Blog Prompt 4

Reflect back on the idea of “making trouble” – think back to your initial blog post on making trouble; having gone through this course, have your thoughts changed about the example you described there? What insights would you add if you were writing that post today? If one of our authors were to read your blog post, how do you imagine they would respond? (You can choose a specific author/reading to speculate about here.)

Please post your response as a new comment here. In order to receive credit for this assignment, you must post by 8pm on Sunday, May 6th. 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.

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13 thoughts on “Blog Prompt 4

  1. Morgan N. says:

    In my first blog post I wrote about the famous Tumblr Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber and the way in which it causes gender trouble in both directions. Now that I have spent the last four or so months learning about just what ‘causing trouble’ means in the context of queer theory, I have few thoughts I’d like to add to my original post.

    First I think it is important to discuss the representation of Lesbians on the blog. Through out our class this semester we have debated wither or not visibility is a good or a bad thing, and wither certain types of visibility are better than others. Clearly this blog promotes a very specific type of queer visibility in the sense that not only does it only represent Lesbians, but also a very specific type of Lesbian. Although in my first post I highlighted that the blog is light hearted in nature, I can not help but think about the ways in which the representation of lesbians who look like Justin Bieber has influenced both queer and non-queer readers of the blog in conceptualizing just what it means to be a Lesbian.

    I think that this blog post would be particularly interesting to Danae Clark and her idea of commodity lesbianisim. In her writing she talks about the idea that being a Lesbian has become another style choice that you can portray through the clothes you buy and the way you look, and that seems to be exactly what Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber is saying. For Clark it wouldn’t matter just how lighthearted the posts are, but the idea that girls who look like Justin Bieber are encouraged to get their 15 seconds of fame on a silly tumblr site alone would signify that being a lesbian is something you can try with out any real commitment beyond a hair cut.

    I think examining Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber through the idea of both representation and commodity lesbianisim is an interesting one, and something I never would have thought about before taking this class. Over all, while I will still enjoy browsing Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber, I will do so with a deeper sense of critical thinking about just what the blog means to Lesbians who do (and don’t) look like the teenage heart throb.

  2. aidandyoung says:

    Interestingly enough, my first blog post discussed Hillary Clinton and the ways in which she caused trouble for gender through her role as First Lady. Basically I argued that Clinton, in reappropriating her position to one that was more intrinsically involved in the development of governmental policy, provided elements of masculinity to a role that is historically linked with femininity, and faced media backlash as a result. In retrospect, this example doesn’t seem to directly explore the queering of gender that we have more closely studied in class, but I think I knew this at the time of the initial post. Perhaps through utilizing ideas that have since come up in the course material, I can flesh out my ideas on gender trouble and articulate why Hillary is relevant.

    While queer theorists (including QT students like ourselves) may advocate and focus on moments of gender trouble that are blatant and loud, we must not lose sight of the subtle moments that also bear significance. A critical element of my argument hinges on the concept that queerness doesn’t need to emanate LGBT or queer identifying individuals. While “high-profile” trans and cross-dressing media personalities may garner attention and intrigue within certain communities, Hillary Clinton is a household name. Her masculine qualities—as exhibited through her assertiveness, desexualized influence, and yes, the pantsuits—can confront gender norms on a larger scale. Because the standards that Hilary challenges approach the broader, national hegemony of our culture, she may have a greater impact that of say RuPaul, whose challenges are broadcast on a specific, sub-cultural TV network.

    On a separate note, I’d like to highlight the potential for a queer moment of sorts in Hillary’s response to President Clinton’s affair. In my original blog post I write: “Following the Monica Lewinsky Scandal some criticized [Hillary for] 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.” Looking back at it, these condemning receptions of Hillary’s response reflect society’s broader views on marriage as an institution. From this perspective, marriage is confined to a definition that 1) doesn’t allow for extramarital relations, and 2) should not be sustained for self-interested purposes. Regardless of what really went on in Hillary’s head in deciding how to proceed after the affair, her decision to stay with Bill is somewhat queer. When society expected her to leave her husband, she stayed. Ultimately, Clinton demonstrated that our culture’s view of marriage doesn’t align with her own view, and perhaps she really didn’t care that Bill was fooling around with interns.

