Library Dissertation Showcase

Gender as my self: the constitution of gendered ontology, the phantasmatic self, and the sublime real of the no-place

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

“If woman has always functioned ‘within’ the discourse of man, a signifier that has always referred back to the opposite signifier which annihilates its specific energy and diminishes or shifts its very different sounds, it is time for her to dislocate this ‘within’ , to explode it, turn it around and seize it, to make it hers, containing it, taking it in her mouth and biting that tongue with her own teeth to invent for herself a language to get inside of.”
Cixous, 1981:257

When Cixous (1986) states “I am not (a) Woman”, is it said as a type of refusal to embody that which is un-habitable? Or impossible? A rejection of what ‘I am’ is (in actuality) a rejection of what I am radically not. As Butler (1988; 1999) states, nobody can be a woman. If gender and sex are a fictitious substance, a sedimentation of repetitive reified rituals with no inherent ontology of their own; if I don’t possess a gender as an essence or psychic entity then, why is it that ‘I’ act and appear, recognised as such? And if I am not a gender or sex, then where do I find the real of ‘me’, of experience, that this ontology has seemingly replaced? Can it be right, that I am forced to play along? How is it that I embody this enforcement yet also seemingly have an ‘I’ which doesn’t want to?
If say, this ontology is indeed fictional, a script socially prior to ‘me’ then what, if that were to cease to exist within, would I find? If these ontological, material boundaries were to disappear or to have never existed, what could be different? How could ‘I’ be different? What would or could this mean for feminism? If we manage to envision, to see, to feel ‘the before’ of gender and sex, would this ontology be ungendered? Is there such a thing? And could this envisioned possibility contribute to feminism, to conceptions of freedom? Of a being free of constraint, risking a proverbial overlap, with the Cartesian subject to find out. If it is indeed a brush with decree of essentialism that is feared that could such an outrage build walls to exploration on different terms? Can I be real within or on the outside of “reality”? Is this a question of ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ as is often presumed, or is this way of seeing, another modernist boundary in itself? If there might be nothing, is that actually a something? Could this something be a no-thing, a no-place of something real? Is there something (to be found) in these invitations which point beyond the ‘she’?

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