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David Bowie and Performativity - Essay Example

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Name Instructor Class 26 March 2013 Gender as Performance: Butler’s Performative Acts in Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” Gender is not biologically based because it is better described as something that is repeatedly performed. In “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution,” Judith Butler argues that gender is performed or enacted, and not naturally occurring…
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David Bowie and Performativity

Download file to see previous pages... This argument will serve as a lens in analysing David Bowie’s song, “Queen Bitch.” The song revolves around a hustler prostitute seducing a gay man’s boyfriend. Using stereotyped language and images and an upbeat tone and guitar melody, Bowie challenges the narratives of authentic identity by undermining sexual gender roles and asserting his own lack of performance in contrast to the aggressive nature of the Queen Bitch, although he realises that his gay performative acts include sexual liberation from an unfaithful relationship that is doomed because of heterosexual desires. Butler believes that gender is not biologically-based, but created in the past, and Bowie uses stereotyped language to support that feminine gender is subjected to socially-produced heteronormativity, which society designed for male desires. Butler asserts that gender is “tenuously constituted in time” (901). The tenuous part can be ascribed to gender norms and roles that are passed on from one generation to another, particularly in patriarchal societies that men design and control. Bowie specifically questions the gender norm of the female bitch. In describing her clothing, he demeans the clothing that women wear to attract the male gender: “She's so swishy in her satin and tat/In her frock coat/and bipperty-bopperty hat” (lines 13-15). The satin and tat are an odd mix because satin can be related to sophistication, while tat is a form of laced clothing. The combination suggests a cheap imitation of the ideal virginal woman. “Bipperty-bopperty” seems to be onomatopoeic, like something is being conjured out of magic. The effect is that the hat is as “fake” or as “contrived” as the woman. To stress the poor choice of clothing of the prostitute, Bowie says; “Oh God, I could do better than that” (16). He curses and calls the name of God, as if saying that even if God made her a woman, he is a better woman, even if he is a man. Society defines manhood and womanhood, so gender is “tenuously constituted in time,” a time that Bowie finds hard to oppose (Butler 901). Furthermore, heteronormativity is present in the song because the man, who can be inferred as the boyfriend of the singer, is not loyal to the latter, and instead, acts like a stereotyped womaniser. Bowie notes that though the woman is a “bitch,” the man is a male version of a bitch: “And he's trying hard/to pull sister Flo” (4-5). The man is not exactly resisting the charms of the woman, whom Bowie calls sister Flo, probably because she goes with the flow, the flow of men with money or looks or both. Bowie shows that society produces slutty women and men within the context of heteronormativity, where male desires shape social norms. Present gender roles and interactions are products of heteronormative desires. Aside from the tenacity of the past in influencing gender norms, Butler argues that gender is performed. She maintains that gender is “an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts” (901). The stylised repetition of actions pertains to bodily movements that are socially approved for men and women. Bowie notes the social production of queens: “She's an old-time ambassador/Of sweet talking, night walking games/And she's known in the darkest clubs/For pushing ahead of the dames” ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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