    If any of the authors we read this semester were to read my post, they would likely think that Hillary simply has not gone far enough in troubling gender. I think this view point is far too idealistic and ignorant of the great things Hillary has done for not just women, but any individual seeking empowerment.

    Overall, in demonstrating a clear sense of autonomy—be it through political involvement, dress, or life decisions—Hillary defied the reductive standards of society has imposed upon the American First Lady. In doing this, she effectively illustrated the performative nature of such role. Clinton was successfully able to trouble gender from the most culturally significant gendered career, which is historically meant to reflect the modern American woman.

  3. kmb471 says:

    Coming to the end of this semester, there is definitely a great deal more I can say about queer people making trouble for gender. Androgynous male model Andrej Pejic makes trouble for gender even more than your average queer person does. His sex is male, his gender in female, and his orientation is gay. You may just be thinking that he sounds like your ordinary run-of-the-mill twink. But he’s not. What makes Pejic more queer than your average queer is that he identifies as male but works almost exclusively as a female model in fashion shows, editorials, and photo shoot campaigns. His sexuality is widely questioned but he has never discussed it publicly. So Pejic, as it would seem, does not fit into the homonormative mold (because he does not openly identify as gay) nor does he follow the transgendered narrative (because he does not want to transition from male to female). He is a male who is troubling the male gender in every way possible.

    I want to use a quote from Jack Halberstam to support my argument that Andrej Pejic is clearly making trouble for gender: “If masculinity is no longer an essence that male bodies are naturally born with, then becoming any gender is a process that is ongoing, contingent, non-foundational, and self-conscious: masculinity is the process by which men of any gender learn to identify and fit themselves into discourses of gender.” I believe that Halberstam would respond to Pejic very positively because he epitomizes and validates the idea Halberstam is trying to make that masculinity is not innate to male bodies (and femininity not innate to female bodies, for that matter) and gender is nothing more than a conscious performance that Pejic can put on just as easily as he can slip into a Gaultier couture dress. He does not fit into the discourses of gender provided to us by our culture or our subculture.

    Pejic is the answer to Kate Bornstein’s question: “What happens when people don’t fall clearly into a culturally recognized identity?” Bornstein uses the argument that fashion is a proclamation of one’s identity and our culture is reliant on the need for recognizable identity and the need to belong to a group of people with a similar identity and people like Pejic, Bornstein would argue, make trouble for gender within our cultural norms. When we cannot draw conclusions about Pejic’s sex through his gender or his appearance, it is then we are turned off and forced to alienate him to the fringes of society. Because we live in a world that insists we be either male or female and because Andrej Pejic was born a male but appears to be and has the qualities of a female, it is obvious that he makes trouble for gender.

    -KB

  4. vcd210 says:

    My original blog post was about Lady Gaga’s appearance at the 2011 Video Movie Awards as her male alter ego Joe Calderone. Her appearance as Calderone was kept a secret so the audience’s true reactions were captured when he walked out on stage. Most in the audience obviously enjoyed it while others seemed confused by it. Calderone gave a monologue about his relationship with Gaga before singing a song. Later in the evening Calderone stirred controversy by trying to kiss Brittany Spears and it was reported that he did indeed use the male restrooms. Her performance as Calderone was mostly well received by the media with the only criticism being that he became tiresome by the end of the night. This seems to imply that the performance was received as just another novelty act by an artist is known for being shocking and after the initial surprise of his appearance wore off so did the novelty. It could also indicate that Calderone was perceived as a one note character that lacked range and become repetitive.

    In my original blog post I questioned whether she was really able to make trouble for gender. On one hand she never seemed to taken totally seriously as a man since Spears rejected his kiss on the basis of Gaga “really” being a woman. On the other hand, Calderone made a few sexist remarks backstage which were brushed off because it wasn’t Gaga wasn’t saying them. Making remarks like these are one of the ways masculinity is often parodied by drag kings since it is the “most unnatural and obviously staged aspect” of masculinity. Gaga faced no negative impacts of this performance and it only reinforced her image as a daring performer who is willing to do anything to shock or entertain. Originally I thought that Gaga was successful at only making some very slight trouble for gender and I continue to think this. I think Judith Halberstam would agree that Gaga wasn’t totally successful in creating trouble for gender but I also do not think she would fault Gaga for this. Instead, the audience was not fully receptive and impacted by the performance as Gaga had intended.

