Feminist Review

, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 20–37 | Cite as

Heteroqueer ladies: some performative transactions between gay men and heterosexual women

  • Roberta Mock
Article

abstract

As theories of performativity struggle to disentangle and reconfigure the relationships between act and identity, a heterowoman who relishes the performance of femininity is still aware that she can be read as reactionary. Her choice of sexual partners seems to undermine the efficacy of similar strategies constructed by femme lesbians. One queer option for a heterosexual woman is to ‘act’ like a gay man. As more than one cultural commentator has pointed out, it appears that only a male drag queen can be a ‘lady’ these days. This particular woman does not want to change her biological sex to ‘be’ a gay man. She has learned how to be a ‘lady’ from the ‘feminized fags’ who may have learned from her mother. Their ironic distancing, camp connoiseurship, and parodic appropriation of the notion of a stable gender identity came as part of the package. As a result of this transaction, she acts as if she has balls under her dress. Such mimetic masquerades can be most easily recognized as resistant when performativity is ‘bound’ into a formalized performance. It is implicit that this artifice is not sustainable, nor is this desirable. ‘Doing’ queer means possessing the agency to defy and destabilize gendered behaviours, sexes, and sexualities through continuing and conscious decisions. This article explores the efficacy of heterosexual femme performances that attempt to challenge and subvert ideological normativities through their transactions with gay men.

Keywords

performance practice femme performativity queer theory feminist camp representations of heterosexuality Bette Midler Gimme Gimme Gimme 

References

  1. Bronski, M. (1984) Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility, Boston: South End Press.Google Scholar
  2. Brooks, A. (1997) Postfeminisms: Feminism, Cultural Theory and Cultural Forms, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Buchbinder, D. (1998) Performance Anxieties: Re-Producing Masculinity, Australia: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  4. Butler, J. (1993) Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Butler, J. (1991) ‘Imitation and gender insubordination’ in S. Jackson and S. Scott (1996) editors, Feminism and Sexuality: A Reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Carolin, L. and Bewley, C. (1998) ‘Girl talk: Femmes in discussion’ in S.R. Munt (1998) editor, Butch/Femme: Inside Lesbian Gender, London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  7. Case, S. -E. (1988) ‘Toward a butch-femme aesthetic’ in F. Cleto (1999) editor, Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cleto, F. (1999) ‘Introduction: Queering the camp’ in F. Cleto (1999) editor, Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Core, P. (1984) ‘From camp: The Lie That Tells The Truth’ in F. Cleto (1999) editor, Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Crimp, D. (1993) ‘Right on, girlfriend!’ in M. Warner (1993) editor, Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  11. Davy, K. (1993) ‘From Lady Dick to Ladylike: The work of Holly Hughes’ in L. Hart and P. Phelan (1993) editors, Acting Out: Feminist Performances, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  12. Doty, A. (1993) Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  13. Graham, P. (1995) ‘Girl's camp? The politics of parody’ in T. Wilton (1995) editor, Immortal, Invisible: Lesbians and the Moving Image, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Harris, G. (1999) Staging Femininities: Performance and Performativity, Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Harris, L. and Crocker, E. (1997) ‘An introduction to sustaining femme gender’ in L. Harris and E. Cocker (1997) editors, Femme: Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Meyer, M. (1994) editor, The Politics and Poetics of Camp, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Mock, R. (2002) Performing the Jewess: The Representation of Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality by Jewish Women, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Exeter.Google Scholar
  18. Paglia, C. (1993) Sex, Art, and American Culture, Middlesex: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  19. Parker, A. and Sedgwick, E.K. (1995) ‘Introduction: Performativity and performance’ in A. Parker and E.K. Sedgwick (1995) editors, Performativity and Performance, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Pellegrini, A. (1997) Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Pendleton, E. (1997) ‘Love for sale: Queering heterosexuality’ in J. Nagle (1997) editor, Whores and Other Feminists, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Robertson, P. (1996) Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna, London: I.B. Tauris Publishers.Google Scholar
  23. Seidman, S. (1993) ‘Identity and politics in a ‘postmodern’ gay culture: some historical and conceptual notes’ in M. Warner (1993) editor, Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  24. Senelick, L. (2000) The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre, London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sinfield, A. (1994) The Wilde Century: Effeminacy, Oscar Wilde and the Queer Moment, London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  26. Sontag, S. (1964/1999) ‘Notes on ‘camp’’ in F. Cleto (1999) editor, Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Winkler, K. (2000) ‘‘Your mother is up here working!’: Bette Midler, the continental baths, and the mainstreaming of gay male sensibility’ in R. Mock (2000) editor, Performing Processes: Creating Live Performance, Bristol: Intellect.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Feminist Review Ltd 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta Mock

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations