa’s intelligence redeems her queerness from the depths of the incomprehensible; her conception of escaping disempowering, dominant cultural ideologies imbibes her non-normative identity practices with a sense of nobility, wisdom, and progressiveness. Alice, respecting this enlightened view of gender and culture, thereafter embraces Lisa as a member of her West Hollywood micro-universe and grants her access to the elusive spaces of lesbian camaraderie that the show glorifies. Indeed, once she has access to these spaces, such as Bette and Tina’s house where the show’s lesbian clique casually socializes, her identity choices are infused with a sense of autonomy and fulfillment. When Lisa attends a small gathering at Bette and Tina’s, wherein the girls attempt to pin down Lisa’s identity, Kit (a heterosexual, female member of the group who considers herself part of the lesbian community) asks, “Damn, what is it with you people and your need to take apart everything and process each detail? If the dude wanna give up his white man rights to become a second-class citizen, then hey, welcome to our world.”

    The episode ends on this problematic final note, wherein Lisa’s conscious identification with the female sex and lesbian sexuality is deemed acceptable because it implies a downward shift on the ladder of social privilege rather than a repudiation of the ladder itself (and the cultural ideologies that perpetuate that ladder). Paradoxically, Lisa’s claim to male lesbianism is accepted because it challenges heteronormative hegemony, and thereby embodies a progressive political stance that possesses a certain cultural capital, yet is ultimately deemed tolerable because it does not disrupt the flow of cultural norms (Lisa is merely giving up her high position as a male and taking on a lower position as a female, thereby making a “fair trade” within the admittedly discriminatory hierarchy.) So, do we like Lisa because she is not normal (and therefore progressive) or because she is normal in her exchange of an empowered for a disempowered gender (and therefore not causing too much trouble for gender categories)? The answer is embodied in the audience’s final interaction with Lisa in a subsequent episode.

    After dating for an unspecified period of time, Alice and Lisa are depicted half-naked, kissing passionately on a bed. When Alice reaches toward Lisa’s crotch, Lisa pulls Alice’s hand back up and states, “Wait…I have something” and retrieves a dildo. When Alice asks if Lisa is kidding “because… you’re a man, you know? You got the real thing,” Lisa intently responds, “That’s not – that’s not how I want to make love to you… It goes against who I am.” Alice insists that “That’s how I want you to [make love to me]” as she pulls down Lisa’s pants. The scene ends as Lisa moans; Alice presumably “got her way” and forced Lisa to having sex with her as a male.

    In this scene, Alice insists upon an inherent correlation between gender and biological sex. Although the show evidently challenges associations between sexuality and gender or biological sex (being, of course, a show about lesbians), The L Word reveals the rigidity of the ideological bonds between gender and biological sex; even on a show that embraces a wide variety of queer characters, this basic assumption about gender and sex is never confronted or reckoned with. Indeed, even when a transsexual character enters the lesbian group, he/she mentally transitions from identifying as a “female lesbian” to a “male heterosexual” in perfect alignment with his change in biological sex. This obsession with the body manifests in Alice’s insistence that Lisa “use her penis how it’s meant to be used:” Lisa cannot disobey her biological sex, even if her gender identity calls into question the supposedly inherent qualities of that sex.

    Jonathan Pace 2/5/12

    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Great analysis, and a nice example to pick. I had totally forgotten about Lisa – season 1 seems so long ago! 🙂

      • kmb471 says:

        It took me so long to wrap my head around Lisa, she is definitely a great example of someone making trouble for gender.

  13. katiehlavs says:

    I didn’t know exactly what I was going to write about for this assignment until I was sitting and watching the Super Bowl with my roommates tonight. A commercial that they are airing for Pepsi features Elton John dressed like a king complete with a cape a crown and a scepter. I thought to myself that he would be an interesting topic for this post, since he is a prominent figure in the gay community and he has made “gender trouble” many times already. At the end of the commercial they show him walking in 5+ inch gold platform boots and tight pants. I was really happy to see this commercial (and not just because it fits this assignment perfectly). The Super Bowl is one of the most – if not, the most – watched events out of the whole year, and the commercials often receive more attention than the actual game. Therefore it is promising to see Elton John up on the screen in front of millions of people, pulling of a killer pair of platforms and bending the rules of gender on national television. I am not saying that no one has made a public statement like this before, but for it to be allowed on national television during the Super Bowl is definitely a step in the right direction for the LGBTQI community.
    I definitely think that Elton John intended to make some sort of “gender trouble” during this performance, in a way that asserts, “I am who I am and I will not change for television.” It really just seemed like he wore what he wanted and didn’t think too much about the reaction, which I think is how it should be. I do not know yet how this commercial will be received by the public, but even its existence shows that in some ways the media tells homophobic people that they cannot win. Gay people are not going to go away, but homophobic people might be able to if our society promotes acceptance and tolerance of difference. Hopefully, eventually there will be no need for a term like “gender trouble” because people will come to realize that gender is fluid and there is no one way to define a male or female, therefore there is no way to make trouble. But until then, it is important to keep making this so called “gender trouble” wherever possible.

    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Nice topical example. It will definitely be interesting to see what kind of reactions people have to this ad. In a way gender trouble is more about the reaction than the performance itself!

  14. melissasmt12 says:

    Butler defines making gender trouble as, “…an effort to think through the possibility of subverting and displacing those naturalized and reified notions of gender that support masculine hegemony and heterosexist power” (Gauntlett, 152). This definition places an old J.Crew ad into the effort of making trouble for gender. Last April, an image in a J.Crew catalogue showed Jenna Lyons, the company’s president, with her 5-year-old son. Jenna’s son had pink toenail polish on and the caption of the picture read, “Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink.” While I do not believe that it was Jenna Lyons’ intention to cause trouble for gender, the backlash that this ad received did create an important discussion about gender in the media. Many conservatives had a problem with the ad due to their belief that gender can be affected by things such toenail polish or clothing. However, what someone wears does not define their gender, it is merely a part of their performance of it.

    I do believe that this ad was an excellent tool for making trouble for gender because it put the spotlight on the fact that gender is a performance. The fact that this young boy likes pink shows that this binary of girl vs boy (pink being a girl color and blue being a boy color) is not natural or real. We chose each day what clothes to wear and what nail polish color to wear because of the accepted behaviors proliferated in our society. This young boy is a perfect example of someone who is able to “challenge our expectations about gender” (152). It is clear then that individuals do have the power to make trouble for gender. One must simply decide to change their daily performance of gender in a way that challenges the norms that they were choosing to live by before. It is not a simple task since all of our choice seem so natural, but if we start looking at our appearance as a choice then we can start to play with what we have chosen.

    Image can be found here:

    Melissa Ynegas

    • lauraportwoodstacer says:

      Great example! You make a good point that our “choices” are actually shaped by the “accepted behaviors proliferated in our society.” So maybe we’re not so free to change our daily performances, even if we are able to recognize that they *are* just performances…

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