☆☆☆ "Appropriate & subvert the patriarchal semiotic hegemony of the hetero-normative dyad!" ☆☆☆

Monday, December 28, 2015

Forum Post -- "Gender Theory"

-- Not polished, not very rigorous . . . Probably will get "worked on" down the discursive road. 

Seems like the blogs linked from this forum address gender theory. Seems like this forum is younger, less theoretical, more trendy. Already I've pissed off someone in these forums, but they don't state why (the gender neutral singular "they").

Let's stir by raising the issue that maybe Blanchard is right? Autogynephilia is about "fetish" . . . Blanchard seems to have the mechanics of the paradigm accurately parsed out, but it's all part of sexual diversity --


Let's toss out a simple analogy. Let's assert that we as part of the human condition might wish to emulate those things we find admirable, attractive. I find eagles are pretty astonishing. I recently watched one snag a fish out of the local creek. I've watched mated pairs flying together. I very much would like to be an eagle. Simple as that.

Now . . . women . . . I'm hetero-sexual, cis-M. I find women attractive, on all sorts of planes, in all sorts of realms.

Besides the universals of the human condition, there's a distinction in the species according to "sex" -- physiological disposition with the capacity to form pair-bonds and reproduce. We have two sexes: cis-F and cis-M. Let's assert here (Michael Foucault, "History of Sexuality") for speculation and inquiry that the natural, curious human condition might fundamentally speculate what it might mean to be the other sex. (Sex, not gender.) This is not "pathological" but rather a normal dimension of human sexuality. Maybe a minority experience, but nonetheless part of human diversity in ontological expression.

Let's think about this . . . "What it might be like to be the other sex."

We find the other sex attractive, sexually attractive as a function of reproduction and perpetuation of the species. This attraction is innate, sex drive. Imagine, speculate here -- one is sexually involved with the opposite sex in one capacity or another -- relationship, courting, seeking -- and as a compassionate, empathetic human being it is altogether necessary and appropriate to consider how that other person in the relationship (pair bonding) might feel, what it might be like to be that person with that other person's sexuality, with that other person's ontological perspective.

Husserl speculates about the phenomenology of the "other" in metaphysics, that the being of the subject is determined by the phenomenological perception of the predicate "other." We are "always already" subject and predicate. Dr. Judith Butler, Ph.D. (UC, Berkeley), seemingly citing everyone, notes that our being is an historical entity, that we present our being through time. Butler further asserts that this temporal being is fluid.

Getting down to the nit and the grit -- sex is physiological. Everything else about gender differentiation is socio-cultural. Since there is a great deal of socio-cultural outcome riding on functional sexual reproduction (species perpetuation),  socio-cultural constructs impose a great deal of hetero-normative regulation around the whole process of reproduction and rearing progeny. We have moral/ethical considerations about sexual behavior which become codified in law, religious doctrine, cultural convention. This conceptual paradigm is what Butler refers to as "the hetero-normative dyad." Fundamentally, the dyad is cis-F and cis-M having cis babies. Arguably, everything else is laid out on a continuum specifying things like "normative" . . . recreational, reproductive, pathological, unlawful .  . .

Blanchard insists that men who want to be women are "pathological" -- in the sense, according to his argument -- that there is present in these individuals an "erotic target error."

If we view human sexual expression as infinitely diverse, varied, imaginative per Michael Foucault, then imagining oneself as being the opposite sex is all part of the infinite erotic narrative, perhaps a minority view but not pathological. "Dysphoria" is not so much an internal pathological state as it is a dissonant adaptation to the socio-cultural constraints which mediate and censure the behavioral expression of these feelings. Gender expression and the free expression of one's internalized ontological self is fundamentally suppressed, oppressed as a means of regulating sex. Sex is a passionately sensitive issue and needs some regulation -- if society is to appropriately regulate sexual predators and pre-teen pregnancy, etc. We shouldn't need to mention issues of homo and trans phobia. Sex is sensitive and highly constrained, regulated.

Currently, in this ongoing theoretical discourse, I'm finding myself seeking an authentic, integrated ID, not on the one end or other of the normative dyad. I'm cis-M. "Passing" as cis-F is an interesting idea, but then I realize that for me cis-F "femme" is as stereotypically polar as a lot of the cis-M "macho" stereotype. We have a lot of stereotype cis-M here "Cammo, Carhartts, Romeos -- and a Ford F-150 with "dualies,"  headache guard, and cab clearance lights. That's one pole of the normative dyad. The other pole of the dyad doesn't work for me either.

No simple solutions to all this. A personal gender ID is "historical" -- meaning it's fluid, unfixed, inchoate. Fluid and developmental, but seemingly integrated, integral, and not subject to severe swings between one gender presentation and another. The ontological question I pose every morning as I dress to present to the world, "Does this work, and is it authentically me?"

Monday, December 21, 2015

Post Modern Commodification & The Genderfication of Sexual Marketing

More jeux de mots . . . "genderfication" a Derridian differance from "gentrification."

Sex sells.

Ten minutes watching television tells you this. Sex drives sales. Sex drive sells.

Let us propose from empirical observation  (TV viewing), that the marketing of sex is founded on the hetero-normative dyad, and moreover that the extremes poles of the dyad are potentially the most marketable. "Sexy" would seemingly be the presentation at each end of the hetero normative dyad. We suggest this quantification based on theories of perception in fine art: Contrast provides the most visual impact. Ergo, that sexual presentation which most contrasts from the other sexual presentation should be the most marketable.

Clearly on the one hand, contrasting sexual icons is the key to marketing sexual desire, and accordingly product consumption of some sort.

On the other hand, marketing sexual icons is part and parcel of the discursive process generating gender presentation semes. These semes -- gender role models -- commodify gender presentation, making it a product to be marketed, commodified, bought and sold, consumed.

A cursory inquiry into the history of the skirt will disclose that "rectangular pieces of fabric wrapped around the body, unbifurcated for the legts,  have been historically worn by both men and women. The toga of Rome was the same piece of fabric worn differently by each gender. The sari of India is worn so as to indicate gender, social class, regional origin (and gender specific to cis-F) . . .


Any Scot will explain to you that a kilt is not a "skirt," that there are gender markers in the way a kilt is worn. The robe style attire worn in the Middle East is gender marked. Similar styles of clothing worn by both sexes in our culture (e.g. pants, shirts, jackets . . . ) contain gender markers if one knows what to look for.

Last time I checked, a few weeks ago, the US fashion industry was a $178.42 billion annual industry.

Let us suggest here that women's clothing is by and large marketed as "sexy."  Men's clothing is marketed for the most part as "practical" or "functional." Most men don't intentionally wear clothes that are marketed as "sexy." (Men seem more sold on patriarchal power and control.) Women wear clothes that are marketed as "sexy" -- but women also have options for functional, practical clothing, likely because clothing is socially mandated and a great deal of "sexy" clothing is impractical, if not just plain downright ludicrous. The "sexy" / "patriarchal" marketing set is about power and control.

And so . . . clothing is socially mandated. Clothing is a commodity, but also a gender seme laden cultural artifact.  "Clothes make the man." This marketing pitch has ontological implications. Accordingly, clothing affords gender presentation while concurrently serving as a marketing commodity which promotes gender stereotypes -- the genderfication of sexual marketing.

In the hetero-normative dyad Weltanschauung, the genderfication of sexual marketing may serve to facilitate pair bonding, sexual union, reproduction, perpetuation of the species . . . all those crucial metaphysical functions. By the same token, ("All readings are mis-readings."), this gender marketing of clothing very much problematizes the gender identity of the non-hetero normative.

Arguably too, this sexual marketing very much set up unrealistic expectations, marketed as performance "norms" as regards what it means in contemporary culture to be a sexual being. Anorexia and sex-role body ideals for young women would be one of the more egregious examples.

What it means to be a sexual being is mediated by law, religion, social convention, discursive function and the heuristic of the interpretive community. We have laws regarding who may and may not marry. Religions exclude and condemn the non-hetero dyadic amongst us. Social convention legitimates the transvestite on stage, but not the same transvestite on the bus.

We've asserted this before: I don't do "macho" and I don't do "en femme." Fundamentally, politically, post-modernly we do not buy into, we do actively resist and subvert the media marketing "massage" (Marshall McLuhan).

"Appropriate and subvert the patriarchal semiotic hegemony of the hetero-normative dyad."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sexist A Priori & Radical Feminological Ontology

Nobody reads this shit . . . Updated 12/21/15 Winter Solstice

Phenomemological, Feminological -- It's a play on words, jeux de mots, think Derrida and "differance."

Inquiry: "Is physiological sex difference a sort of a priori knowledge, or ontological state?" 


