Theorizing Feminism: Parallel Trends in the Humanities and Social Sciences

By Anne C. Herrmann; Abigail J. Stewart | Go to book overview

8 The Politics of
Androgyny in Japan

Sexuality and Subversion in
the Theater and Beyond

JENNIFER ROBERTSON

Androgyny," as I employ the term here, refers not to a physiological condition (that is, an intersexed body) but to a "surface politics of the body" (Butler 1990:136). Androgyny involves the scrambling of gender markers—clothes, gestures, speech patterns, and so on—in a way that both undermines the stability of a sex-gender system premised on a male-female dichotomy and retains that dichotomy by either juxtaposing or blending its elements. My emphasis on the constructed and performative aspects of gender, and on its distinction from sex, is more than just a theoretical premise or literary exercise; these aspects are outstandingly evident in the two theaters—Kabuki, an all-male theater, and the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female theater—which are the main sites of my investigation into the politics of androgyny in Japan. Because so much has been written on the Kabuki theater and so little on the Takarazuka

The gendered body is constructed and performative. Androgyny involves the scrambling of gender markers (clothes, gestures, speech patterns) in a "surface politics of the body." I explore the politics of androgyny in Japan as they have been embodied and enacted by same-sex theater actors and expressed in Japanese society at large. The referent of androgyny, or the body of the androgyne, has changed over the past 300 years from male to female. Since the early 20th century, androgyny has been deployed in both dominant and marginal discourses to camouflage "unconventional" female sexual choices and practices by creating the illusion of an asexual identity. It has also been evoked in reference to females who "do" both "female" and "male" gender without being constrained by either. [androgyny, gender, sexuality, theater, girls and women, Japan]

-158-

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