Gender Studies II
EN2012 – Winter 2011 – Terry Goldie
Reading – ‘Gender Terror, Gender Rage’ by Kate Bornstein – Feb 16
- Bornstein proposed that culture, rather than creating roles for naturally gendered
people, was creating gender out of the roles people played.
- Initially meant to refer to people like herself who radically challenge the
fundamental structures of gender and free up opportunities for gender to change,
she came to apply it instead to people she labelled ‘gender defenders’, or
supporters of the status quo, who acted out of their fear and loathing by directing
violence and hostility towards transgender people.
- Bornstein, who often uses non-gender specific personal pronouns, raises the
questions of whether there can be any position ‘beyond gender’.
- S/he refuses to be categorized and place on either side of the gender divide. In
art and life, Bornstein aims for real-world gender fluidity on a day to day basis.
- Gender terrorists are not the drag queens, the butch dykes, the men on roller
skates dressed as nuns. Gender terrorists are not the female to male transsexual
who’s learning to look people in the eye while he walks down the street. Gender
terrorists are not the leather daddies or back-seat Betties. Gender terrorists are
not the married men, shivering in the dark as they slip on their wives’ panties.
Gender terrorists are those who bang their heads against a gender system which
is real and natural; and who then use gender to terrorize the rest of us.
- The gender defender is someone who actively, or by knowing inaction, defends
the status quo of the existing gender system, and thus perpetuates the violence
of male privilege and all its social extensions.
- The gender defender, or gender terrorist, is someone of who gender forms a
cornerstone of their view of the world. Shake gender up for these folks and you’re
in for trouble.
What Are They Afraid Of?
- Because gender ambiguity and gender outlaws are made invisible in this culture
and because gender transgressors are by and large silent (and thus invisible), for
reasons stated earlier, the defenders of gender rigidity lash out at the nearest
familiar label: homosexuality and lesbianism, the points at which gender
outsiders intersect with sexual outsiders.
- The acts of gender defender are acts of violence against gender outsiders.
o Gay bashing is one act of gender defenders.
o The attack of transsexuals by some cultural feminists in another defense
All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female
form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves. However,
the trans-sexually constructed lesbian-feminist violates women’s
sexuality and spirit, as well. Rape, can also be accomplished by
deception. It is significant that in the case of the trans-sexually
constructed lesbian-feminist, often he is able to gain entrance and a
dominant position in women’s spaces because the women involved do not know he is a transsexual and he just does not happen to
mention it. (- Janice Raymond).
• But there’s some historical, cross-cultural precedent for their
concern that transsexuals are bad for feminism: the Navajo
nadle. The nadle is a sort of transgendered male-to-female
person, with a unique social function: the nadle was often
called upon to suppress the women’s behaviours.
o The nadle’s role and value in mythology are male-
oriented. Barren themselves, the nadle are useful as
mediators, and, perhaps related to this, they serve as
ferrymen. When there was a quarrel between the men