Gender Buttons


Speaking provisionally and in mutuality, I want to explore some continuing elements for feminism as a mode of cultural critique and intervention, both for literary criticism and for the production of art. This critique, whether it occurs in literary scholarship or in art works, might be defined as examining how cultural power relations get spoken through gender and sexuality: how gender and sexuality are represented; how they are reinforced in cultural products and in social and professional institutions; how they are and might be in motion; how they seep into and inflect all other social realms (political, economic, institutional); what their impact is; and what contradictions they reveal. I want, in short, to continue to push some gender buttons. Gender critique is both epistemological and pragmatic. My epigraph from Lyn Hejinian says that woman is in motion, not a fixed entity, in the realm of becoming, that is, of poesis, of making things different. Gender in general is a topic for analyses that 'make a difference in the totality of the spaces we call knowledge' (Pollock, Differencing xvi). By examining what Eavan Boland calls the 'covert' relationships between 'power and cadence', by demystifying sex-gender mechanisms, feminist critique contributes to re-signification. It challenges representation, studies assumptions and jostles consciousness. In doing so, it can motivate genuine shifts in policies, practices and laws.

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Published 1 November 2009 in Manifesting Australian Literary Feminisms: Nexus and Faultlines. Subjects: Feminism.

Cite as: Blau DuPlessis, Rachel. ‘Gender Buttons.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 24, no. 3-4, 2009, doi: 10.20314/als.2d709692ee.