Gendered identity

Self and Society: How has individuality been theorized as an consequence of public presentation? Discuss with specific mention to gender.

In this essay I will be researching the construct of ‘identity ‘ with peculiar mention to ‘gender ‘ . I will get down by giving a brief history of what is meant by gender in the context of this essay and in ‘identity ‘ , traveling on to research the possibility that ‘gender ‘ could be argued to be a public presentation, discoursing two alternate, but non dissimilar, statements. Goffman ‘s construct of ‘self ‘ , and so ‘gender individuality ‘ , as a public presentation deserves geographic expedition ; as does Butler ‘s impression of ‘gender performativity ‘ , in the creative activity of a ‘gendered individuality ‘ .

Throughout I will be pulling on the life of Brandon Teena, a transgendered adolescent murdered in America whose narrative was told through the movie ‘Boys Do n’t Cry ‘ ( Pierce, K 2000 ) , as an example of the impression of executing gender. ‘Boys Do n’t Cry ‘ tells the true life narrative of a immature adult male traveling to Falls City, Nebraska, to get down a new life. His new friends adore him and shortly a immature miss falls for his fondnesss. However, his short life meets a violent and bloody terminal when his true individuality is found out [ Review of the gesture image Boys Do n’t Cry ] .

In modern-day western society gender is more frequently than non seen as a binary division of male or female dependant on single biological science. So cardinal is the biological finding of ‘gender ‘ that should a kid be born with equivocal genital organs so frequently ‘gender ‘ is assigned at birth through gender reassignment surgery. However, the biological finding of gender is troubled in the context of people who are transgender, transsexual, homosexual or who cross-dress ; what ‘gender ‘ could be assigned to these groups? It is within these societal groups the thought of ‘gender as public presentation ‘ is possibly most pertinent.

The primary theoretician of the ‘self ‘ as an consequence of public presentation is Goffman who introduces the theatrical metaphor ‘life as theater ‘ , proposing that human behaviour can outdo be described as an consequence of public presentation. Goffman argues that the ‘self ‘ is born out of a public presentation which is credited by the audience and, in being credited, becomes inextricably digested into the person ‘s mind ; “ A right staged and performed scene leads the audience to ascribe a ego to a performed character, but this imputation -this self – is a merchandise of a scene… non a cause of it ” ( Goffman, E. 1959 pp.244-247 ) . Although Goffman is non specific in authorship of ‘gender ‘ as public presentation, for Goffman the ‘self ‘ as a whole is a public presentation, I would postulate that as most people would place themselves as being either male or female Goffman ‘s thoughts can be readily used in the analysis of ‘gender ‘ as an consequence of public presentation.

For Goffman persons perform a multiplicity of functions throughout their life class wholly dependent on the state of affairs they find themselves in. Be that as a partner, sibling, bookman or, in this instance, male/female. What is of import for Goffman is that there is no 1 true ego, merely a public presentation of it. While executing these ‘roles ‘ Goffman suggests persons ‘manage ‘ their public presentation utilizing a figure of schemes of which I will travel into more item in the context of ‘gender public presentation ‘ and with peculiar mention to the illustration of Brandon Teena. Included in these ‘managerial ‘ tools are props, parts and audience engagement.

Propss, or to utilize Goffman ‘s term “ Personal forepart ” , include “ … insignia of office or rank ; vesture ; sex, age and racial features ; size and looks ; position ; address forms ; facial looks ; bodily gestures ; and the similar ” ( Goffman, E. 1959 p.34 ) . Using my illustration, Brandon Teena, there are a figure of times we see Brandon utilizing props to help his public presentation as a male ; for illustration a scene in which he is ‘dressing up ‘ or ‘transforming ‘ into his function utilizing male vesture, tape to flatten his thorax and adding embroidering to his inguen to change his expressions. These can be seen as physical props in his public presentation of gender, nevertheless it is besides apparent he employs what he considers stereotypically ‘male ‘ organic structure positions, address forms and gestures ; tittuping, bad linguistic communication and so on.

