Issue 4, March 2019

Theme and provocation

Performing gender

Poetry selected for this issue will reflect explorations of the whole spectrum of the performance of our gender. Performing gender is something every person does on a daily basis, minute by minute, decision by decision. It is about the effort we make to stay within the acceptable norms, to get it right, to make an impression.

And also, it is about the effort we make, sometimes with life or death consequences, to disrupt expectations, to dissent from the norm, to conceal ourselves, to be seen as someone else.

Gender performance is both whatever is seen as ‘the normal’ and whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. The idea that gender is performance is, by definition, disruptive, uncomfortable and subversive.

Gender can be seen as not one position that locks a person into one particular way of being, but flexible, moving, sometimes contradictory and dissonant ways of thinking about oneself. Identity without an essence and identity that can change in time and over time, allowing a person possibilities for space both inside and outside what is seen as normal.

The poetry in Issue 4 – Performing Gender seeks poetic expression from both straight and queer communities. Queer used to be a slang word for homosexuals and was used for homophobic abuse. But now it embraces the LGBTIQA gender community. Queer recognises cultural marginalisation, but does not bow to pressure to conform. Queer enjoys the fluidity of mismatches between sex, gender and desire.

In whatever ways we do our own gender and sexuality, the social ideas about how we have been constrained and what we have been allowed, have had impacts on all our lives in both positive and negative ways.

This issue of NVQ poetry is one form of asking questions about gender.

Judith Butler video

The Editors of Issue 4 suggest you spend 3 minutes watching the YouTube video, Judith Butler: Your Behavior Creates Your Gender.

Who is Judith Butler?

Judith Butler (born 24 February 1956) is an American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics and the fields of third-wave feminist, queer and literary theory. She currently teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

Key ideas:  Gender as social construction; Gender performativity

Butler is best known for her books Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) and Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (1993), in which she challenges conventional notions of gender and develops her theory of gender performativity. This theory has had a major influence on feminist and queer scholarship. See Butler bios on UC Berkeley and Wikipedia web pages.


Submissions open 1–31 January 2019.
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