(Re)Conceptualizing the Normative: A Glimpse into the Radical Potential and Ultimate Failure of Queer Politics
Mentor:Anita Jain, Professor of Ethnic and Women's Studies, Cal Poly Pomona
In spite of its desire to eliminate the tendency to characterize identity into concrete boxes, queer socio-political praxis creates a divide between the queer and the non-queer, a split that ruptures the very essence of queerness. Feminine queer women are located at a unique intersection of gender performance and sexuality, one that is both normative and queer. Through interviews with ten queer feminine women from diverse backgrounds, this project analyzes how femininity articulated within a queer woman’s experience points to the shortcomings of queer politics; even within a politics that intrinsically shies away from identity distinctions, queer politics stratifies those not adhering to an authentic queer performance. While on the one hand queer feminine women who can pass for straight may confer a quasi-privilege within heterosexual spaces, my study explores how queer women’s outward expression of femininity may in fact be marginalized within queer spaces. If queer politics centers on non-normative gender performance, then what does this mean for gender conforming queers? Firstly, I challenge the notion of queer authenticity with a discussion of queernormativity. As queer spaces center on visibility, invisibility results for gender-normative queers who experience a pressure to “butch it up”. Subsequently, I will conceptualize radical practices of femininity. Consciously adopting the term queer as a political statement and sexual identity, the “hard femme” queers the intersections of identity in a way that craves deconstruction and reconstruction. Lastly, I will expose queer femmes’ passing as a queer double consciousness. In queer politics, where visibly queer subjects are valued and respected, queers who can pass as straight are subjected not to a position of safety, but to a marginalized discrimination. I contend that the radical potential of queer politics lies not in an emphasis of external queerness, but in our need to evade being disciplined into corporeal subjects.