Regions take the signifier of what Goffman footings as “ front part ” or “ back region/backstage ” ; there are besides temporal parts such as in a telecasting studio being either ‘on ‘ or ‘off ‘ air. The “ front part ” is where the public presentation takes topographic point, where the audience is detecting the function one is playing ; “ The public presentation of an person in a front part may be seen as an attempt to give the visual aspect that his activity in the part maintains and embodies certain criterions ” . The “ back part ” for Goffman is where the readying takes portion, where all the building and ‘dirty work ‘ deemed unsuitable for sing is undertaken in readying of the public presentation ; “ A back part… [ is ] where the feeling fostered by the public presentation is wittingly contradicted as a affair of class ” ( Goffman, E. 1959 pp.109-140 ) . For Brandon the “ front part ” could be thought of as any clip in which his ‘gender ‘ was under examination, where he was in the presence of his audience ; whenever there were eyes upon him his ‘gender public presentation ‘ must be believed. His “ wing ” was rather clearly his ain private infinites, a bathroom, a sleeping room and so on, where his true ‘biological organic structure ‘ is non seen and where he has the privateness to build his ‘male ‘ individuality.

The function of the audience is in the chief to formalize the public presentation. The performing artist in playing their portion is inquiring to be taken earnestly ; they are inquiring the audience to believe what they are being shown, and in converting the audience they are seeing the “ existent world ” the public presentation is credited as being the existent ‘self ‘ . In consequence the person is inquiring to be judged, in this instance as being male/female, and having judgement is “ … an ultimate terminal in itself… ” ( Goffman, E. 1959 pp.28-32 ) . In ‘Boys Do n’t Cry ‘ there are legion scenes in which Brandon is seen to be inquiring for his ‘gender public presentation ‘ to be credited by his new found friends, his audience. In one peculiar scene we see him ‘bumper surfing ‘ , this being a ‘male ‘ activity in Falls City, and in making so is non merely turn outing his ‘maleness ‘ is besides seeking a ‘pat on the dorsum ‘ by his audience, an avowal of being ‘male ‘ .

In summing up Goffman ‘s thoughts of the ‘self ‘ as an consequence of public presentation I have shown that ‘gender ‘ has to be performed and credited by the audience. Whether or non an person is biologically male/female or transgender/transsexual it is still apparent that props, parts and audiences play a function in the public presentation of ‘gender ‘ and in ascribing a sense of ‘gender individuality ‘ . In a similar vena to Goffman Butler besides see ‘s ‘gender ‘ as a public presentation, although more radically suggests ‘gender ‘ does non be ; there is merely one organic structure and that is the human organic structure, ‘gender ‘ is a building.

What Butler introduces into the ‘performance of gender ‘ is “ performativity ” , the impression that words have associated actions behind them ; words do non merely province a fact, they perform an action, furthermore Butler ‘s contention is that without linguistic communication there would be no ‘gender ‘ , ‘gender ‘ would be meaningless. To understand this statement is to understand that Butler troubles the impression non merely of sex as biological male/female, but besides the societal building of sex/’gender ‘ .

In speech production of the societal building of ‘gender ‘ Butler argues that biological ‘sex ‘ is non what constructs ‘gender ‘ ; in being biologically ‘female ‘ it should non follow that ‘gender ‘ is besides ‘female ‘ . In Butler ‘s words “ Assuming for the minute the stableness of binary sex, it does non follow that the building of ‘men ‘ will accrue entirely to the organic structures of males or that ‘women ‘ will construe merely female organic structures ” ( Butler, J. 1999 p.10 ) . In this Butler goes a small manner to admit ‘male ‘ and ‘female ‘ organic structures but challenges that these organic structures will be ‘men ‘ and ‘women ‘ severally. For Butler it is ‘gendered linguistic communication ‘ that creates ‘gender ‘ .

As an illustration we can look at an event go oning every few seconds all over the universe, the birth of a babe. Butler would reason that this babe is merely that, a babe ; it has no gender individuality and despite its biological organic structure could be a ‘man ‘ or could be a ‘women ‘ . For Butler it is the linguistic communication used from its really first visual aspect into the universe that determines whether it will be a ‘man ‘ or a ‘woman ‘ ; for illustration the really first vocalization most common at a birth is “ praises, you have a beautiful babe male child ” . This vocalization, Butler would reason, performs an action, therefore Butler ‘s term “ performativity ” ; it is non merely a statement of fact, moreover it determines what color the baby’s room will be, what vesture will be bought and whether a ‘male ‘ name is given or ‘female ‘ name.