A Priori Justification and Knowledge 

First published Sun Dec 9, 2007; substantive revision Mon May 19, 2014

A priori justification seems to rest on rational intuitions, or insights, but there are a variety of views about the nature of these intuitions or insights. There are different explanations of how these intuitions provide justification, if they do. Some philosophers do not see a priori justification as resting on any evidence, either experiential or nonexperiential, and so not resting on rational intuitions or insights at all. Their idea is that in some circumstances it can be default reasonable for a person to accept a proposition, or that the person is entitled to accept certain presuppositions independent of any evidence. Of course, there are also many objections to the idea that there can be a priori justification. Finally, rationalists think that there can be a priori justification and knowledge of the world while empiricists deny this.

Because most philosophers believe that knowledge requires justification, it is widely thought that a priori knowledge is just a special kind of knowledge, namely, knowledge that is based solely on a priori justification. That makes the notion of a priori justification central, and that is why I will focus this discussion on that notion. I will make only a few remarks about a priori knowledge at the end of this essay. The following list indicates the topics that will be presented and addressed.


Let's posit that sex is a priori knowledge. Sex is fundamentally instinctual. Sex drive is fundamental to the human condition.

A new-born infant is arguably a discrete physiological entity distinguished and categorized according to one feature: Reproductive capacity/function. This new-born functions in the reproductive capacity of either "male" or "female." And we're absolutely, categorical about the nexus between sexual physiology and reproductive function.

And so we might conceivably assert that sex is instinctual behavior, innate, determined by anatomical physiology, and arguably a form of a priori knowledge.



First published Sun Nov 16, 2003; substantive revision Mon Dec 16, 2013
Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions.

Phenomenology as a discipline is distinct from but related to other key disciplines in philosophy, such as ontology, epistemology, logic, and ethics. Phenomenology has been practiced in various guises for centuries, but it came into its own in the early 20th century in the works of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and others. Phenomenological issues of intentionality, consciousness, qualia, and first-person perspective have been prominent in recent philosophy of mind.

In philosophy, qualia (/ˈkwɑːliə/ or /ˈkweɪliə/; singular form: quale) are individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. The term "qualia" derives from the Latin neuter plural form (qualia) of the Latin adjective quālis (Latin pronunciation: [ˈkwaːlis]) meaning "of what sort" or "of what kind").


Let's argue here that phenomenologically, sex is directed toward the intentionality of perpetuation of the species. (Never mind that there seems a great deal of recreational intent associated with sex. At bottom, sex is about reproduction and the instinctual knowledge [sex drive] to reproduce.)


We're getting in over our head here . . .


The Distinction Between Innate and Acquired Characteristics

First published Tue Aug 4, 2009
The idea that some characteristics of an organism are explained by the organism's intrinsic nature, whilst others reflect the influence of the environment is an ancient one. It has even been argued that this distinction is itself part of the evolved psychology of the human species. The distinction played an important role in the history of philosophy as the locus of the dispute between Rationalism and Empiricism discussed in another entry in this encyclopedia. This entry, however, focuses on twentieth-century accounts of the innate/acquired distinction. These accounts have for the most part been inspired by the sciences of mind and behaviour.

Innateness must be clearly distinguished from heritability, at least in the scientific sense of that term. The idea that heritability scores measure the degree to which a characteristic is innate is a vulgar fallacy. Heritability is a statistical measure of the sources of individual differences in a population. While heritability itself is well understood, its relationship to the innate/acquired distinction remains highly controversial.

The belief that a trait is innate is today commonly expressed by saying it is ‘in the genes’. But genes play an essential role in the production of every trait. Consequently, it will not do to say simply that innate traits are ‘caused by genes’ whilst acquired traits are ‘caused by the environment’. Any relationship between genetic causation and the innate/acquired distinction will be far more complex than this.

Recent philosophical analyses of the innate/acquired distinction can be classified into four types:

The first identifies innate traits with those characteristic of an entire species and identifies acquired traits with those that vary between populations and individuals.

A second type of analysis identifies innate traits with those that can be explained by natural selection.

The third, and currently the most influential, identifies innate traits with those produced by a particular patterns of interaction between genes and environment.

A fourth, quite different, type of analysis suggests that labelling a trait ‘innate’ is a way to indicate that it lies outside the domain of psychology.

Finally, there is a tradition of scepticism about the innate/acquired distinction. Sceptics argue that it confounds a number of distinctions that are better kept separate, or, perhaps equivalently, that there is no one property of a trait that corresponds to its being innate.

We probably need not, for our purposes here, refine the philosophical distinctions between innate behavior and instinctual knowledge. Sex drive is innate. Sexual behavior is learned.

Sexual behavior is an amalgam of innate sexual drive and a socially constructed behavioral paradigm which mediates sexual discourse. Insofar as the agents of sexual behavior entail some sort of "discursive intercourse" with another (Husserl's "phenomenological other"), sexual behavior is mediated in order that the participatory agents might be afforded a necessary (nontheless lawfully conditional) measure of sexual autonomy.

These "mediations" with regard to sexual autonomy include religious, legal, statutory, social constraints.  By virtue of biological destiny, these mediations, social conventions, "rules" . . . are most essentially configured as the "hetero-normative dyad."

The hetero-normative dyad holds the default position as a mediating agent because and insofar as it is the sexual union configuration which begets offspring -- thereby perpetuating the species. All this sexual union and reproduction seems arguably a sort of a priori teleological outcome of the hetero-normative dyad.

Phenomenology and Ontology, Epistemology, Logic, Ethics

The discipline of phenomenology forms one basic field in philosophy among others. How is phenomenology distinguished from, and related to, other fields in philosophy?
Traditionally, philosophy includes at least four core fields or disciplines: ontology, epistemology, ethics, logic. Suppose phenomenology joins that list. Consider then these elementary definitions of field:
  • Ontology is the study of beings or their being — what is.
  • Epistemology is the study of knowledge — how we know.
  • Logic is the study of valid reasoning — how to reason.
  • Ethics is the study of right and wrong — how we should act.
  • Phenomenology is the study of our experience — how we experience.
The domains of study in these five fields are clearly different, and they seem to call for different methods of study.

Philosophers have sometimes argued that one of these fields is “first philosophy”, the most fundamental discipline, on which all philosophy or all knowledge or wisdom rests. 

Historically (it may be argued), Socrates and Plato put ethics first, then Aristotle put metaphysics or ontology first, then Descartes put epistemology first, then Russell put logic first, and then Husserl (in his later transcendental phase) put phenomenology first. (emphasis added)


We have epistemological ontologies -- "How we know what is" How we know our "being."

We have phenomonological ontologies -- "How we experience what is." How we experience our "being."

The distinction between epistemologies and phenomenologies  is pretty nit-picky. The existential question being: "How do we know and experience our being?" How do we know and experience our personal identity?

Sex difference may be biologically determined, a sort of innate physiological a priori state of sexual knowledge. The physiological disposition is fixed. The resulting behavioral outcomes are socio-culturally mediated. The mediating agents in this discursive performance are semantic, linguistic, and accordingly subject to the inherent linguistic ambiguities and arbitrarality of the signified/signifier relationship.

This discursive schema is subject to post-structuralist deconstruction. Signifiers are arbitrary and culturally derived. It is this assertion of arbitrary signification which problematizes the semiotics, heuristics, discursive narratives, which throws into a contingent state the discourse of sex. This "discourse of mate selection, sexual union, pair bonding, discourse of sex," thereby opens
its expressive potentials to an infinitude of poetical transcendence.

The dyad denotation of "sex" transmogrifies into the connotative nuance of "gender" and gender expression. Gender expression is a posteriori knowledge, socio-culturally determined, and like everything semiotic, subject to mis-readings per Jacques Derrida.

Ultimately, how we experience "sex" is linguistically, post-structurally determined through a veil of arbitrary semiotic signification. What we experience phenomenologically  is a discursive expression [performance] of gender [not sex]. The performance of gender may be ontologically grounded in the a priori physiological dyad of cis-M and cis-F "sex" -- but ultimately the performance or presentation of gender is some several removes (Plato's cave) from the physiologically determined "sex" of the subject.

Sex is a physiologically determined ontological state.

The gender expression of sex -- gender performance -- is in some sense mediated by the underlying ontological "sex" of the subject. The presentation (performatives) of gender as an ontological state is semantically mediated . . . and subject to deconstruction, mis-reading, and ultimately subversion when our interpretation of the discourse discloses frames, structures, paradigms, schema, which are for one reason or another "problematic."

From a radical feminist perspective, what is "problematic" about gender expression is that it is fundamentally a patriarchal semiotic hegemony. As regards the hierarchy of human concerns, sex and perpetuation of the species seemingly tops the list. The discourse we engage in day-to-day is heavily freighted with sexual allusion. We are capitalistically motivated, and sex sells . . .

