Friday, November 07, 2008

Performativity, Gender, and Nora Ephron Movies


I promise, no "duhs." The gender overcompensation thing reminded me of this post on high femme as a form of lesbian gender identity. For those too lazy to click, it's defined as:
Lesbian or queer gender marked marked by a highly stylized and aestheticized form of femme gender expression or identity. Uses exaggeration, artifice, and/or theatricality to denaturalize femininity. When combined with parody or irony, the effect achieved is akin to drag: femininity in quotes. No particular style of dress or external signifiers; may or may or may not wear dresses, heels, and/or makeup. May or may not be a “bottom” or a “top” in a sexual situation; may or may not partner with butches, studs, or stone butches. No particular personality traits. May be passive and demure or aggressive, independent, strong, etc. Not equivalent to a lipstick lesbian or stone femme. *
The part about how it's not marked by any particular external signifiers or personality traits seems a little confusing (how, then, does one place someone within the taxonomic category?), but the notion of "femininity in quotes" drew me in.

But: is it really kosher to appropriate the term to describe het female behavior? Is my (our?) love of knitting, baking, cooking, fashion, and other traditional feminine preoccupations actually ironic or theatrical? As any reader of the sidebar knows, I embrace the notion of the performativity of self, and I'm wryly aware of the contrast between being a working girl with a high value of time and my embrace of incredibly inefficient handcrafting. But does that get you there? I am suspicious that it amounts to mostly swipple/hipsterishness in the final analysis, which is depressing.

I just re-watched When Harry Met Sally the other day, and it's amazing how much better it is than the rest of the Ephron oeuvre, and how well it's aged. I don't think you're out of line to be cautious about the mingling of male friends. You never know when bizarre overcompetitiveness will emerge (note: board games are especially conducive to the expression of otherwise sublimated animosity), and who wants their shindigs disrupted with a bunch of simian chest-thumping? And it's entirely possible that some of that's over you, my dear. Everyone loves Belle! Even non-sexualized relationships can be prone to jealousy.

On man-children, and media representations thereof: highly deprecated, if only because emotional adolescents of any age are whiny and annoying. But a lot of the woman/man-child dynamic seems to revolve around the need to whip a guy into shape so he can be a good father, and if you're not interested in procreation the need to give up particular kinds of freedom seems less urgent. Am I doomed to be perceived as an eternal woman-child, pottering on my blog and in my kitchen? What manifestations of maturity are really important? If a guy is self-supporting and relatively self-actualized, what more should one ask for? At a certain point, it's more ticking off check-boxes due to social pressure and less about what is necessary to meet the emotional needs in a relationship.
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