Thursday, October 16, 2014

G is for Gender Bending

Today G is for gender bending, also known as genderfuck (I hope my readers will forgive the obscenity, I don’t name these things).  A gender bender is a person on who rebels against gender norms and expectations, usually as a form of activism against restrictive gender roles.  This is usually done by exaggerating masculine and feminine traits to the level of parody.  It is gender performativity at its most blatant.
The common image of gender bending is of a burly, heavy set man with a full beard, wearing a dress, makeup and heels.  Because clothing is still such a part of gender presentation, it is usually the key part of a gender bending performance.  Unlike a cross dresser or drag artist, the goal is to confuse gender markers, not appear as the sex other than the one you were born as.  Androgynous people may be seen as a more subtle form of gender bending, but is usually not a form of activism.  There is also a growing trend among liberal parents to intentionally give their children toys and clothing that are gender neutral, or toys for both genders.  They are trying to prevent their children from forming sexist preconceived notions of gender and are essentially practicing gender bending.

I think in some ways intersex is kind of a biological form of gender bending.  Intersex is not necessarily political, but it can be, and we are often used in gender identity politics debates.  Like the gender benders, mainstream society also finds us disturbing because we transgress gender expectations.  No matter our politics or identity, we force the mainstream to rethink gender norms which is the goal of the gender bender.  A world with fewer gender expectations would certainly be good for intersex people.  Should we embrace gender bending?  Leave comments and let me know what you think.      

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