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The poem Gender Question #2 was written by Jenifer Perrine and published on the 13th day of January 2009. The poem won the winner of the Goodreads Poetry Contest in January 2009. The poem has three key words on its title; butch, femme and androgynous. The poem is among fifty other poems in Perrine's first collection known as the body is no machine. Jenifer Perrine was born on the eighth day of October the year 1977. Androgyny is a Greek word that is used to refer to the overall combination of both feminine and masculine characteristics. This term may be used to refer to sexual lifestyle, sexual identity or different kinds of fashion. The term can further be used to refer to biological physical characteristics that are inter-sexed. Butch and femme are terms commonly used to refer and describe masculine and feminine traits respectively. These traits may be in reference to style, behavior, self-perception and expression. The terms have been applied to refer to gay, bisexual and lesbian subcultures. A different term but similar to the two above, en femme, has also been widely used to refer to cross-dressing societies. The terms have been used by modern social scientist specializing in human sexuality when studying the behaviors and conducts of people engaged in heterosexual relationships. According to social scientists, butch is used to represent traditional male dominated roles while on the other side femme is used to represent the traditional female dominated roles. However, social scientists have for many times faced challenges when using the two terms to describe lesbian or gay couples (Perrine, 2007).
As a rule for critical essay writing, the thesis statement for this critical essay will be ‘when we talk of the concept of gender, who do we really refer to?’
The meaning of the poem from the writers view
In this poem, the writer is trying to find out the real meaning of gender. The writer tries to use body physical characteristic to see if she can find out the difference between men and women. According to the poem, the writer is not sure if what is called gender is the physical difference between men and women or the social difference between them. The writer explores her body to see if she can note the difference from that of men. She explores her body completely but she does not get an answer for gender. According to her, she cannot get that significant meaning and she goes on to say that she wants to set on a journey to the world of femme. According to her, the world of femme refers to a female dominated society.
She wants to go on an adventure mission to find out if gender refers to that women dominated society. However, she is eager to find out the answer, and she does not want the memories of when she finds the answer to fade. That is why she goes on and writes that she will take shots of the place. She writes that she will take the picture so that they will always remind her of that world of men, the past and quest for knowledge and answer. This shows how important the revelation will mean to her. The writer wonders why many debates have been raised about the gender issues.
According to her, the whole issue of gender revolves around women. This she puts on her writing of what she finds when she tours the femme world. To how much debate and issues have been raised on the gender question. The writer writes that she watches tourists as they tour around the attractions in the femme world. After the writer has explored the femme world in search of the real meaning of gender, she will plan to embark on another journey to find the answer from the world of men. This world of men she refers to it as a butch. According to the writer, it will be difficult for her to find the real meaning of gender from the world of men. For instance, getting to the butch world is a difficult task for her.
As she write, she will have to bike to get to butch world. Biking is an indication of a tiring journey. The world of men seems to be busy as compared to that of the women. According to the writer, the world of butch is an industrious city that is always bright and a machine couples it. There are no tourists in the butch world hence less debate have been raised on gender to refer to men. According to the writer, the world of men has instead turned the impossible to possible. The writer notes that in the world of men, the stars are forced to shine beyond dark hides and leather. According to the writer, this shows how men frustrate those who seem to have interest in debates on gender. According to the writer, getting the real answer from the world of men is also hard based on the way men keep their secrets. The writer writes that the men might have closed their gates to prevent any outsider from accessing to their neighborhood. The writer is not sure if she will really get the answer for the world of men and she writes that if she fails, she will move on and seek refuge in the world of androgynous. This world is neutral. Getting the answer here seems possible since the people here have a neutral stand. This world is a bit comfortable as the writer notes that in that place grasses glow silver (Perrine, 2007).
Background to gender studies
Just as the writer is confused on the true meaning of gender, the whole issue of gender has raised many debates in our modern society. In order to understand the real meaning of gender and its application, we need to look at it from an historical perspective. The Social scientists refer to the physical or the biological difference between men and women as sex. On the other hand, social scientists refer gender to as the social difference between men and women. To them, each culture has its own ways of differentiating role between men and women. In anthropology, this is commonly referred to as gender division of labor. Contemporary studies show that many traditional societies have duties or roles exclusive designed and reserved for men and other duties are exclusively reserved for women.
Many of the traditional societies divided the duties into two, productive and reproductive duties. Reproductive roles or duties were reserved for the women. Reproductive duties included rearing, looking after the young ones and doing other house hold chores. In other words, women were given work and duties that involved less use of energy, duties that had minimal traveling and duties that can be done around the homestead. On the other hand, men were allocated productive duties. Productive duties required more energy and were done aware from the homestead. These duties included fishing, hunting, farming and trading (Davis, Evans, & Lorber, 2006).
Criticism and support
From the above perspective, it is evident that the meaning of gender cannot be based on a physical differentiation perspective. This is against the writer’s view that she can get the real meaning of gender by just analyzing the physical appearance. Another criticism occurs when the writer says that in the male dominated societies stars are forced to shine through dark leathers. The modern world appreciates the whole concept of gender and men have been seen to support women in all aspects of human life. Irrespective of the criticism, it should be pointed out that the writer is aware and supports the fact that the men are active, industrious and busy all through. She also notes that men are meant to provide security to the women. In the modern world, issues on gender have become the order of the day. This supports the writer’s long battle to search for the real meaning and the application of gender concept.
Another criticism occurs when the writer tries to go and seek the meaning of gender from people possessing both male and female characteristics. Possessing both male and female physical characteristics is more of a physical or biological differentiation than a cultural one. Transgender relationships are not culturally accepted in many societies and those found practicing it are severely punished. The writer should also understand that today the gender division of labor has undergone some modifications. Jobs considered to be dominated by men are today being done by both men and women and vice versa. Access to equal education by both gender have facilitated this shift in this division of labor (Skinner, (2002).
Analysis of the Poem Using Queer Theory Lens
Queer theory was brought forth in 1970s. As the name “queer” suggest, the theory focuses on different unusual identities viz. homosexuality. In sociology and gender studies, this theory focuses on issues like sexuality and the marginalized few in the society. Critics who work with this theory seems to criticize the cultural definition of what being a male or female means. They observe that the traditional role of men and women, as well as their behaviors are constantly changing. In a nutshell, therefore, queer theory rejects the traditional categorization of gender. Jenifer, in her poem recognizes how different it is to distinguish between masculine and feminine genders on basis of physical appearance. She therefore sets out to the women and men dominated worlds to seek for a clearer difference. In both the feminine and the masculine world, the writer is still unable to figure out the difference between the two genders. However, she observes some slight differences in the two worlds. For instance, the male dominated world seems to be busier than the female dominated world. However, this difference is not substantial and she therefore concludes that it is difficult to classify gender on basis of activities. This can be illustrated by the writer saying that she will seek refuge in the world of androgynous. In this world, there exists some hope to get the answer. This is a neutral world; partly feminine and partly masculine.
Several debates have been raised in various countries and all this has been dubbed as gender equality. Courses in gender and development have been introduced to universities across the world. Topics been taught in this course include lessons on gender and governance, gender and sexuality and all other topics that have raised heated debates on the whole concept of gender. Several gender-based organizations have been formed to advocate gender equality. Some governments are even proposing for an equal gender representation in the government, public service and on other various government agencies. Therefore, gender should not be based on a specific sex; it should apply to all people living in the same society. However, today transgender relationships have raised heated debates and their pioneers are calling for recognition. Some countries have legalized gay and lesbian rights among its citizens while others are not willing to approve such related rights groups.