This article is about human gender.
For the hardware component, see Gender changer.
For the X-Files episode, see .
A gender bender is a person who disrupts or "bends" expected gender roles.
Bending expected gender roles may also be called a genderfuck.
Gender bending is sometimes a form of social activism undertaken to destroy rigid gender roles and defy sex-role stereotypes, notably in cases where the gender-nonconforming person finds these roles oppressive.
As academic theorists, gender benders may also craft software for wide release and shape "design of the future body" in order to subvert cultural norms and "increase the probability of more desirable futures happening".
In his 1974 article, Genderfuck and Its Delights, Christopher Lonc explained his motivation for performing genderfuck: "I want to criticize and poke fun at the roles of women and of men too.
I want to try [to] show how not-normal I can be.
I want to ridicule and destroy the whole cosmology of restrictive sex roles and sexual identification."
The term genderfuck has long been part of the gay vernacular, and started to appear in written documents in the 1970s.
Sheidlower cites the definition of the term gender fuck in L Humphreys' 1972 work Out of the Closets: Sociology of Homosexual Liberation as "a form of extended guerilla theatre".
Also quoted is the August 1972 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, in reference to the glam rock style: "The new 'macho' transvestism, called vulgarly 'gender-fuck', a curious satire of female impersonation – dresses, pumps, full make-up and beards – is represented by, among others, three men in WAC uniforms and big moustaches".
To "fuck with" gender, one must have an expectation to be able to rebel against.
These expectations are socially constructed and can vary widely between cultures.
The gender binary is the idea that only two genders exist: men and women.
In many cultures it is only acceptable for an individual to embody one of two polar gender roles.
Gender roles often mimic the social expectations of the sexual categories of "male" and "female".
Within this cultural expectation, people designated as male are expected to be masculine, while those designated female are expected to be feminine.
The belief in and subscription to polar gender roles is known as gender binarism.
In many cultures, for a person to be seen as belonging to a particular gender category, the individual must not only have a particular anatomical (including genital) makeup, but must conform to that culture's ideas of appropriate sex-role stereotypes.
These roles are highly influenced by culture and peers.
This sex-role stereotype includes sexual orientation.
In Western cultures, gender roles have changed somewhat over the years.
A study by Princeton University outlined these common, prescriptive gender stereotypes: "masculine" - acts as a leader, aggressive, ambitious, analytical, assertive, athletic, competitive, defends own beliefs, dominant, forceful, has leadership abilities, independent, individualistic, makes decisions easily, self-reliant, self-sufficient, strong-personality, willing to take a stand, and willing to take risks.
"Feminine" sex-role stereotypes, as defined by this same study included: affectionate, cheerful, childlike, compassionate, does not use harsh language, eager to soothe hurt feelings, flatterable, gentle, gullible, loves children, loyal, sensitive to the needs of others, shy, soft-spoken, sympathetic, tender, understanding, warm, and yielding.
In Christian and Jewish cultures, gender roles and gender presentation have been policed since Biblical times: "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deut. 22:5).
Crossing these lines has been interpreted by some Christians as a moral transgression.
Other cultures - often indigenous peoples, or subcultures that exist within Western cultures - may conceptualize gender as having more than two options, and even see their people as potentially fulfilling more than one gender role.
Some indigenous peoples of North America have historically had more than two gender roles as part of their social structure, while others, who may or may not have embraced this diversity historically, may accept modern two spirit people as part of their communities now.
Other cultures may see people as being capable of embodying more than one gender role at different times, or of being "in the middle", "embracing both male and female spirit".
People of the Bugis society have a total of five genders.
These genders include what would traditionally be seen as cisgender man and woman, as well as transgender men and women, and the androgynous Bissu shamans.
Gender bending in practice
Gender bending can also be achieved through cross-dressing and androgyny, both of which challenge and contribute to dismantling the gender binary by separating expression or performance of gender from perceptions of biological or physiological sex.
Thus, gender bending protests gender essentialism.
This concept is protested not only through non-normative appearance, but by challenging normative gender roles, characteristics, or behaviors as well – for example, a female-bodied individual who is purposefully assertive and nondomestic in order to challenge the notion of essential femininity.
Gender bending is based in gender performativity: the concept of gender as a performance.
It can be achieved through physical presentation (e.g. clothing, hair, makeup, and secondary sex characteristics), as well as behavior.
Because much of gender performance is expressed through clothing, in societies where a gender binary can be observed, there is an established, widespread notion that some clothes are "masculine" and should be worn only by male-bodied individuals, and others are "feminine" and should be worn only by female-bodied individuals.
Hawkes, sociologist and author, addresses this "dress code" and the opportunity for a resistance: "The universality of [dress] codes and their meanings allows for the [subversion of] the mainstream 'messages' they convey and through this to illuminate the existence of alternative [gender] identities."
Cross-dressing and androgyny
Cross-dressing would be a form of gender bending because the purpose is to "fuck with gender" roles and presentation.
Androgyny is not specifically gender bending, but it can be considered as such if someone is being androgynous on purpose.
The origin of the word "androgynous" is from the Greek androgynos: "male and female in one; womanish man; common to men and women".
Androgyny as a form of gender expression may present as a blended unification of masculine and feminine traits, with the goal of making one's sex indiscernible, or as a dichotomous mix juxtaposing male and female phenotypes, with the goal of transgressing gender norms.
There have been many famous people who have cross-dressed and many famous people now who are androgynous.
