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“Gosh, Boy George, You Must Be Awfully Secure in Your Masculinity!”

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Presentation on theme: "“Gosh, Boy George, You Must Be Awfully Secure in Your Masculinity!”"— Presentation transcript:

1 “Gosh, Boy George, You Must Be Awfully Secure in Your Masculinity!”
from Constructing Masculinity Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick 1995

2 Boy George

3 Sedgwick’s Key Move #1: Sometimes Masculinity Has Got Nothing To Do With It
“As a woman, I am a consumer of masculinities but I am not more so than men are; and, like men, I as a woman am also a producer of masculinities and a performer of them” (p. 13). It is clear what castration signifies for men (threat to masculinity), but what castration means for women is ambiguous and complicated.

4 Sedgwick’s Key Move #2: Masculinity and Femininity are in Many Respects Orthogonal to Each Other
Orthogonal: “instead of being at opposite poles of the same axis they’re actually in different perpendicular dimensions and therefore are independently variable” (p ). “…not only are some people more masculine or more feminine than others, but some people are just plain more gender-y than others-whether the gender they manifest be masculine, feminine, both, or ‘and then some’” (p. 16).

5 Sedgwick’s Key Move #3: Masculinity and Femininity are Threshold Effects
“What emerged over time, however, as I learned to read myself and to read other women’s (and indeed men’s) responses to my bodily habitus in a somewhat more subtle and differentiated way…that what I had become visible as was (no big surprise here), quite femme” (p. 18) Sedgwick states that the progression from feminine to femme seems to get interrupted by the concept of butch. How does this work? What does the “gradation” from feminine to femme look like?

6 Sedgwick’s Key Move #4: In Masculinity/Femininity, a Dynamic of Self-Recognition Mediates Between Essentialism and Free Play “…about trying to find, not a middle ground, but a ground for describing and respecting the inertia, the slowness, the process that mediates between, on the one hand, the biological absolutes of what we always are (more or less) and, on the other hand, the notional free play that we constructivists are always imagined to be attributing to our own and other people’s sex-and-gender self-presentation” (p.18).

7 Mixing Sedgwick’s Voice into the Conversation
Like Foucault, her work deals with epistemology (how we come to know what we know) via discourse analysis. Like Butler, she explores how binary logic influences the production and maintenance of gender. Sedgwick’s work is foundational for thinkers such as Reeser, Rubin, and Halberstam in terms of troubling the concept of masculinity (and gender more broadly).

8 Analysis Limitations of mainly using personal experience. How does personal experience complicate theoretical research? She relies upon her own cancer narrative, which evokes pathos/sympathy in the reader. This is clearly a rhetorical move that makes it quite difficult to disagree with Sedgwick. Sedgwick plays with the idea of an axiom in her piece as the axioms she describes are literally self-evident (she uses personal experience as a lens to examine masculinity). She also uses the idea of axioms as “universally accepted rules.” She declares that she is proposing axioms, while at the same time she is clearly presenting complicated (and not universally accepted) notions about masculinity and gender. She is using the kind of language that often remains unquestioned to denaturalize blanket statements about gender.

9 Analysis Also concerning her use of language, we think “gender-y” is a fabulous term that helps to detach masculinity from men while illuminating the intricacies of masculinity and femininity. She uses Foucault’s discursive framework for examining epistemology and translates it to lesbian and gay studies. “Gosh, Boy George…” functions as an extension of “Epistemology of the Closet” (1990) in that Sedgwick is continuing to explore the possibilities for how to think about specific problems concerning gender (particularly in a “universalizing” context).


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