    According to Judith Butler and Judith Halberstam drag inherently makes trouble for gender by revealing the performative nature of gender. Gaga was performing for a vast mainstream television audience who were probably largely unfamiliar with drag king performances. As opposed to drag queen performers who use the obvious and flamboyant tool of camp, “kinging” is much more understated and employs more subtly. This stems from the assumption that masculinity is “natural” and “inevitable” whereas femininity is inherently “artificial”. An understated drag king performance is more likely to illicit less of a reaction from an audience than an over the top campy drag queen one.

    Gaga stated that Calderone is a facet of her and another aspect of her personality which supports her performance being in the vein of “male mimicry” with elements of “denaturalized masculinity”. Although Halberstam believes “denaturalized masculinity” to be responsible for the most successful drag king performances, the most popular ones are the “femme pretender” which Calderone was not. Therefore, I believe, and I think Halberstam would agree, that any lack of success by Gaga was because of the audience that she chose to perform to and not because of the performance itself. If the performance has been done for an audience more familiar with “kinging” I think it would have been more successful overall. However, I believe there was more potential to cause gender trouble because she was performing for an audience who was not familiar with it. This shock was partly or mostly negated though of the expectation for Lady Gaga to shock and cause controversy.

  5. For my first blog post I decided to write about an image in a J.Crew catalogue, which featured the company’s president and her son. Her son was wearing pink nail polish and the backlash this image generated served as the basis for my discussion of making trouble for gender. After a full semester of debating gender trouble I feel I can add to and revise my original blog post. I still believe that this image causes trouble for gender, but I feel that the Alex Williams article, “Gay by Design, or a Lifestyle Choice,” can aid me in my discussion of this image by focusing on how consumption choices are able to shape our identity. This article illustrates that our consumption practices become a part of our daily performance of gender and sexual identity. In our society the things you decide to buy or wear guide people to perceive you in a certain way. This young boy’s preference for pink nail polish raised concern with people who did not want gender categories to be challenged. They called on his mother to not support or promote this since it would jeopardize the dominant gender binary in our society and this would hinder people’s ability to easily perceive a person’s gender. I originally claimed that every person could thus make trouble for gender by merely altering their daily performance. However, it might not be that simple since most consumption choices are made on a subconscious level.

    However, as I stated before this image can still trouble gender because as Clyde Smith explained in “How I Became a Queer Heterosexual”, art and other images can help plant the idea within society of the possibility of different categories of gender. This young boy’s preference of the color pink is clearly showcasing the fact that our society has set up binaries that are not concrete. Within each person there are several possibilities for how gender and sexuality are expressed. I want to be clear that these many possibilities should not serve as the call for the erasure of all categories. Instead as Smith explains it should help create a society that would allow for greater mobility (4). This mobility is vital for shaping a world where people will not feel stuck to one point on a binary, but will feel free to express themselves in their own unique way. Many of the queer theorists we have read in class would likely see this type of world as a truly queer space.