The rock star Prince was very well known for his cross-dressing or androgynous look.
Eddie Izzard started to freely talk about his cross-dressing as early as 1992.
Shakespeare used cross-dressing in his performances.
Over the centuries some readers have posited that Shakespeare's sonnets are autobiographical, and point to them as evidence of his love for a young man.
Shakespeare had characters in his writings that were considered cross-dressers.
The four of the five main female characters in his plays were seen as women who cross-dress as men or boys: Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Rosalind in As You Like It, Viola in Twelfth Night.
Drag costuming and makeup may in some cases simply involve an actor portraying a character of a sex or gender different from their own, or the performance itself may be a parody or critique of gender and gender roles.
Often "feminine" or "masculine" gender stereotypes of the person's culture are exaggerated for comic or satirical effect.
Drag revues typically involve elaborate, glamorous costumes and musical performances.
The entertainers may sing, dance, or lip sync.
A faux drag performer is a person who performs as the gender they identify as in day-to-day life, albeit in a usually exaggerated form.
For instance a cisgender woman who performs as a drag queen is a faux queen or the other way around for a faux king.
Rupp et al.
noted in 2010 that "In order to understand the differences and similarities between gay male drag queens and female-bodied and transgender drag kings and bio queens, we consider how the personal gender and sexual identities of drag performers affect and are affected by their gender performances in drag."
Literature, in particular erotica, is another method that has been used to explore genderfuck scenarios.
The basis of the literary genre of genderfuck is that it's unimportant whether someone is a man or a woman during the sex act, an idea which challenges for example the Catholic theology of sexuality.
Doris Libetseder points to Carol Queen's short story The Leather Daddy and the Femme, where a lesbian femme uses a strap-on dildo to have sex with a gay leather daddy as a fitting example of the genderfuck genre.
It was noted as early as May 2019 that the software product Snapchat had photograph filters that make it easy to perform a gender bender on the subjects of photographs, especially those taken on handheld devices like smartphones.
Non-political gender bending
Gender bending is not always a purposeful political standpoint.
According to Butler, gender is something that is performed; it only holds cultural significance to the extent that this is ascribed to it.
Further, in 1995 Tamsin Wilton argued that:
Judith Butler and gender as performance
Judith Butler a theorist who believes the idea that gender is something that is performed by individuals.
Her concept of "gender performativity" is the idea that people choose to perform gender in a context in which we are given very few socially acceptable choices, but can be explained as being similar to what actors do in front of the camera.
Due to the importance we place on the belief that men need to act like men and women need to behave like women, it is often believed that gender is an innate attribute and not a social construct.
In her article Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory, Butler explains that if gender is something that sexed bodies assimilate to in order to follow the societal codes of what is appropriate behavior, then those actions can be conceptualized in different ways to allow more flexibility for individuals.
In the same article, she asserts that in American culture, there is a gender binary along with strict social repercussions against those that act against the "normal" script.
This script is policed by harassment, parental pressures to fill expectations, and peer influence.
All of these are ways to guarantee that the culture will repeat itself from generation to generation.
Judith Butler's theory about gender roles and their social implications and need for reconstruction is developed in her book, Gender Trouble (1990) in which she argues that the limited acceptance of variation in gender roles does great harm to individual expression.
With the limited options for both men and women, there is little room for their combined forces, because men are constantly focused on becoming the financial supporters of their families which leaves women with the sole option of being the maternal expert she is expected to be.
This idea excludes the masculine women or feminine men from being acceptable parental figures for their children because it may lead to a child growing up and conceptualizing the world differently.
Gender and childraising
According to Susan Witt's 1997 study, children generally come to their first conclusions about being male or female from their parents since typically they are the first people the child relates to and the nature of the relationship is intense.
Besides parents giving children gender specific clothing, toys, and expectations, there are often many subtle messages about what is acceptable or not regarding gender.
Witt's study showed that children that grow up with more androgynous gendered parents are more focused on achievements and typically have a better sense of self.
Conversely, in cases of gender nonconformity, when a child exhibits gender performances that are atypical of their prescribed gender role, Kerry Robinson and Cristyn Davies report that a parental figure may respond with hostility.
According to Roberts et al.
in Pediatrics, people who do not conform to the gender binary are often subject to abuse from society, from within the family and within their community.
Some films including gender-fuck characters or drag characters are:
- Twelfth Night (1910 film) (1910)
- A Busy Day (1914)
- A Woman (1915)
- Different from the Others (1919)
- Little Old New York (1923)
- The Isle of Love (1923)
- That's My Wife (1929)
- Twice Two (1933)
- Viktor und Viktoria (1933), as well as its remake Victor/Victoria (1982)
- Georges et Georgette (1934)
- Glen or Glenda (1953)
- Some Like It Hot (1959)
- La Dolce Vita (1960)
- Psycho (1960)
- Women of the World (1963)
- Flesh (1968)
- Mondo Trasho (1969)
- Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)
- Pink Flamingos (1972)
- Female Trouble (1974)
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1974)
- La Cage aux Folles (1978) as well as its remake The Birdcage (1996)
- Polyester (film) (1981)
- Tootsie (1982)
- Hairspray (1988) as well as the 2007 remake
- Paris Is Burning (1991)
- Silence of the Lambs (1991)
- Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
- Ed Wood (1994)
- The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
- To Wong Foo (1995)
- Boys Don't Cry (1999)
- Party Monster (2003)
- Transamerica (2005)
- J. Edgar (2011)
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender bender.