With regard to our existential state as human beings, with regard to who we are and how we perform,  maybe we need to reconsider and re-define precisely what it is we're talking about? 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Masculinities, Performativity, and Subversion:

Let's post this link . . .


Having only skimmed the abstract; which contains all my essential buzz words.

Chris Brickell lectures in gender studies and sociology at the University of Otago, New Zealand.
His published work in Gender, Place and Culture, Sexualities and Journal of Consumer Culture
examines sexuality, liberalism, and space, as well as postwar fashion and gendered bodies in New Zealand.

Associate Professor Chris Brickell
Dept. Sociology, Gender, Social Work 
BA(Hons) PhD(Well)
Gender Studies Co-ordinator
Research Interests
The connections between sexuality, gender and identity, drawing on sociological and historical approaches. Other interests include consumer culture, cultural politics, citizenship, and the history of adolescence.
I am continuing my work on the history of male same-sex sexuality and intimacy in New Zealand, with more journal articles in the pipeline. A new project explores the cultural history of adolescence and young adulthood in New Zealand between 1800 and 1965. This book, under contract with Auckland University Press, is provisionally titled 'Teenagers: A New Zealand History'. Further details of my research projects can be found at www.brickell.co.nz.
GEND 102 Bodies, Sexualities and Selves
GEND 206/ 306 Gender, Work and Consumer Culture
GEND 207/ 307 Masculinities
GEND 401 Debates in Gender and Sexuality
Brickell, C. (2012). Manly affections: The photographs of Robert Gant, 1885-1915. Dunedin, New Zealand: Genre Books, 207p.
Brickell, C. (2008). Mates & lovers: A history of gay New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: Random House, 430p.
Brickell, C. (2013). On the case of youth: Case files, case studies, and the social construction of adolescence. Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, 6(1), 50-80. doi: 10.1353/hcy.2013.0006
Stock, P. V., & Brickell, C. (2013). Nature's good for you: Sir Truby King, Seacliff Asylum and the greening of health care in New Zealand, 1889–1922. Health & Place, 22, 107-114. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2013.03.002
Brickell, C. (2012). Queens Gardens, 1949: The anxious spaces of post-war New Zealand masculinity. New Zealand Geographer, 68(2), 81-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7939.2012.01231.x

Masculinities, Performativity, and Subversion: A Sociological Reappraisal

Chris Brickell, Ph.D.
University of Otago, New Zealand

The study of masculinities has not escaped the influence of Judith Butler’
s writings on gender, performativity, and subversion. However, this article suggests that Butler’s
formulations of performativity and subversion express a lack of clarity and engender a
number of problems with respect to agency, action, interaction, and social change. This
article argues for reformulating performativity and subversion in a more explicitly sociological frame to render the concepts more useful for examining agency and subjectivity in the study of masculinities. The writings of Erving Goffman suggest ways to reclaim the socially constructed agency of “performance” from the mire of “performativity,” with
the latter’s apparent disappearance of subjective action. This article suggests reworking
subversion away from parody and resignification toward a consideration of resources for
subjectivity and challenges to prevailing social structures. In this way, performativity
and subversion may be set more convincingly within a sociologically informed study of masculinity.

Key words:
Judith Butler; Erving Goffman; performance; performativity; subversion;
hegemonic masculinity; sociology

Judith Butler’s writings on gender, performativity, and subversion have
by now attained a wide purchase across a number of humanities and social science disciplines, and the study of masculinities is no exception. For example, Butler’s theorizing has been explored in studies of the anxieties induced by the continual and forcible production of masculinity within social interaction

(Buchbinder 1998), alcohol consumption in the construction of rural masc-
ulinities (Campbell 2000), young men’s language use and conversational
styles (D. Cameron 1997), the development of heterosexual identities by
young men at school (Redman 2001), and masculinity and masochism in
cultural production (Savran 1998).

Author’s Note:
For many suggestions and discussions on earlier versions of this article,
I am grateful to Marny Dickson, Myra Hird, Mo Rahman, Philip Knight, Thérèse Quin, Rebecca
Stringer, and Ben Taylor. Two anonymous referees also provided a number of very thoughtful and
helpful comments.

It may be that as it stands, Butler’s theorizing of performativity and sub-
version proves rather more well-suited to literary analysis than to socia
l theory. One might investigate how particular texts interpellate masculinit
y, femininity, and heterosexuality or homosexuality and may or may not subvert t
he logics of prevalent symbolic forms and conventions. Following the “cultural
turn,” it has been implied that strategies for reading texts may be employed in reading social life more generally. Once we concern ourselves with agency, action, interaction, and institutionalized social practices, however, the inadequacy of a culturalist perspective becomes apparent (Edwards 1998).

At the root of some of the trouble lies the question of agency and subjectivity. Butler’s writing displays a range of responses to this question. Performativity generally refers to the discursive mode through which the acting subject is installed. In places, there is “no doer behind the deed” but merely an illusion of a subject constituted by discourse. Agency, including subjective performances of gender, is disallowed. Elsewhere, the subject comes into view and appears to possess a real existence on some level and occasionally exercises varying degrees of agency.

I have argued that we need to move beyond such ambiguity toward an
understanding of performance informed by Goffman’s writing. Performances are always performed by some one(s), although those ones’ selves are reflexively constructed with reference to others and to the symbolic resources provided by the surrounding culture and social structures. The
capacity for action does not depend on a self that is already fully existent, so
our sense of ourselves as gendered in particular ways is both constituted and
constituting simultaneously. In this way, we can reclaim the social action and
interaction central to the notion of gender performance without slipping
back into essentialist assumptions about the performers. Meanwhile, we can draw
on Butler’s writing as we investigate how particular constructions of gender
are systematically taken as authentic and immutable and, subsequently, ontologically privileged on that basis.

While Butler’s account of subversion includes various constellations of parody, repetition, resignification, displacement, and destabilization, it is rather impressionistic. The omission of an account of social action and structure allows no real understanding about the contexts and constraints under which subversion might take place. Instead, if we understand the symbolic
in terms of the cultural resources and materials with which selves are constructed, we can explore its influence on subjectivity, action, interaction, and social structure. The possibility of subversion arises within the dynamic interplay of these aspects of social life, where each influences the others.

Strategic breakages or disruptions in the recursive chains linking subjectivity, social structure, action, and social interaction may effect what we can call subversion, and in this sense, we might talk of subversive performance. Meaningful subversion of dominant forms of masculinity will remain difficult, given their privileging within current social arrangements. However, fissures within hegemonic patterns do permit acts and cultural forms that leave the way open for a reconfiguring of selves and their contexts, initially at the microlevel of society. What we do in our own particular social settings
may be capable of ultimately picking at loose threads in the tapestry of domination. There are varying politics at our disposal here, some of which may be said to be subversive

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Performative Acts & Gender Constitution

Judith Butler, Ph.D. UC Berkerley, Comparative Lit. / Gender Theory


"Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory" (1988)

This pdf is 11 pages, Butler's complete text, including some half-dozen typos. Let's view this essay as presumptive introductory reading . . .

Starting with Descartes' epistemological ontology: "Cogito ergo sum." Being is founded in thought. This "being" would be an internal dialogue, a narrative with oneself about one's existential state. The metaphysical product in this paradigm is an internalized sense of self.

What about the externalized sense of self?

Let's argue here that the externalized sense of self is an ongoing, historical performance on the part of the "actor" and a semiotic, heuristic performance conveyed to an "audience" comprised of the linguistic interpretive community. This linguistic/interpretive community engages discourse regarding "gender" according to the cultural "lingua franca" of gender comprehension. At bottom, the agents in this performance are literally talking gender.

Butler suggests, along with Searle,  Beauvoir, Foucault, Merleau-Ponty, Kristeva, etc. etc. etc. in rigorous academic iteration, that the "ontos" of identity is performative. Moreover, that the performance is an historical event. Butler describes this performance as "a present participle" -- the progressive, historical state of "being" rather than the fixed, static state of "to be." The upshot of this present participle state is that performance is ongoing, and accordingly fluid, variable -- and ultimately subject to "mis-readings," another historical present participle.

Butler suggests that the performance of self is a narrative fiction.  

Physically our "being" is marked by sex. in the linguistic sense of of a semiotic ontology, sex would be a grammatical inflection.  Biologically, the human form is -- with few exceptions -- divided (semiotically inflected) into cis-male and cis-female. This division is fundamental to the perpetuation and the survival of the species. The entirety of the sexual, reproductive process in humans is ineluctably bound up in socio-cultural convention, linguistic interpretive community, semantics, heuristics, and a great deal of proscription and ostracism of transgressors. Seemingly, this "grammatical inflection" of a physiologically distinct "difference" is heuristically consequential.