To utilize the illustration of Brandon Teena there is a peculiar sequence of scenes towards the beginning of the movie that see Brandon ice skating. He catches the oculus of a immature miss and before long they skate together. This leads on to traveling outside where they start to go intimate before the immature miss discovers that Brandon is in fact biologically ‘female ‘ . Brandon is so chased by a group of males back to a dawdler park where he is remaining with his brother and whilst concealing the group of males are shouting maltreatment. Brandon ‘s brother turns to him and says “ You ‘re a butch, why ca n’t you merely admit you ‘re a butch ” ( Pearce, K. 200 ) . In stating “ You ‘re a butch ” Brandon ‘s brother is non simply saying the perceived fact that Brandon ‘s a sapphic. Butler would reason that that statement performs actions ; what Brandon ‘s brother is truly stating is “ You are a sapphic, act like a sapphic. Date misss as a miss, frock as a miss and talk as a miss ” . In the same manner there are legion scenes in which Brandon ‘s new found friends would do remarks such as, “ You ‘re one snake pit of a cat ” or “ You ‘re one brainsick cat ” , and once more those statements would execute an action or actions, for Butler the noun ‘guy ‘ becomes the verb ‘guy ‘ . Clearly in these illustrations it could be argued that ‘gendered linguistic communication ‘ determines individuality ; without linguistic communication gender would so be meaningless, in Butler ‘s words “ performativity must be understood non as a singular or consider “ act, ” but, instead, as the reiterative and citational pattern by which discourse produces the effects that it names ” ( Butler, J. 1993 p.2 ) .

In decision I have shown that the thought of a biologically determined ‘gender ‘ is debatable outside of the context of the binary sex theoretical account ; sex does non equal ‘gender ‘ . If we take Goffman ‘s statement the ‘self ‘ , or ‘gender individuality ‘ , is an consequence of public presentation ; the audience imputes a sense of ego as a consequence of public presentation. In my illustration I demonstrated that Brandon ‘s ‘gender individuality ‘ could be seen as the consequence of his public presentation as a adult male ; should his public presentation non hold been credited so it is likely that he would hold re-invented his sense of ‘self ‘ , his ‘gender individuality ‘ . Similar to Goffman ‘s contention Butler besides argues that ‘gender ‘ is ‘given ‘ to an single although non by crediting public presentation but in the more generalised ‘gendered linguistic communication ‘ of twenty-four hours to twenty-four hours talk about. To weave Butler ‘s statements into my illustration Brandon ‘s ‘gender ‘ was given to him foremost by his household as a ‘woman ‘ and so in his chosen ‘gender ‘ by his friends as a ‘man ‘ . This fluidness of gender, the ability to contrive ‘new ‘ gender classs, can be summed up by Butler as she explains “ … unresolved adjectives work retroactively to redefine the substantial individualities they are said to modify and, therefore, to spread out the substantial classs of gender to include possibilities that they antecedently excluded ” ( Butler, J. 1999 p.33 ) . In this Butler is mentioning to the manner in which ‘gender ‘ reinvents itself as new ‘labels ‘ or classs come into popular discourse such as homosexual, sapphic, bi-sexual, transgender, transsexual, transvestic, hermaphroditic and so on. The lone facet of ‘gender ‘ that can be clear for both Goffman and Butler is that ‘gender ‘ is simply an semblance ; the lone true fact is that we are all human.


  • Pierce, K. ( Director ) . ( 2000 ) . Boys Do n’t Cry [ Motion Picture ] . United States: Hart-Sharp Entertainment. [ Review of the gesture image ‘Boys Do n’t Cry ] Retrieved 2nd May 2008 from hypertext transfer protocol: // filmid=132 & A ; s=3 & A ; n=3
  • Elliott, A. ( 2007 ) . Concepts Of The Self. Second Edition. Cambridge: Civil order.
  • Goffman, E. ( 1959 ) . The Presentation Of Self In Everyday Life. London: Penguin.
  • Butler, J. ( 1993 ) . Bodies That Matter: On The Discursive Limits Of “ Sex ” . London: Routledge.
  • Butler, J. ( 1999 ) . Gender Trouble: Tenth Anniversary Addition. London: Routledge.

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