    Melissa Ynegas

  6. The Squeeze Juice says:

    In my first blog post, I discussed how Lisa, a “lesbian-identified man,” makes trouble for gender categories in the first season of The L Word. On one hand, the show valorizes Lisa for her progressive conception of sexuality and culture: Alice is impressed by Lisa’s dismissal of heteronormativity as the prevailing narrative of societal success. Yet, on the other hand, the show dismisses Lisa’s radical identity politics as ungrounded or unreliable: with a mere stroke of Lisa’s renounced penis, Alice convinces Lisa to have “real thing,” penetrative sex with her – thus acting out the heterosexual erotic narrative – rather than strap-on sex – as in the lesbian erotic narrative. My argument was that, although the show proudly features an array of queer characters, even these characters conform to traditional identities/notions of gender and sexuality. By having Lisa “use her penis the way it’s meant to be used,” The L Word reinforces hegemonic assumptions linking biological sex to gender – in Luce Irigaray’s words, “the old dream of symmetry.”
    I’d like to complicate this argument by asking the following question: does Lisa’s transgression qualify as gender trouble if it remains largely invisible in everyday life? (I tackled a similar question in my final essay concerning Radical Faeries, who perform outrageous, gender-bending drag – but only in the woods, with nobody watching.) Indeed, when Alice (the show’s token bisexual) first spots Lisa, she has no suspicion of Lisa’s alternative identity practices: Lisa merely registers as an attractive man, dressed in men’s clothing, performing masculinity. Alice only discovers Lisa’s lesbian self-identification after engaging in discussion with her. Lisa’s gender may be a performance, but it remains an internal one *until she fully explains herself* to Alice. Thus, the world of everyday life – which Butler specifically locates as the space of identity politics and gender transgression – is *not* where Lisa causes trouble for gender. Instead, she resists normative categories internally, or within intimate groups of friends. Since Butler disavows the inner realm as a subversive arena, she would likely dismiss Lisa’s identity as non-troubling for gender. The show itself certainly does: Lisa does not implement in practice (in sex with Alice) that which she feels so strongly in theory and, thus, loses credibility as a site of revolutionary identity politics.
    This issue seems to return us to the practice/ideology tension we discussed in our most recent class. When I began the semester, I certainly considered Lisa a “queer” character: even on a progressive show with chiefly lesbian characters, Lisa stands out as exceptionally unique- as particularly non-conforming. Her divergent, fluid conception of identity challenges traditional, “essentialist” notions of selfhood. Or does it? How much does Lisa truly challenge hegemonic identity narratives if her transgression remains only in her mind? Now, a semester later, I’m compelled to dismiss Lisa’s subversive act as a noble try but nonetheless lacking – as the cliche has it, “close but no cigar.” I must err on the side of *practice* rather than *ideology* in examining what it means to be queer. As much as I would love to consider anyone with gender-bending, hegemony-challenging beliefs as queer, I think that such a consideration would lessen the potency of the term “queer.” For me, unless Lisa is walking through West Hollywood in female clothing, having sex with a strap-on, and utilizing the women’s bathroom, I cannot consider her a true “lesbian-identified man” or a true “queer.” To make trouble for gender, one must make trouble for oneself – by putting one’s body in situations that viscerally force others to rethink categories of gender and sexuality. To be queer, one must face the reality of one’s queerness (and make others face it) daily. This is no easy task. I do not, therefore, think the term can be casually applied. If you have to ask yourself “Am I queer?” then you’re most definitely *not* – authentic queerness pervades the lives of those who truly embody it.

    Jonathan Pace

  7. wbm228 says:

    In my initial post about causing trouble for gender, I discussed Dennis Rodman’s wedding dress stunt. Initially, I claimed that his stunt caused controversy, but only surrounding him and his claim to fame. While this still holds true that Rodman’s act pointed out his absurdity rather than cause trouble as a whole, I think that his stunt had broader implications for masculinity and gender norms.

    Dennis Rodman could really be seen as a “queer” figure in society. His repeated acts against mainstream ideologies are often mediated and highlighted, gaining a great visibility through difference. His position as a professional athlete further “queers” things, as he works inside a realm that has been characterized as highly homophobic and heteronormative. Because of this, I would like to go back on my claim that his gender-troubling action simply added to his image. His incessant violation of gendered and sexual norms have worked in recognizing not only his individual difference, but difference in general.

    More specifically, Rodman has challenged the gendered norms of masculinity. In a society where participating in and observing sports are upheld as THE masculine activities, Rodman acted to “queer” that notion and question masculinity through his public dress-wearing and coming out as bisexual. Therefore, he was successful in making trouble for gender while simultaneously increasing his own visibility.

