Gender performance

Cheerleaders, drag kings, and the rest of us

Authored by: Joshua Gamson , Laura Grindstaf

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315267784-32

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Abstract

Working within sociological traditions that see gender not as a fixed or essential property of the self but as socially constructed and the outcome of ongoing interaction, this chapter explores the concept of “gender performance.” It names two different, if overlapping, processes: performing gender, in which the doing of masculinity and/or femininity is an implicit dimension of everyday action oriented toward some other purpose; and gender performance, in which the main purpose is the explicit (and typically public) dramatization of gender. The chapter focuses primarily on the latter, using the cases of cheerleading and drag shows to tease out the conditions under which performances either reinscribe traditional ways of doing gender or model new modes of gender enactment. We distinguish “inside-gender” performances, which ritualize performance in ways that solidify the normal, taken-for-granted rules of gender, from “outside-gender” performances, which display, play with, challenge, and/or critique the very construction of gender itself. Far from merely calling attention to the gendered scripts at play in everyday life, gender performances do important cultural work of their own.

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