Wednesday, April 15, 2009

femininity as peversion and the female 'homeovestite'

So, as I have mentioned before, I am extremely interested in the various manners in which women construct and communicate particular identities about themselves through practices of self-fashioning. My search for information dealing particularly with the link between female anorexic bodies as a kind of performed androgynous gender through self-fashioning led me to some very interesting information branching out in different directions. One of the most interesting pieces of literature that I have stumbled upon during this semester is the work written by Loraine Gamman and Merja Makinen in their book Female Fetishism. Due to past work that I have done in rhetorical studies and media studies with the notion of fetishism and the interest that this has sparked within me for the topic, I was particularly intrigued by the extension of the concept to explain certain performative elements of gender as a form of fetishism. Gamman and Makinen examines various practices performed by women which they claim have the potential to destabilize dominant discourse about gender, sexuality and the dominant structures through their identification as perverse. Amidst many others, the authors include female cross-dressing and bulimia in their long list of female fetishes. In their discussion of fashion and fetishism, attention is paid to the historic use of clothing as fetish object to differentiate changing social roles along both class and gender lines. Perhaps most interesting in this discussion of fashion and fetishism is the concept of “femininity as perversion” in which fashion as commodity plays a role in “the perverse masquerade of gender” exemplified by the female ‘homeovestite’ who “dresses up as a woman [and] masquerades as a quintessential feminine type (70).”Another interesting element of this book is its very bold examination of the relationship between eating disorders and expressions of gender and sexuality, elaborating on the performative aspect of anorexic and bulimic behaviors as a “flight from femininity,” a denial of female sexuality and a “flight from the male gaze (123).” It is definitely something that I think I will be referring to in the future with various academic projects I may involve myself with.

Gamman, Lorraine, and Merja Makinen. Female Fetishism. New York: New York UP, 1995.

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