Derrida, in arguing "difference" suggests that difference, distinction, in narrative is problematic and subject to "mis-reading." Butler (above essay) notes that context functions in reading, One may applaud the performance of a "drag queen" on stage, but have a very different reaction to the same drag queen on public transportation. Heuristic context here plays a role in the interpretative "reading" of the historical performance. On stage, the context is "to suspend disbelief" but on the bus the context is one where the "performance" is read as a "fiction," and motive in the performance is called into question. Our interpretive communities (socio-cultural) have hegemonically oppressive edicts with regard to the strict grammar and conjugation of gender inflection. On stage the performance fits the cultural frame of propriety. On the bus, this same presentation is out of context and culturally proscribed as being outside the frame of the cultural regime.

The fundamental illusion of this fixed sexual dyad is that the categorical bifurcation of the sexes is a naturally occurring state, an illusion of static, a priori temporality. This culturally constructed edict of fixed sexual being is socially motivated by the valorization of kinship relations, incest taboo, normative heterosexual pair bonding, perpetuation of kinship structure, estates, legal, religious sanctions . . . This sexual "grammar" has strict rules. The culture is persuaded that this entire sexual schema is seamless, stable, and a priori derived.

Humans are a linguistically organized species, engaging every aspect of their being in an ongoing discourse of signifiers -- in all manner and form, verbal, visual, behavioral. We communicate our sexual status through a paradigm of signifiers. The relation of these signifiers to what they signify is culturally mediated. This although the interpretive community would like to  assert that these relationships are fixed, stable, and fundamentally essentialist. 

The resulting linguistic discourse is a performance of gender signification which is linguistically mediated, arbitrary, historical. Because gender signification is linguistic, semantic, the relationship between sex the signified and gender the signifier is in some limited cases fixed (genes, genitals, body hair . . . secondary sex features) but in most cases socio-culturally, linguistically organized and signified. This semantic paradigm of sexual signifiers is subject to mis-readings. This semantic paradigm is subject to appropriation and subversion, new readings, new interpretations, a poetics of innovative expression.

The social hegemony, which has a significant stake in  perpetuation of the species, asserts that these signifiers are essentialist, seamless, and fixed. And accordingly there are strong socio-cultural edicts proscribing transgression (pun intended) across what they hope to assert is the fixed, categorical boundary between the sexes.

But the boundaries are arbitrary, dimensional, subject to appropriation and subversion. "Hetero-normative" is but one narrow, too often categorical frame of sexual orientation and gender expression.

The performance of our gender is rigidly structured along categorical lines of a discrete [hetero-normative] dyad. The structure of this performance is dictated by genre -- in French, in literature "genre" is the typological heuristic structure of the semantic narrative form. "Genre" provides an interpretive function. As an interpretive community, we understand the structure of the narrative heuristic according to genre: Tragedy, everyone dies. Comedy, everyone gets married.

"Genre" in French is also the term for "gender" which is the typological heuristic structure of the semantic narrative form: in the case of one's role in reproduction, one's generic role in the perpetuation of the species, and finally in the semantics of performing the signification of one's ontological being. "Genre here informs the interpretation of the performance.

The fixity of these heuristics is in a very real sense oppressive. The discourse of gender results in gender stereotypes. Stereotypes are semantic structures which define genre, which provide a frame from which to comprehend the heuristic being communicated.  On the one hand, this social convention is safe. On the other hand, these putatively fixed, static, categorical genres are oppressive.  In this same sense, the genre of sexual expression sets out a rigidly hegemonic interpretive structure with mediating social proscriptions. Such proscriptions are no less than a censorship of expression.

When we censor expression, we deprive ourselves of poetical, semantic creativity, a dimensional wonderment about the human condition, about who we are as metaphysical entities, ineluctably ensconced in epistemology of our ontological performance.


Sex Determinatives, Cut/Paste -- Updated & Glossed

 Verbatum, cut/paste from email. -- This the whole point of a blog in the first place: Dialogical, rather than sililoquial.

--  Anonymous, nom de plume, alias, alter ego . . . Ca ne me fait rien du tout!

Update 12/14/15: glossed w/ commentary set off in italics, indented . . .


Here are some thoughts inspired by your latest.....

In the development of the world and the human race there was a time when there was no designation of male and female. Animals and humans copulated.  Eventually, the mind became mature enough to cognitively recognize certain differences.  We see that in ancient art and cave paintings.  The keys in certain locks, it came to be understood, was the means to produce offspring, but this only acknowledged that hetero-sexual (a label) congress produces a new being.  The role, the function of these two genders was not yet defined other than you (f) are the one that will bear the child.

And before you say it: the male role has always been defined by baser tendencies due to hormonal developments, consider the fact that estrogen can and probably was equally driving the female sex.  If females were not as aggressive as males the entire species wouldn't have survived!  Even today, women have been known to extremely aggressive, but society has tempered that aggression (and here it yet another word that conveys a negative perception of simply a person's strengths) through direction, expectation, limitation. And when a female portrays that aggression they gain the label of being too masculine, like aggression is only a trait that the male can possess. But long ago men and women worked to survive the world together, side by side, equal.  Tis why women are continually fighting to be recognized not as a gender but simply as a human being equally deserving of what the other aspect of their race receives.

                           -- Gender equality for sure. Fundamentals of sex-drive, perpetuation of species, but we can only speculate about inherent sexual behavior models.  At bottom, it seems to be working in the first order of agency, perpetuation of species.

Human being.  Being human.

That is the key.  Segregating, separating, dividing the human race into its genders, then defining the role of said genders perpetuates a whole host of issues that allow others to retain control over a society/culture.  You know this.  It is fear mongering at its worst.  (or if you are on the other side, at its best.) Religion is the source. People talk about faith, faith in an unknown male entity for the most part, but I say what the F*?! (and this may offend, but I am not afraid to do so.) Faith in a Man? Laws written by men?  All laws defining the roles, giving power of the male over the female. Brainwashing!  What are smart women doing following such bleatings that constrain their individuality?  And the same for men… Men are the victims of themselves.  They have constrained and defined so much what their roles should be that when it comes to not fitting they’ve dug their own psychological grave!

                     -- This is the inherent distinction between "sex" and "gender role." Gender role is ineluctably enmeshed in determinates of biology, hormones, sex drive, physicality (size, strength, muscle mass, child bearing/nursing). Some gender role is derived -- partially determined -- by physiology. Butler asserts that most gender role is "performative" and culturally, linguistically, heuristically derived.  Somewhere in the division of labor between the sexes, physicality trumped childbearing in terms of hegemonic privilege.

Why would the male of the species wish to contain females?  Jealousy?  Fear? A man will never possess the power to bear a child, but a woman cannot bear a child without the help of a male.  What is there to be jealous about? The power is equal it just is distributed differently. Dominance?  That is the behavior of someone who is afraid of going out and finding out who they are without being the center of someone’s attention, negatively or positively. And yes, I realize these are absolutes and people are not a mass of absolutes but a complex composite of so many influences.  But the influences are more negative, more constraining than they are uplifting and expansive.

                  --Foucault suggests that pair bonding, role relationships, filiality, incest taboo, inheritance, estates, marriage law, religious edicts all derive from the patriarchal need to establish paternity. Historically women were subjects: no vote, no property, no estate inheritance . . . 

Truly, why would a male want to be female? The female body does some damn disgusting things that a male’s does not.  When I learned what made me different from a boy, I was horrified.  Never did I want to experience that for most my life, a slave to biology. It creates a vulnerability that males, for the most part, don't think about.  (This is not to say men aren't sexually vulnerable.  They are, mores so when they are young, when their male traits are not so adamantly displayed.)  Because you were born male or female doesn’t mean you are obligated to procreate.  That is a socially defined action.

                 -- In my case personally it has to do with being sexually abused by a male sibling, and traumatic associations relating to male sexuality, male sexual physiology. That said, let us note -- Foucault again -- that sexuality is infinitely expressed. While there may be specific social edicts about "non normative" expression, even laws regarding "non hetero-normative" sexual behavior, the designation of any sexual behavior as "deviant" or "pathological" is a socio-cultural, semantic invention.

Why be female? So they can be justified in their desire to wear the proscribed clothing that are mostly designed by men for women?  Paint their faces?  So they can feel more comfortable with the feeling ...softer, for lack of a better term.  Won't call it feminine, for that too is a behavior and trait defined by the patriarchal branch of our species. I say screw the complexities.  They are shaped by social control. They make money for others and give power over to others. Be who you wake up each morning feeling like you are. I do.  The only time I pay attention to my female parts is when I have to go to the bathroom, around a host of men that have the potential to be violent, put on a bra, and decide today I won't shave my legs.  Why should I?  What a damn bother. If I want to have a child, I will.  I know how to do that.  (Have done that. Bearing a child, having your body betray you for years after….why would a man want that?) But most men don’t want the full magilla-gorilla when it comes to their perception of being female.

