Feminism: The Context of Transvestism

For some time now, I have been researching Feminism and its basics. While writing my Term Paper on ‘Representation of Men and Women’, I came across such names like Julia Kritseva, Sandra Gilber & Susan Gubar, Elaine Showalter, Simone de Beauvoir, Mary Jacobus, Judith Butler, Joan Scott and also Margaret Atwood.

In the Term Paper I discussed: the Production of Knowledge, Women’s Writings, and feminist Critiques. The first dealt with the realisation of women that they had no actual power, they were  not allowed to attend any schools, universities or clubs, do sports or business or join army, all the things men could do. Since they were forbidden to have public life, “women were forced to cultivate their feelings and to over-value romance”. (Showalter; 1977:79) Therefore, women began to write about their fantasies and produce a great deal of novels.

Later, in the late 20th century, women decided to analyze those novels written by and for women, in order to understand what it means to be a ‘woman’. Further, woman novelists suffered from not being taken seriously because of their femininity. Lest they used male pseudonyms for their writings, the focal point for critics was writer’s gender which was then discussed according with or in comparison to other women writers of that time, regardless of the topic. (Showalter; 1977:73) For that reason, women’s writings had to be identified and separated from men’s.

To achieve equality and therefore separation, sexual stereotyping of women in both literature and literary criticism has to be exposed. Moreover, women and men perceive “reality” differently; accordingly, reality depicted in literature must also differ, for that reason, it is necessary to look closer at the gender as a category of analysis.

To understand gender as an analytic category, “women and men were defined in terms of one another”, since individual analysis of each could not be accomplished. (Scott; 1986:1054) Even though sexes are interrelated, they should still be analyzed distinctively. Judith Butler argues that this categorization is unacceptable because:

If on “is” a woman, that is surely not all one is; the term fails to be exhaustive, not because a pregendered “person” transcends the specific paraphernalia of its gender, but because gender is not always constituted coherently or consistently in different historical contexts, and because gender intersects with racial, class, ethnic, sexual, and regional modalities of discursively constituted identities. (Butler; 1999:6)

There is also a considerable discussion that concerns with a clear distinction between gender and sex. Basically there is the argument that biology defines one’s identity; however the theoretical difference between the terms “gender” and “sex” is that one is born with sex, but “gender is culturally constructed”. (Butler; 1999:9) If gender is established through culture, then there is no way that the gender develops from the sex. Meaning that, if there are two sexes, that does not necessarily imply that the construction of male gender will derive only to the male sex or female gender to female sex. Accordingly, there being two sexes, are no reason to believe that there should be only two genders.

Further, I would like to turn to the point of introducing two quotes by Fiona Tolan that should make you re-think or possibly change you minds about such controversial topic as transvestism.

“If female impersonator are conscious constructors of artificial and artifactual femininity, how does a ‘female impersonator’ differ from a ‘woman’?” (Tolan; 2007:186)

“Is drag the imitation of gender, or does it dramatize the signifying gestures through which gender itself is established? Does being female constitute a “natural fact” or a cultural performance, or is “naturalness” constituted through discursively constrained performative acts that produce the body through and within the categories of sex.” (Tolan; 2007:187)

Behind these and many other feminist theories, there is a greater political purpose that serves as protector of the interests of women (and other minorities) in their fight for their rights in society based on patriarchy.


Feminism: The Context of Transvestism

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