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Gender performance is the act that people perform certain behaviours to show ‘his/her’ gender. For example, a person wears a dress and high heels to show that she is a female. While gender performativity is the theory that, a person’s performance is naturally produced and is true about the person. The person’s performance is unconscious and uncontrollable. What the person perform would cause a series of effect and give out an impression of the person being a man or a woman to other people (Butler, 2011).
Thus, gender performance means the person producing ‘his/her’ performance to show others of ‘his/her’ gender. While gender performativity means the gender is performative that the gender performance is producing, hence, identifying the person’s gender. For example, a person wearing abdress and high heels is identified as a woman.
I agree with the ‘gender performativity’ concept by Judith Butler. I agree that the concept of male and female is actually a binary societal concept that people molds every newborn baby into. Everyone should be born without a certain gender because gender is a person’s sense of own. Gender is something between a person’s ears (DeLamater & Plante, 2015). Therefore, without the societal norm of gender, each person should have their own unique set of performance that is performed using their sense of own. Their gender should be identified with their performance, instead of, people performing certain acts to show that ‘he/she’ is a female or a male.
The above reflection is based on what I observed in the society. As more and more LGBTQ people are coming out in this day and age; although we don’t know whether it is because more people are becoming LGBTQ or the number of LGBTQ throughout years are the same, it is just there are more of them coming out as the society are becoming more accepting for them; Binary gender should no longer be the case. Female and male should no longer be the ‘categories’ that people should be classified to. There are people with ‘female’ sex but with ‘male’ behaviour and people with ‘male’ sex but with ‘female behaviour or even intersex people with behaviour that cannot simply be identified with ‘female’ and ‘male’. While all their behaviour are based on their sense of own and are naturally-generated, they should not be molded into the ‘female’ and ‘male’ gender to meet the societal norm of gender. This can cause negative effects on their growth and well-being, i.e. they might get confused, they might feel suppressed and they might feel uncomfortable with themselves.
Drag queens can be an example of gender performativity. Male dress in female appearance to show their ‘female’ gender identity. The famous drag performer RuPaul doesn’t take gender seriously and said ‘we’re all born naked and the rest is drag’ which means we all are spiritual beings having our own human experience (Kempt & Volpert, 2019). He was indifferent toward the gender pronoun used to identify him and said ‘You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don’t care! Just as long as you call me’ (Lamé, 2017). It shows that he was really indifferent towards what the society identify he as in terms of gender. Yet, he is wearing certain appearance and doing certain behaviours according to his sense of own. When RuPaul is in drag, he dresses like the divas and performs femininity but when he is out of drag, he doesn’t specifically perform as a female nor a male, but in this own way that he wants to be. This example tells us that gender is not only performative, but that it should not be constricted binarily to female and male.
The first time I saw people in drag was this summer in Bangkok. I was walking and looking for some cosmetic products in Watsons. Then, suddenly a person who is a head taller than me came in front of me and asked ‘How can I help you, miss?’ with clearly men’s voice but in a feminine tone. She was wearing heavy makeup on, long hair and on her high heels. I was a little bit shocked that time because it was the first time for me to meet someone so closely in drag. Although I watched the famous Ladyboy Tiffany Show in Bangkok, ladyboy is different from drag and I was so far from the stage that I couldn’t interact with them. This time I talked with the sales in drag. I asked her are they selling the brand ‘4u2’ in that store and I trembled a bit. She comfortably answered in her own way ‘Yes, do you want me to put some on the back of your hand for you to try them out?’ I started to get more comfortable to talk with her as she tries to choose the best colour of lipstick with me. After paying the money and leaving the store, I reflected on our interaction. How could she be more comfortable in her own way? She was even more comfortable than me in our conversation. How could she be so confident in her appearance and her own biological sex?
Learning the gender performativity concept here in CCHU9007, it says people act, talk, walk in their own way and that shape their gender, so the sales is actually acting in her most comfortable way and how she acts gives me an impression that she is a female. Yet, under societal gender norms, people would say that they are males acting like females to tell people that they are females.
On the whole, the drag culture is a phenomenon that can describe both gender performance as well as gender performativity.
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