                          -- Again, Foucault . . . et al. Motive is arbitrary,  fluid, infinitely variable, culturally constructed. Intentionality is arbitrary and "always already a mis-reading" (Derrida).

Don’t you think they are just seeking permission to be the self they feel they are?  We need a revolution of thought and understanding.  All these people trying to define that, categorize that, making jobs, making money, controlling…Just be and accept that Being in others, so long as it doesn’t physically hurt you or someone else.  

And screw anyone that can't accept your individuality.

                          -- Today's post, "Masculinities, Performativity, and Subversion" by C., Bickell addresses social behaviors that might subvert "macho" rural male sex role stereotypes. On a more personal plane, I simply encounter a great deal of angst navigating sex-role expectations with regard to setting, describing, negotiating sexual relationships. Some of us chose to be actively engaged in the sexual quest. Some of us chose, desire, are motivated to disengage -- and accordingly drop from our behavioral repertoire the more egregious signifiers of sexual pursuit, 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Trans-Ontologically Moi . . .

This stuff is RECREATIONALLY LAWFUL in this state, in the state to the north. We find that it helps with the PTSD, helps with whatever sort of "gender dysphoria" happens to come along, not that we feel particularly "pathological" for the most part . . .

Now that we have your attention . . .

"Woman trapped in a man's body." -- This seems to be the trope. "Somewhere in my fetal development, my brain got all awash in some sort of female ontological hormone bath, and it's different than the earlier stages of my fetal development which determines the physiology of my genitalia." -- Or words to that effect.

We're not quite sure what "gender feelings" are, how they work. I mean I've always felt this way, always been "me" behind the eyeballs. (The classical Greek trope that "eyes are the gateway to the soul.") I wonder what cis-F people feel like behind their eyeballs. I wonder how much different they feel than what I feel.

This inquiry alludes to DesCartes, "Cogito ergo sum,"  Kant, Critiques . . . Post-Structuralists and "all readings are mis-readings" (J. Derrida), Martin Bouber "epistemological ontology, the "I/thou" and "I/it" relationship. Let's not get too formal here. I am only recreationally a philosopher, don't read German, and formal metaphysics gets me in over my head pretty fast . . .

I get "trans fatigue" -- To paraphrase Dolly Parton, "It takes a lot of work to look this trashy." The work that trashes me out, (psychically) is the physical process of "de-constructing cis-gender." Letting the  "garden gone to seed, things rank and gross in nature" -- in my natural state, I end up presenting male. Facial hair is the first thing "clocked." ("Getting clocked" is slang for "not passing.") Let's never mind that bone structure, muscle mass, facial features, height, weight, voice . . . It's entirely clear that this person behind my eyes is masculine, cis-M. I have no intention of "passing" as female. That said, I work hard to remove, cover up, "deny" my cis-M "symptomology." (or "traits" depending how pathological one considers "gender crossing.")

If I work at it very, very hard, maybe I can "pass" as female, but likely not in "public." Maybe pass in the dark, out on the street where I'm not engaging others. That said, there's a day-in, day-out presentation of the ontological me that falls somewhere between "macho" and "en femme."

Let's trot out the chart here:

Cis-F 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 Cis-M

Sex role stereotypes on both ends of this line. Both ends are what Judith Butler refers to as "the hetero-normative dyad." Either end, cis-F and cis-M are essentially "gender resolved" in their sex roles, hetero-sexual, reproductively viable. And then there's a realm in between where sex/gender are less categorical, more dimensional, more nuanced, more problematic. I feel like I present, function somewhere on the right of Zero somewhere on the right, 2 to 4, depending on what day it is.  I am physiologically and presentationally cis-M, but not stereotypically, not categorically role defined

We're a few parts of me male, at least some part leaning to the left end, pre-disposed, inclined. We're not "femme" not "sissy" not preoccupied with "pretty" . . . But then neither are many of my cis-F colleagues. It's not their appearance, interests, behavior that makes these women cis-F. I don't appropriate "femme" interests or behaviors in my presentation. I do work on appearance -- because it's the semantic medium available that works for me. I like to think my interests and behaviors are not rigidly gender determined. I like to think my gender presentation is authentic, integrated, centered. I like to think it's not an act, not a "performance" not a disguise, not a ruse, not a deception.

The  argument arises . . . as a line of discursive inquiry, that in effect gender dysphoria is some sort of "fetish" and an objectification of gender determining semes. The semes are primarily clothing, but also stereotypical ontological identities. The "pathological" line of discourse goes something to the effect that this "gender identity objectification" is categorically fixed, static, dysfunctional, problematic, and amenable to clinical definition. Mostly this pathological line of categorization holds that sex/gender is a a rigid dyad: Female/Male.

Haploid gamete-wise sex is dyadic. How we engage that dyad with respect to reproduction, mate selection, pair bonding, species continuation is as dimensionally diverse as the human experience.

Let's concede here, or at least note that mate selection and some sort of sexual engagement is not on my personal agenda. This motivational state de-problematizes a host of "sexual orientation" issues for me personally. Most of gender presentation is about setting out sex boundaries in a social milieu as an ongoing discourse about our personal role in the continuation of the species through sexual reproduction. I'm not looking to define my personal ID with regard to an "I/thou" context. I know who I am. Not worried about what sort of "thou" I'm looking for in a pair-bonding agenda.

My keys need not fit anyone else's lock. Sexual relations are not on my list of gender agenda items. This makes my worldview different than those actively engaged in a quest for some sort of pair-bonding context in which to situate their gender identity.Anyone who has ever been in a sexual relationship knows that relationships are complicated. The hetero-normative dyad is complicated. This is why we have attorneys who specialize in "Family Law." Not all states recognize "same sex marriage."

Now let's speculate about a law practice representing: "He was born male, but is now female, and so that makes her "gay" . . . and she wants to marry a woman who is "lesbian" . . . sort of . . . "

My personal identity, epistemological and ontological,  is integrated, authentic, not dysphoric. My identity is dynamic, fluid, dimensional. I awake every morning as "me" -- and then need to decide how that gets presented. When I think about gender stereotypes, I'm often prompted by my personal observations of both genders in the general population. There are a infinitude of cis-M I don't want anything to do with in terms of role-model identification. Similarly, there are cis-W in this same population who are equally terrifying with respect to appropriating their presentations for my own personal identity. That would be Buber's "I / it" paradigm.

Let's not objectify the "it" out there. There are options for resolving the "me" in all of us. We need to redefine our semes, revise our heuristic.

"This above all; to thine own self be true."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Victor Victoria Meets Victoria's Secret: Semiotics & Gender Presentation

Julie Andrews, "Victor Victoria" (1982), Victor is cis-F, presenting full-timed in public as "male" and as a "drag queen" (female) in a 1934 Paris burlesque.

This is the classic comedy structure, romantic interest and confused identities in the characters. "Connie & Carla" (2004) use the same concept, two women in a "drag queen show" who otherwise present as cis-M in order to conceal their real identity from pursuing mobsters.

Victoria's Secret -- www.VictoriasSecret.com

Faux News was reporting just this morning that Urban Outfitters and some other corporation were getting into trouble for suggestive commentary printed on their garments and provocative styles. Sex is highly inflammatory stuff!

Since Blanchard and the whole "autogynephilia" debate/discredit/deconstruct narrative is the focus of these blog portals, let's talk about the semiotics of clothing and how it might function as a "fetish."

Semiotics is the field of linguistics dealing with signs, symbols and their cultural meaning.  "Semes" are discrete bits of semiotic narrative. Semes convey meaning, expressed as semantics. Words are semes. Clothing is semantic. Narratives link semes together to create a heuristic -- a narrative story.


Charles S. Pierce, in the late 19th Century categorized icon, sign, symbol, index.

Icon -- a design or object which connotes something else. Christian cross, Star of David are icons, a portrait is an icon. Icons are characteristically freighted with a great deal of cultural meaning, cultural baggage. The "Peace sign" is an icon. Connotation is a dimensional taxon.

Sign --  a directly correlated object of denotation. Denotation is categorical, a single "meaning." Red octagonal means "stop." Triangle containing an exclamation is cautionary. The "pants" and "dress" signs on the restrooms denote "male/female."

Symbol -- connotes an abstract metaphor. The Christian cross, the Star of David are signs, but they are also symbolic, connoting the abstract metaphysics of their respective religious orders. Seasons can be symbolic. Ceremonial dress, robes are symbolic -- priests, academic, uniforms . . .

Index -- is an indicator of a relationship. Smoke is an index of fire. Bruising is an index of impact trauma. Body odor, tooth decay are indices of poor hygiene.

