Many female impersonators see masculinity and

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many female impersonators "see masculinity and femininity as the polar modes of existence." 28 So, too, do many transsexuals. Jan Morris, who eventually had a sex­ change operation, has written of "that inner factor" which he identified in himself (when still physically male) as "femaleness,'' of gender as the "essentialness of oneself"; she approvingly quotes C. S. Lewis's description of gender as "reality, a more fundamental reality than sex." 29 Lesbian butch and femme identities, too, are frequently read by heterosexuals as proof of how irresistible masculine and feminine roles are—an irresistibility they then go on to attribute to the "naturalness" of heterosexuality. How culturally subversive can these forms be if they are so readily interpreted as proof of the foundational nature of gender, the essential reality of the "binary frame"? I want to make clear that my criticism of the abstract nature of Butler's argument does not entail a denial of the fact that subversive elements are continually at work (or at play) in our culture. My point is that subversion is contextual, historical, and, above all, social. No matter how exciting the destabilizing potential of texts, bodily or otherwise, whether those texts are subversive or recuperative or both or neither cannot be determined in abstraction from actual social practice. In "'Material Girl,"' I criticized Susan McClary's reading of Madonna's music video "Open Your Heart to Me" for romanticizing what McClary sees as the playful, parodic, subversive aspects of that text at the expense of effacement of the grimmer social reality of how young men and women are actually responding to the images of music videos. Assessing Butler's work is more complicated, for it has a dual identity. With her keen feminist understanding of how historically normalizing and defining the institutions of phallocentrism and heterosexism are, Butler is strongly attuned to the social world that her parodic bodily "texts" (they are people, after all, not literature) live in. The Derridean/Foucauldian agenda of Gender Trouble, however, leads in another direction. Butler's texts become signifiers without context, and her analysis begins to exhibit along with McClary's a characteristically postmodern inclination to emphasize and celebrate resistance, the creative agency of individuals, and the instabilities of current power­relations rather than their recuperative tendencies. What is wrong with such a celebration? I want to point to several problems here. Let me first acknowledge, however, that no culture
Page 295 is static or seamless. Resistance and transformation are indeed continual and creative, and subversive responses are possible under even the most oppressive circumstances. This all seems obvious from history. What Foucault himself recognized and his more postmodern followers sometimes forget is that resistance and transformation are historical processes. Instead, intoxicated with the interpretive and creative possibilities of cultural analysis, they neglect to ask themselves what is actually going on in the culture around them. Here, the influence of deconstructionism is apparent. I agree with Foucault that where there is power there is also

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