  8. lailleymansouri says:

    In the beginning of the course, I did not think of gender as being entirely a role or a performance and now I do. After taking this course, I fully believe in the performativity of gender. Although I never believed that one’s anatomy fully indicated gender, I did believe it played some role for certain people. I now feel that biology should have little to no importance in what constitutes gender. When I would think of the word “Gender” I’d instantly think of biology. Today, I look at the word “gender” and I instantly think of the word “role,” which is definitely a reflection of what I’ve learned in this class. I also believe that when I first wrote my blog response, I did not understand the definition of “gender trouble.” I still believe that Katelynn came into her identity for herself and not to trouble anyone in the house but in terms of troubling the gender binaries, she did so to an extent. Katelynn questioned the gender binaries and was able to find the identity that was right for her. Nonetheless, she settled into her female identity which is one of the two gender binaries. I think that if Kate Bornstein had read my response she would ask me if there were any ways Katelynn went beyond the confines of her female identity. She would probably ask if Katelynn truly questioned or troubled the bounds of each gender if she had settled into one of the binaries. I think Bornstein would agree with me that Katelynn did not fully trouble the gender binaries but she certainly troubled the heternormative views of her roommates. Although they whispered behind her back before approaching her, their dialogue was able to open up the house more and bring the roommates closer together. Looking back, I think I would instead use Chris Crocker as an example. Chris seems to be able to permeate gender boundaries as easily as one puts on or takes off a dress which is an indication of the performative nature of gender.
    -Lailley

  9. sef333 says:

    In my original post I wrote about Ellen DeGeneres and her media life. I wrote about how she had to come out in two ways, on her sitcom and in actuality, and how she doesn’t conform to regular gender standards. From what I now know from the course changes my perspective on Ellen’s role in gender trouble. I think gender trouble doesn’t necessarily have to be an active and conscious choice but from the many interviews Ellen gave, she explicitly stated she did not want to become a queer role model. I think that to create gender trouble one must, on some level, be actively challenging some sort of norm. The norm doesn’t have to be hetero-normativity and it can be a subtle challenge but for there to be actual gender trouble, the challenger has to want to shake things up in some way. While Ellen might shake up traditional ideas of gender in her own way, I think she is almost too engrossed in hetero-narrative to truly make gender trouble.

    I think if Gamson, who studied Talk Shows, looked at my post on Ellen and focused on the section where I talk about her different approach to being a talk show host he would agree that in that aspect, Ellen is creating some amount of gender trouble. He talks about the manufacturing of queers on talk shows and how queerness becomes such an exaggerated commodity that it defeats the purpose of visibility. I think Gamson would agree that Ellen does a pretty good job of representing queers on talk shows because her show isn’t focused completely on its kind of guest but who the guest is. Ellen becomes the visible queer in an almost controllable way where she decides how she is presented. In that sense I think she does trouble gender in a very small and unique way.

  10. roxannedyer says:

    I wrote my first blog post about two individuals featured on MTV’s documentary series True Life. Elle and Ted were both transgendered people that allowed MTV to document the process they took to align their biological identities to their sexual identities.
    Reading back on my first blog post, the thing that stands out the most is the idea of Elle and Ted “simply” getting a surgery to align their genders with their sexes. It seems very clear to me that it is no small task to recognize the boundaries that separate gender and sex, and to deliberately transgress the boundaries through painful and permanent surgery would be a very queer act.
    Though it is certainly a difficult question to answer, after this semester I would argue that making trouble for gender is simply the act of recognizing it and pointing it out. Since gender works best when no one notices it as a construct, any individual that shines a light directly onto gender is making trouble for it. If gender is ever questioned, it becomes weaker. As gender controls by making it difficult to think outside of the binaries gender provides, it stands to reason that by working to illuminate the binaries, people like Elle and Ted are causing trouble for gender.
    I think labels and boundaries like gender should be troubled. The most important reason for this is that no label can be comprehensive enough to cover every preference, identity, type of desire, etc. So, something will always be left out and inherently disadvantaged. Even as queer attempts to cover all of these identities, I think we have seen that there are still those that cannot be accounted for, and in some cases there are some identities that don’t want to be accounted for.
    By making trouble for labels like gender, I think we are opening the way that people think. Looking back at my original blog post, I realize that it does not matter whether nor not I think Elle and Ted are making trouble for gender, because I can only assume that the work they did was for the good of their authentic selves. Therefore, trying to codify it as queer or not is actually troublesome for the work that queer theory is attempting to accomplish.