Clothes, fashion is a socio-cultural mechanism which encompasses all four, icon/sign/symbol/index.  An obvious example of these four characteristics in clothing would be a wedding gown. Similarly, a prom-dress, tuxedo, dinner jacket, "coat and tails" or high-top silk hat reflect properties of all four semiotic categories. These are formal attire and reflect a formalized socio-cultural "meaning."

As human beings, stark naked, we "present" a plethora of gender semes. And since this is, after all, a blog circle about trans gender, I expect we need not list the gender semes in the human form. Most of us spend a great deal of time and effort neutralizing, covering, disguising, denying these gender semes. Let's assert here that most of these psychic efforts at neutralizing physiological semes contributes directly to "gender dysphoria." This view of dysphoria is pretty much the diagnostic criteria of the [patriarchal] medical / psychiatric hegemony.

The patriarchal medical hegemony would remove these semes surgically, medicate these semes with HRT. In my view, this protocol raises serious Hippocratic issues: "First do no harm." and SRS is arguably the surgical removal and/or modification of otherwise healthy, viable, functional organs, body parts, bone structure. There is nothing pathological about my organs nor my endocrine system.

What is pathological is the socio-cultural constraint imposed upon my person with respect to the external semantic expression of my innermost ontological and epistemological being.

Nudity for the most part, is not the normative context for socio-cultural discourse. Nudity in most cultural contexts is sexually charged, freighted with gender heuristic. Cultures mediate this naked sexual firestorm with clothing. (Let's concede here that a great deal of clothing "fashion" actually fans the flames of this sexual firestorm.)

Clothing and fashion very much mediate a semantically founded heuristical narrative about our sexual boundaries. Fashion provides a medium through which we present to others our socio-cultural status as a potential mate -- the categorical dyad of sexual reproduction and the continuation of the species. This would be the "hetero-normative dyad" . . . Cis-F, cis-M, sexual reproduction, progeny.

Unlike the human body, the semes attributed to fashion are arbitrary. This is the arbitrary Saussurian semiotic nexus in the signifier/signified heuristic of fashion and clothing. Styles and labels denote "men's" and "women's" but the labels are arbitrary, socio-culturally derived from the discourse of the interpretive community.

This is Humpty Dumpty: "It's means what I say it means!"

Radical gender theorists would argue that the interpretive community is patriarchal, hegemonic, and very much categorical with respect to gender presentation founded in a "hetero-normative dyad" of "masculine" and "feminine."

"Hetero-normative dyad" is a term used by Dr. Judith Butler, Ph.D. UC Berkeley,  Comparative Literature, "Gender Critical Theory" http://complit.berkeley.edu/?page_id=168

I cannot post this photo of Dr. Judith Butler without adding the comment that this particular "presentation" for Butler is iconic -- as in this is in essence the "Judith Bulter brand." Let's note too that the presentation is very "non-binary." The button placket on the coat is "women's." The shirt sports  "masculine" neck detail. Black is pretty gender neutral. Black is also symbolic.  Hairstyle is somewhat "more masculine." Devoid of jewelry, frills, lace, etc., Butler here presents "non-binary" "non-hetero normative" and dimensionally "more non-binary and less feminine."

No photos of me, but for the record, cis-M, and "more non-binary, less masculine." Hair past my shoulders, 6 earrings, a fairly extensive fashion palette of "unisex" styles in "gender neutral colors," sometimes labeled "women's" and sometimes labeled "men's." Bulter appears cis-F but more gender non-binary with sartorial semes of "male." I appear cis-M but more gender non-binary with sartorial semes of "female." Non-binary presentation is a mixed message, a semantically problematic, de-constructed, heuristic which confronts and subverts the hetero-normative narrative.

Both Butler and I present as our "cis gender" but consciously endeavor to appropriate, deconstruct, problematize the "gender semes" that affix to clothing. The semes form a narrative. The narrative organizes a heuristic. The heuristic may altogether present a "genre" -- a literary and linguistic term, but in French also the same word for gender. The heuristic narrative is "mostly cis-sexual" but potentially subject to a great deal of semiotic deconstruction.

We don't do HRT, no SRS . . .

Ontologically we're somewhere in the middle, between cis-F and cis-M. We do not feel "a female trapped in a man's body." What we mostly feel is that the ontological/epistemological "me" has decided to deconstruct our own personal gender heuristic. We're tweaking the arbitrary semes of fashion. Problematizing labels.

We're not looking to medically reconstruct our person according to the hegemonic semantics of the hetero-normative dyad. What we seek is a poetics of gender wherein the "authors" are allowed to express innovative, integrated, authentic gender heuristics.

If gender presentation seemingly functions as a mechanism for setting sexual boundaries, arguably, mate selection might entail more discursive engagement than the mere surface interpretation of materials draped on a physical form. 

Monday, November 30, 2015


Put your boots on . . .

Radical Feminist/Gender Theory draws from Post Structuralist Literary Critical Theory. Critical Theory is based in or derived from metaphysics -- a branch of philosophy. The nexus in these fields is that language creates our world, our world view, our Weltanschauung.

Fundamentally, metaphysics is comprised of three fields: ontology, cosmology, epistemology (ontos, cosmos, epistos). Ontos relates to being. Cosmos considers the order of the universe. Epistos is the realm of our mind, that internal dialogue going on inside at this very moment

Cartesian metaphysics (DesCartes) holds that ontology is related to epistemology. "Cogito ergo sum." -- "I think, therefor I am." Our being (ontos) is defined by our thought (epistos). Literary critical theory holds that our thoughts are formed by language, and that language is slippery stuff.

Moving along . . . Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (French: Cours de linguistique générale) published posthumously in 1916, provides a foundation for semiotics, the theory of the relation between words (signifiers) and concepts (signified). De Saussure posits that the relationship between concepts -- those ideas which are signified, are significant -- and the signification of those ideas in words, in signifiers, is an entirely arbitrary relationship. This arbitrary relationship is exemplified in languages -- The French say "le chien." English speakers say "dog."

Let's add to this arbitrary relationship the nuance of linguistic expression: dog, hound, terrier, bitch, pup, Fido . . .  labels (signifiers) are diverse, are slippery, offer poetical nuance.

 Linguistics and literary critical theory likes to look at nuance in signifiers, poetical expression, metaphor. The signifier "metaphor" literally means "transcend shape." In metaphor camels become "ships of the desert," the ocean becomes "Neptune's realm," or "the briny deep," "Sapho" alludes to more than a Greek female goddess.

Which brings us to our thesis here:

"Labels are arbitrary."

Humty Dumpty, in "Through The Looking Glass"  (Alice In Wonderland) demonstrates this arbitrary relationship. "It means what I say it means!"

It's been a busy Thanksgiving week-end. I've been too busy to shave, which entails the "full Brazilian" -- discretely expressed, it's "toes to nose" with the hair removal, secondary male-pattern follicle distribution, and the socio-culturally constructed,  presentational mandate to epilate in one form or another in order to present "more cis-F."

Being me, a word bender, a post-structuralist -- and because recreational marijuana is entirely lawful in this state -- I spent an hour in the shower, catching up, cogitating, problematizing the effort (and expense) I go to in removing hair, growing tresses, piercing ears, and all the other endeavor consequent to "presenting" . . .  In my case, presenting "less macho cis-M" and more "non-binary." I'm comfortable with "non-binary," but candidly accept that I can't "pass," not "en femme," not "in drag."

According to the literature, gender and sex are fluid. And they're not categorical binaries.

So, picture this . . . In the shower, having done a couple totally lawful bong hits -- seems to help the PTSD a great deal -- singing "Brazil" and "getting caught up." I'm a word bender. The narrative just came to me:

"I'm trans-ontological . . . metaphysically F, presenting as cis-M."

Let's give this some thought . . . In my deepest, most intimate personal epistos, I'm ontologically more F than M. Post-structuralists are fond of the metaphor "peeling layers of the onion." This is a literary critical metaphor for looking past the surface of a narrative and delving into that narrative's "deep structure."  Let us invert that metaphor. Let us start at the center of the onion and build outward, layer upon layer.

My most inner ontos is "non-binary" -- (This is a Post-Structuralist view of the "non hetero-normative dyad" of Dr. Judith Butler, Ph.D. UC Berkeley.) and then a layer of secondary male-pattern hair removal. Let's not forget that cis-women remove body hair too, legs, axillaries . . . So, arguably female pattern hair removal too.

My cis-F colleagues/associates have demonstrated to me how "layering" works in clothing. Very practical here at the beach. Historical research has outlined the development of the "corset" and I'm not too astonished to realize that the bra is derived from corsets. In "Gone With The Wind," Scarlet O'Hara boasts an 18" waist -- which apparently requires staff and a team of horses to draw the corset that tightly. Corsets are a patriarchal imposition of "feminine ideal" -- tiny waist, ample hips, ample bosom (they're mammaries) . . . Bra design includes "underwire" analogous to whale bone stays of an earlier era. Some bra design extends to "slim the waist." Fundamentally, the corset is about patriarchal, physical imposition upon the body of an "ideal form."

