International Women’s Day is coming up and I’ve been invited to give the Aletta Jacobs lecture at the Stadium Generale, University of Groningen on March 7. And who is Aletta Jacobs? you might ask (as I did). ”She was the first female student (in 1871) to enrol in one of the universities in the Netherlands, the Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen and the first female physician. This lecture focuses on themes around the position of women and takes place on/around International Women’s Day (the 8th of March). To give you an idea, former speakers include; El Sadaawi, Buchi Emecheta, Germaine Greer and Lisa Appignanesi.”
My lecture is titled: Women Performing Men – An Exploration in Gender Roles. Description below and I will also be selling copies of my book, Sex, Drag and Male Roles: Investigating Gender as Performance, co-authored by Stephen Bottoms and published by University of Michigan Press:
…. and if you can make it to the Stadium Generale here is the info: http://studium.hosting.rug.nl
Have you ever wondered when observing men in your surroundings how men “get away” with certain behaviours that would be considered undesirable or socially unacceptable in women? What would happen if women intercepted their so-called “normal” female behaviour by adopting a male role, and thereby discovered new responses? Think about how that would change the process of buying a car – as a woman, it is generally assumed that you know nothing about cars, and car dealers generally reflect that attitude.
What distinguishes ‘maleness’? In the eyes of most it is probably still the penis and yet men do not go around flashing their members to legitimize their privileged status in the world! They rely on performative metonyms for their manhood, on markers of male masculinity.
As Diane Torr will demonstrate in her lecture-performance, Women Performing Men, all of these can be appropriated and performed equally well by women with a little rehearsal. Since 1990 Diane Torr has taught workshops around the world in which hundreds of ordinary women learn how to pass as men. This cultural subterfuge appeals to participants for many different reasons: personal confidence-building, sexual frisson, gender subversion, trans-curiosity, or simply the appeal of disguise and role play. Performing the role of a man creates the opportunity for women to discover new behaviours and expand the role of what it means to be a “woman”. How does it change you? And how does it change the ways others respond?
If you enjoyed this article please consider sharing it!