    RKD

  11. While I am relived upon review of my initial blog post that I wasn’t unintentionally offensive (as far as I could tell) through my brand of ignorance before taking the course, I definitely wouldn’t agree exactly with what I posted in January. True, Chaz Bono is a major figure in the LGBTQ community and perhaps is more visible as a trans individual than any other American in widespread popular culture, but I would hesitate now to make the claim that he really troubles the gender binary of collective society. This, of course, is not through any fault of his own, and I would say that Chaz has done well in shedding light upon his life transition in terms that the average American would be able to understand. Through experiencing testosterone therapy and complete “reassignment” (bottom as well as top) surgery, Chaz effectively reinforces what it is to be a “man” or “woman,” quite unlike the individuals we see in Gendernauts, who exist in varying shades of gray of physical sex and may not identify as one gender or the other as we know them. Chaz is fiercely brave in sharing his struggle and experience publicly, but doesn’t trouble any notion of gender, as his narrative implies that before he was a woman, and now he is a man–surgery and other scientific processes are the only true path of transition from Point A to Point B. While I think Chaz’s presence is a big step forward in the seemingly endless quest for national LGBTQ acceptance, an better poster person for gender trouble would break or transcend gender notions themselves, be it by not identifying as “one” or “the other,” or identifying as one while physically exhibiting traits of the other. Now, how would they pair such an individual as THAT on Dancing With the Stars?

  12. kareenabirafeh says:

    Kareen

    I would definitely say that my thoughts on my androgynous subject, Elly Jackson, one half of the electro pop duo La Roux, making trouble have changed. Simply trying to recall whom I chose as my subject was hard for me because now I am not sure if she is even causing trouble. Firstly, Jackson was the only person I could think of at the time and having gone through this course I’d like to think that I could come up with different examples. Jackson is interesting though but I never questioned her androgyny in a mainstream commodity setting. Jackson is troubling gender binaries by breaking them down and not conforming, however at the same time using her androgynous image to be more edgy and sell more. If it was just about being herself why would she need to go on record to clarify that she wasn’t a lesbian in the interview I linked in my first blog post. Androgyny is about deconstructing the performance of gender yet Jackson is performing. I think this relates to the performing queerness readings we did week 13 and Bennett’s “In Defense of Gaydar” and how his essay examines the “value of performing” (420) queerness. Re writing the post today, I would examine more closely Jackson’s motive in a commodity market context. There is a commodity value to Jackson’s performance and making it central to her musical profile. How “troubling” is she if her queerness seems to be molded into a “performance in a normative space”(412)? Is it possible to still want to trouble norms while being working in a commodity market? Or, is that asking for acceptance, can you trouble and be accepted?

  13. shapironoah says:

    For my first blog post I discussed the guerrilla girls. The guerrilla girls are a group of women who wear guerrilla masks and go around talking about sexism and racism that can be seen in the world of art, politics and so much more. Party of what the guerrilla girls do is to make trouble. Their goal is to expose the normativity of society.

    Looking back at this post and thinking about the guerrilla girls, I think they are a very important group that does their best to get at the issues with gender. I think that certain authors, would see this group as not doing enough, and not being inclusive enough. A big part of the guerrilla girls to sexism and being strong feminists, which in ways leaves out a lot of queers. They also go around in guerrilla masks and dont do enough protesting. They do more by just being there and sticking out and causing trouble by looking strange, but certain people might not think thats enough. Specifically Sycamore, and the Gay Shame article might be upset that there isn’t enough of a protest. Sycamore would also probably say something like, the guerrilla girls are fighting for the wrong thing. Instead of wanting to be represented in art and politics, art and politics should be gotten rid of.

    The guerrilla girls could in ways, be more inclusive of queer people, but thats not necessarily the issue their fighting for, so looking back maybe the guerrilla girls werent the best group to choose. But they fight for an important cause and definitely make trouble for people around.

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