PHIL 6320: Identity Augmentation and Deviation in Performance of Gender

Potential Paper Topic: Identity Augmentation and Deviation in Performance of Gender


Gender performance is dictated through social norms and expectations. Judith Butler calls this enacting of a specified gender role “performativity”. Various social science perspectives on deviations from the gender binary predict that non-conforming identities will be disciplined and either corrected or rendered as stigmatized. Research and theoretical efforts tend to support this conclusion for outward identity deviations. There is minimal research regarding a deviation between a person’s accepted gender identity and their perception of the quality of their performance of that identity, except in cases of ego-dystonia.

Are there behaviors that are linked to gender that are performed to correct, augment or strengthen a person’s internalized gender identity that are not linked to an external assessment of gender identity? In terms of the gender binary, for this type of behavior to exist, masculinity would have to be constructed as a more vulnerable identity than only “relentless repudiation of femininity “ (Levine 13). Theorizing this type of behavior problematizes concepts of a purely social gender identity, however, it does not necessarily advocate for gender as an essence either.

One site of behaviors that can augment the gender identity or potentially change the meaning of the identity is power-exchange relationships. Such relationships often exhibit roles that are contrary to standard gender norms, but yet do not encourage acceptance of alternative gender roles. What is the impact to the internalized identity of the participants in these types of relationships?