Of course radical feminists burn bras. The whole intentional conception of what a bra is, and what it represents (signifier and signified), connotes a patriarchy, an imposition of an ideal form, stereotypical signifier.

Current field work has revealed to me that my cis-F colleagues have transitioned (! ! !) from bras to tank tops -- which is arguably something of a "long bra" only without the stays and structural constraint of shaped cups.  Seemingly, tank tops provide some "control" -- maybe security -- without all the super-structure. We've found a lot of variation in tanks -- from "men's" tanks, with the nick-name of "Dago T's" . . . to stretchy, structured, with lace detail at the neck and bottom hem. Ribbed knits, poly, cotton, smooth double-knit, colors from solid "masculine" bold to pastels. Some tanks have "built in bras" and  adjustable "spaghetti straps" -- stretch fit, and offers support/control.

Arguably, tank tops are unisex, but style, detail, proportion are different men's to women's.

Long sleeve "T's" -- Women's seem stretchier, more open neck-line (to show off cleavage, patriarchal objectification) . . .  Everything intended as "women's" fashion has the option of lace trim. Lace is a femme signifier.

Long sleeve "T" is unisex, but style varies by gender, like tank tops.

As noted elsewhere in this blog, we've found clothing marked "women" that is unisex. I am aware of placket detail for men/women. The outer layer on this sartorial onion goes both ways -- according to label. But in terms of outward presentation, the fashions are uni-sex. Cis-women locally (rural Pacific NW)  wear mostly practical, functional clothing. Mostly it's active wear, recreational and work clothing. Not a lot of frill, not much lace. If someone is wearing a dress or skirt, it's because they're either going to some special event, or they're from out of town.

Clothing and accessories are sartorial signifiers denoting status, vocation, membership (uniforms), political expression, creative interests . . . and gender. As with all signifiers, the relation to the signified is arbitrary and culturally interpreted. 

I don't see a lot of "femme" locally. As a radical feminist, appropriating and subverting the patriarchal hegemony of hetero-normative semiotics, I'm reassured by my field work that cis-W don't buy into the patriarchal stereotypical "femme ideal" that so many M to F trans persons attempt to emulate.

This exterior gender presentation is entirely semiotic, entirely culture bound and only arbitrarily relates to the ontological and epistemological metaphysics of gender. A post-structuralist view of the gender narrative would problematize syntax.

"I'm trans female, presenting as male."

"I'm trans male, presenting as female."

The verb "to be" . . . "I am" . . . One of my professors taught us that the verb "to be" represents a sort of linguistic "equal sign" In an SVO (subject, verb, object) language the verb "to be" signifies an equation between the subject and the object. Accordingly, strict prescriptive grammars insist upon "It is I." rather than "It is me." British are fond of the construction, "The team are nine riders." rather than "The team is nine riders." The verb "to be" may agree in number with either the subject or the object. The object in a "to be" syntax is declined in the subjective case, "I" rather than the objective case "me."

It should  additionally be noted that "to be" is fudamentally an ontological state,

And so . . . am I ontologically me, or am I epistemologically me?

Post-Structurally, the relation between the signfier (ontos?) and the signified (epistos) is arbitrary. The relationship is mediated by the "interpretive community" --  a formal linguistic term denoting a group who shares a functionally comprehensible language system, a culturally constructed systems of signs, signifiers.

The patriarchal hegemony has fixed, dogmatic "labels" (signifiers) for what are essentially a categorical dyad expressed in signifiers, "masculine" / "feminine" . . .

A poetics of gender would suggest that these signifiers, these terms/labels, can be de-constructed and expressed in new, innovative, creative forms. Poetry is best appreciated when it's "performed,"


N.B -- The issues arises repeatedly. Cis-M who endeavor to trans toward more cis-F seem to fixate on clothing. Understandably, this is one "layer of the onion" that can be donned, tweaked, adjusted, varied. There are infinite external, sartorial signifiers of "female" -- It's a $361 billion industry in the US. Let us consider too that "costumes and disguises" fundamentally entail clothing and signifying accouterments (Sherlock Holmes, Deerstalker, calabash). Uniforms signify membership, rank, vocation. Much gender performance (J. Butler) is ineluctable. This performance, or "presentation" is inseparably bound up in clothing and the expression of fashion. Objectification to be sure. "Fetish" is a cultural idea, another arbitrary signifier. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

"I'm not a Barbie Doll."

In the movie "Heartbreak Kid" (2009), Maggie is a hard-driving, hard-drinkng Publicist, and on the plane headed for a book signing promotion she remarks,

"Excuse me stewardess, may I please get a full-sized bottle? (Holding a single-serve, "airplane bottle.") I'm an alcoholic, not a Barbie Doll."

Barbie is a sex-role stereotype. Mattel, who manufactures and markets Barbie is working to bring the stereotype into the 21st Century. This revamp of Barbie during the 70's, 80's into "Career Barbie" was very much prompted by criticism from radical feminists -- and women generally. ,

"Women's Lib" was trotted out when Barbie decided she liked her hair curly. Ken liked it straight. Barbie decided on curls, asserting her "female autonomy" -- Never mind that curling one's hair is about conforming to gender role expectation about what is "beauty" and that women are expected to work at it -- to be Barbie Dolls for their men.

PBS radio just yesterday had a feature on Barbie, gender-roles, marketing. It seems Barbie is now being marketed to cis-boys. Mattel's marketing pitch is something in effect: "Barbie is about story telling. Boys tell stories too."

OK, we recall back in 1959 when Barbie was a new item from Mattel, and my sister got one for Christmas. Barbie was a new idea in dolls; Barbie had mammaries -- and as a 10 yr. old cis-M, heterosexual, we were curious.



Criticisms of Barbie are often centred around concerns that children consider Barbie a role model and will attempt to emulate her. One of the most common criticisms of Barbie is that she promotes an unrealistic idea of body image for a young woman, leading to a risk that girls who attempt to emulate her will become anorexic.[citation needed] A standard Barbie doll is 11.5 inches tall, giving a height of 5 feet 9 inches at 1/6 scale. Barbie's vital statistics have been estimated at 36 inches (chest), 18 inches (waist) and 33 inches (hips). According to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate.[18] In 1963, the outfit "Barbie Baby-Sits" came with a book entitled How to Lose Weight which advised: "Don't eat!."[19] The same book was included in another ensemble called "Slumber Party" in 1965 along with a pink bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs.,[19] which would be around 35 lbs. underweight for a woman 5 feet 9 inches tall.[20] Mattel said that the waist of the Barbie doll was made small because the waistbands of her clothes, along with their seams, snaps, and zippers, added bulk to her figure.[21] In 1997, Barbie's body mold was redesigned and given a wider waist, with Mattel saying that this would make the doll better suited to contemporary fashion designs.

And here we are -- 5'9", 36" 18" 33" and 110 lbs. -- 35 lbs underweight, anorexic.

Let us concede, confess . . . having been raised around women's fashion, we find anorexic models attractive. But then we ran marathons, raced bicycles and thin/athletic is an aesthetic ideal for us. Fashion photographers -- let us add -- understand that "the camera adds ten pounds." We should note that we worked as a studio photographer, and very much enjoyed the work we produced with waifs as models.

The fashion industry annual sales in the US was pegged at $361 billion  in 2013. That's a great deal of gender-role stereotyping. Let us note here, and probably draw some flames for it, we're a bit disconcerted when we read descriptions regarding the extent to which cis-M go to appear "en femme." And we ask ourselves, "Are you presenting gender or building a Barbie Doll?"

My cis-F colleagues, associates, friends mostly don't look like Barbie Dolls. They don't act like Barbie for the most part. Of course there are exceptions. Gender diversity and presentation is infinitely variable. Mostly we ask ourselves, "What are we presenting in gender?"

Radical feminists among us (Janice Raymond, "Transsexual Empire" 1979) assert, in essence that trans-women (MtF) are not women  because they don't have female chromosomes (XX), don't experience menses, childbearing, menopause, etc. Gloria Steinem asserts, "Trans women are not women; they have never dealt with a smelly vagina." At bottom the argument being that cis-M who transition do not share the fundamental Weltanschauung that is the ontological essence of being female., Instead, these MtF "men" aspire to the gender-stereotype of the Barbie Doll -- a fundamentally patriarchal, hegemonic oppression derived from what the patriarchy expects from cis-women.

Transition, they argue, is about constructing  Barbie Dolls, assuming a "disguise" of sorts. Judith Butler, Ph.D. UC Berkeley, Dept. Gender Theory, notes that "drag" is an exaggeration of the feminine stereotype. These stereotypes are often presented as "stock figures" -- the "Upstairs Maid" comes to mind. Drag is not intended, for the most part, to "pass" as cis-F, but rather as a parody of stereotypical gender-role expression.

