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reading_the_fem1.docx

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English
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EN 2012
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Gender Studies II EN2012 – Winter 2011 – Terry Goldie Reading – ‘The Fem(me)inist Manifesto’ by Duggan and McHugh – Jan 31 The Fem(me) Identity - A proposal or working proposition: fem(me) is the je ne sais quoi of desiring difference prior to any determination of sexual preference or gender identity. Fem(me) is put on, a put-on, fetish production at the hands of subject becoming object, becoming fetish, while always retaining a sense of the performance, always amused yet (here is the challenge, the gauntlet she throws down) possibly bored by its effects. - Femme is the performativity, the insincerity, the mockery, the derision for foreplay – the bet, the dare, the bringing to attention of the suitor, the one who would provide (her) pleasure. - The performer who demands performance in return, the player who brings pleasure into play. - Femme is neither an ideal nor a category. - She steals the show (she is the show) of difference, but she cannot be fixed as a certain effect ‘in itself.’ - Femme is always inter-actionable, never onanistic or narcissistic. - Mirrors are not the pool in which she drowns; they are the instrument or metaphor of her essential irony. - Her perspective is always partially extrasensory – Berger’s ‘women watch themselves being watched’. - In her doubled gaze, virility risks itself utterly (Nietzsche understood this risk well) – the lover, the suitor, the watcher watched, assessed, mocked, calculated. - Double-sighted, however well intentioned, she will only ever speak one truth at the expense of an other. - In her inscription – femme – we find the enclosure of an ego (‘me’), a fundamental challenge to the category, the slot, the ideal of the feminine. - Refusing the fate of Girl-by-Nature, the femme is a Girl-by-Choice. - Finding in androgyny (the rejection of all femininity) too much loss, too little pleasure, and ugly shoes, the femme takes from the feminine a wardrobe, a walk, a wink, then moves on to sound the death knell of an abject sexuality contorted and subjected to moral concerns. Historicizing the Fem(me) - The butch-femme couple share a trajectory from the nineteenth century to the present. - The butch, according to this account, has been unfairly centered; the femme’s parallel tale remains untold. - As Stephen Gordon’s Mary, she alternately signifies both victory and defeat. o In The Butch’s Tale her agency, her choice appears effaced… the choice, the sacrifice is Stephen’s. o Mary’s choice, the tale of her desire, endangers butch and ‘normal’ man alike. o She ‘turns’ gay, she ‘goes’ straight. o Her story isn’t a lesbian (her)story in the singular sense. - Lesbian (her)stories are plural, but none stabilizes a place for the femme. - Romantic friends, androgynous lovers, bohemian expatriates cross through and travel around the (his)story of lesbianism. - But femmes stand at the boundary, never wholly ‘in’ nor fully ‘out’. - At the turn of the century the boundary ‘normal’ women/femme fatale appears, as ‘femininity’ proliferates into its modern ‘normal’ and perverse formations. - During the 1950s, perhaps for the first time, lesbian femme becomes a location for some, in bars, on streets of U.S. cities. But this center cannot hold. - And now, in the postmodern reign of The Queer, the femme reappears, signifier of another kind of gender trouble. - Though femmes occupy the shifting border of lesbian identities of the twentieth century, they are never heterosexual. - Though they may traffic in men, they do not, cannot, will not take up position within a heteronormative framework. - Those femmes who desire masculinity in a partner prefer queer masculinities, occupied with irony and ambiguity. - The masculine heteronormative man is inadequate in this department; the phallus he ‘has’ seems not to be detachable. - Queer men may also make perfectly good partners, of course. Fem(me)inism: The New Science - Femmenism grapples with the thorniest issues – desire and humour. - Feminists ‘have no sense of humour’, they are ‘anti
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