Names we call ourselves

October 10, 2018

Gender perfomativity does not just characterize what we do, but how discourse and institutional power affect us, constraining and moving us in relation to what we come to call our “own” action. To understand that the names we are called are just important to perfomativity as the names we call ourselves. (Butler, J.)

As amplified in my previous post ‘Body exemplar’, the ideal body of 21st century is rapidly loosing its stiff contours. With a lot of stress put on tolerance one can observe a shift in understanding beauty, a shift towards oddities, imperfections, variation. Take for instance boosting career of Winnie Harlow with her patched, marvelous body. Commercial market has noticed the shift and successfully used it to sell products. (See: All women project).

Butler differentiates names we chose for ourselves and names that were chosen for us in terms of gender performativity, where the “names chosen for us” represent cultural gender – a set of beliefs on specificity of particular sex.

Let’s take a closer look on the process of ‘naming’ as it has become very important in recent times. Freeing ourselves from fixed social schemes was both liberating and troublesome. We can no longer simply follow certain habits, be whatever our gender or class tells us to be.* Instead, we are fully engaged in creation of our socio-cultural identity. In the postmodern era this task is not the easiest – strong figures of authority are gone, they will no longer guide us, mark our common goals and lead towards them. Instead, we have plenty of examples of individualized lifestyle we can learn from. It is only up to us which of these we choose to follow – and it’s us that will deal with whatever consequences our choices cause.

Creation of identity has many layers and some can be quite banal. It starts with our appearance – the way we expose or disclose our bodies. Image is later on followed by lifestyle – love life, friends, family, work environment, even travelling.

No matter what choice you make – dense network of commercials will always suggest some options and in many cases will influence your behaviour. Sometimes you recognize the manipulation – and sometimes you choose to accept it. Sometimes you feel like your decision was independent. And maybe then you are right. But maybe not.

02 / Kinga Zemła

* Surely this is still an ongoing process.


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