"Cross-dressing" -- seems to parrot stereotypes, only rather than presenting a gender parody, cross-dressing seems more about fetish and objectification of a sexual target. It's sublimation on the one hand, and synecdoche "a figure wherein a part represents the whole" . . . or to paraphrase with license, "The clothes make the woman,"

We're not Barbie. We're not Ken. Mostly we're somewhere in between. We're not buying into the strict stereotype of the cis-M, and we are not female, (despite our fondest wishes). We can disguise ourselves as female, but it's a costume, like on Halloween.

Hawai'ian culture recognizes the "Mahu" -- having the "spirit" of both "kane" (cis-M) and "wahinee" (cis-F). "Mahu" gets bastardized in the culture to denote transvestites, drag queens, but the native Hawai'ian tradition views the Mahu as "two spirit" and the keeper of the culture, tradition (because capable of function in both kane and wahinee roles.) Native speakers often refer to Mahu variously as "kane/wahinee" "wahinee/kane." Not much concern about gender presentation, mahu are who they are, present who they present. No disguises, no Barbie.

The model currently working for us looks like this:

cis-F 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 cis-M

We present most days, somewhere in the 1 to 3 range on the right. Not macho, not Barbie.

Presentation is fluid, poetical.  Some days it's trucks and chainsaws -- with my cis-Sisters. Some days it's making jewelry, shopping for lingerie . . . which most of my cis-Sisters refuse to wear. LMAO

We're not Barbie . . .  Stewardess? 


Friday, November 27, 2015

Transition & Gender Presentation

Mostly musings at Mickey's on "Black Friday" . . .  "You've come a long way, Baby!"

About six months ago we were mostly in the closet. (We use the "royal we" -- from "The Man Who Would Be Queen" LMAO) We had closets full of wardrobe, attire, fetish. "Under-dressing" -- you can Google it. Also, we have cis-F friends, associates and would allude to "female" traits, or presentation in obscure moments. The gist of these disclosures would be something to the effect, "We appreciate women's fashion options, wish we could be more expressive." Or, "Men are such pigs! How do you ever put up with us?"

A colleague, close friend, she's going to be our "Best Man" at our wedding. If she gets married, (more likely), I get to be "Maid of Honor." No, we're NOT intending to wear a Bride's Maid Dress . . . dresses don't work for me. Technically, or perhaps sartorially, a lot of women shouldn't wear dresses. Janet Reno comes to mind.

But we digress . . .

This colleague loaned me Anne Fausto-Sterling "Sexing the Body"


And this introduction launched me into reading Dr. Judith Butler, Ph.D. -- UC Berkeley, "Gender Theory" -- "Gender Trouble, 1990" and anything else on her vitae . . . (Let's note here that ALL these titles are available online, PDF format.)

Butler introduced me to the term "hetero-normative dyad" --  fundamentally cis-F and cis-M having intercourse, and producing progeny, marriage, pair bonding, rose covered cottages, white picket fences . . .  mortgage in the suburbs, PTA . . .

Butler is radical feminist, candidly dislikes the phallus. And she brings a complex, textually impenetrable, narrative to the discourse encompassing sex, gender, gender presentation, non-hetero-normative behaviors, the hegemony of psychiatry and the medical establishment vis-a-vis transition.

We read Janice Raymond, "Transsexual Empire (1979) -- actually got banned from a "Trans" site for linking it, attempting to discuss/critique. Some of us evidently don't grasp the theoretical rationale behind the First Amendment and free expression amongst an informed audience.

Of course Raymond jumps on Blanchard's "autogynephillia" bandwagon a bit. "Trans men (MtF) are NOT women, are interlopers, spies, lacking the female ontological baggage, etc." And we can debate these assertions until we swap chromosomal distribution. What Raymond DOES concede, or assert is that gender is culturally bound and we need -- as a culture -- to open options for everyone with respect to sex-role stereotypes and their implicit prohibitions.

And so, in the course of the reading, theorizing -- Gender Critical Theory  draws from Literary Critical Theory, most directly from the [French] Post-Structuralists and this is our academic field -- we've come to deconstruct for ourselves the fixed parameters of sex and gender.

We've been successful at dropping a good deal of the "cis-M" clothing features and now mostly present as clearly cis-M (Men's Restroom), addressed as "sir" . . . But, ironically, most of the clothing we choose has "women's" labels . . . Erika, Dress Barn, Gloria Vanderbilt, but also Old Navy, Target, Khol's . . . Pacific NW, and living on the coast, the style is called "beach casual" locally. Basically "uni-sex" styles, shorts, jackets, tank tops, sandals, walking shoes.

Interestingly, and all to the issue that I raise about clothing, fetish, and gender segregation -- We've stopped sorting our clothing according to gender tags. Now we wear what works for us, regardless of labels/tags. Being 5'10" 220 lbs, lace, frills, delicates don't much work. Skirts/dresses don't work.

Important to realize here that I don't "present en femme" -- We're not a "femme" sort of person. Most of my cis-F associates are not "femme" sorts of people. Let's note that Dr. Judith Butler, Ph.D. typically wears black T, black sport coat (women's), short hair, presents pretty "male" although obviously cis-F. We present obviously cis-M, but sartorially "gender neutral" or "uni-sex."

Now, of late we're realizing that we have "transitioned" in some sense, although we still present "cis-M" -- The radical feminist critic in me likes very much pushing on gender margins. We used to pack our "stuff" in a sport vest -- lotsa pockets like a fishing vest. Also it's very cis-M, We swapped it out for a "purse." The purse is a laptop bag for a tablet. Works very nicely as a "purse" -- uni-sex, gender ambiguous.

Hair past the shoulders, never had hair this long. Tied back, in a bun, or free flowing. Got the lobes pierced a year ago Halloween, having waited about 65 yrs. Then a second piercing for Thanksgiving, a third for New Year. We're a bit OCD, tend to accumulate stuff, like wardrobe and earrings. We've been making earrings -- very much like tying flies and making trolling lures. We have probably a thousand earrings. Let's note that there are "mens" earrings, "womens" earrings, and classic styles that are sort of gender neutral (hoops and studs). We push this boundary -- hard!

We've discovered that cis-F wear tank tops as a sort of bra function. But also, it's very practical, comfortable to wear tank tops as a layer, long sleeve T, and button shirt over, unbuttoned, sleeves rolled back.

We found shorts that are actually "culottes" -- wide leg which works like a skirt. They're cut A-Line like a skirt, but present like baggy shorts. Dark blue, heavier fabric, no "frills."

Cargo pants -- marked "Women's" but uni-sex style. Women's pants have smaller pockets, placket on the fly opens to the left. (Men's open to right.) Typically no rear pockets in women's pants, or the rear pocket is flap closure and a "detail" more than a pocket. Legs on a lot of these pants feature tie for rolling up "out of the water." (Beach pants!)

Let's talk button plackets, clothing and gender. The closure in a shirt or pants is called a "placket" and in men's clothing it opens to the right. In women's clothing the placket opens to the left. The fashion reason for this distinction stems from women in the past being dressed and buttoned up by their "Lady in Waiting." Men dress themselves and button their own buttons. And so women's placket is intended to button by someone else. Men's placket is intended to button by the wearer. (Note too that MOST women's pants/shorts have "men's" fly/placket. Cis-women seem to like wearing "boy style" clothing. Boy style recreational clothing (Beach Casual) is generally a bit heavier weight, "boy features," darker colors. (Search the underwear ads for women, "boy cut," "boy leg" panties, with "fly" and look like men's "tighties" . . . )

Women cross dress all the time! Women stay over at the guy's apartment and wear his shirts as a sort of "nightie," Never mind that "cross dress" has all sorts of implications for "presentation pathology" in cis-men, not in cis-women.

Gender presentation is primarily about setting out boundaries relating to pair bonding, sexual union, and reproduction. When cis-M present as "femme" it problematizes the "gender reading" for hetero-sexual men who might find themselves erotically attracted, engendering "homosexual angst." Cis-women, presenting as men ("butch") don't present anxiety issues for heterosexual men. Heterosexual women typically do not actively initiate pursuit (courting) of a mate -- the cis-F sex role being to submit rather than dominate or pursue. And so cis-women do not "risk" acting out and so acting homosexual, in a "gender mis-reading" ("target error") who is cis-F but presenting as male.No target error, no homosexual angst.

Sex boundaries are essential to reproduction, fixed, categorical.

Gender boundaries are socio-cultural, dimensional, arbitrary,

What we are working out . . . currently, work in progress, is a subversion of the hetero-normative dyad, the hegemony of the semiotics of gender presentation. We're working to deconstruct categorical labels, and wearing a lot of deconstructed categorical labels.