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Gender Performativity is Victim Blaming

Here is a really solid analysis from Anti Porn London of why gender performativity, the concept so beloved of queer theorists, is misogynist victim blaming.  I’m quoting the last four paragraphs in full because they’re so good, but you can read the whole argument here.

If gender was performance, then there would be a way to perform that didn’t result in rape for women. But men rape housewives. Men rape butch lesbians. Men rape quiet women in dresses and lipstick. Men rape snarling punks in leather jackets and safety pins. Men rape every type of woman. There is no way for a woman to be that doesn’t risk rape. There is no way to perform that lets women escape the confines of gender because gender is not performance; it’s the designator of who can rape – us, the people called men – and who can be raped – them, the people called women. Performance has nothing to do with it.

When gender is a violent, unnatural hierarchy we are born into, the abuse of females is understood as a brutal result of a power structure that subjugates one class of people to another. When gender is an internal, subjective choice we make, the abuse of females becomes a hazard of identification, a set of circumstances implicitly welcomed by anyone who puts on a particular performance – or even an “affirmation of femininity”, in the words of a particularly noxious figure in the trans community.

Conversely, linking the massive privilege bestowed on men to an internal state erases the structural and political institutions that give power to males at the expense of females – and, shockingly, the ideology that does this is being largely pushed by males with the hopes of gaining access to female spaces, female resources, and female identities. This should be troubling to anyone who seeks to challenge actual, real male supremacy – not male-identified supremacy, not cis-male supremacy, not person-with-this-certain-set-of-feelings supremacy. Male supremacy. You know, the violence men do, to women, because we can.

The heart of gender performativity as a concept is a twin project of blaming victims and excusing perpetrators. By obscuring the brutality of our sex-caste system in a postmodern mist that privileges the internal identifications of men – the oppressors – over the material conditions of women – the oppressed – any attempt to throw the strongholds of patriarchy into focus is immediately neutralized. On queer theory, men win, women lose. What a surprise.

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