Disciplining Gender: Rhetorics of Sex Identity in Contemporary U.S. Culture

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2004 - Social Science - 189 pages
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An expert on the rhetoric of the mass media, John M. Sloop has written several books on how the spoken and written word can influence political and cultural debate. In Disciplining Gender, he turns his attention to a topic that has attracted widespread public discussion -- the treatment of gender ambiguity in American culture. He offers critical readings of five cases, showing the extent to which, in each instance, public discourse and media representations have served to reinforce dominant norms and constrain or "discipline" any behavior that blurs or subverts conventional gender boundaries.

The five cases include John/Joan or David Reimer, Brandon Teena, k.d. lang, Janet Reno, and Barry Winchell/Calpernia Addams. Sloop draws on queer theory and research in the field of critical rhetoric to examine representations of "gender trouble" in these much-publicized stories. In each case, he provides a comprehensive analysis of the public discussions of their significance. In short, rather than simply study the people and circumstances involved in each case, he examines the public meanings attached to them and the implications of those meanings for how contemporary culture comes to understand what "man" and "woman" mean and which sexual behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate.

In highlighting the ideological constraints imposed by our society, Sloop also suggests the ways that these constraints might be loosened and understandings of gender and sexuality diversified.


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Disciplining Gender: Rhetorics of Sex Identity in Contemporary U.S. Culture

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In his latest book, Sloop (communications, Vanderbilt Univ.; The Cultural Prison) demands that readers stop, read, consume, and contemplate the various articulations of sex identity in present-day U.S ... Read full review


Remembering David Reimer Heteronormativity and Public Argument in the JohnJoan Case
Disciplining the Transgendered Brandon Teena Public Representation and Normativity
So Long Chaps and Spurs and Howdyer Bon Jourto the Wounded Songbird
The Disciplining of Female Masculinity
In Death a Secret Finally and Fully Exposed Barry Winchell Calpernia Addams and the Crystallization of Gender and Desire
Bringing It All Back Home

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Page 27 - This iterability implies that 'performance' is not a singular 'act' or event, but a ritualized production, a ritual reiterated under and through constraint, under and through the force of prohibition and taboo, with the threat of ostracism and even death controlling and compelling the shape of the production, but not, I will insist, determining it fully in advance (1993: 95).
Page 30 - Such acts, gestures, enactments, generally construed, are performative in the sense that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications...
Page 23 - ... a regularized and constrained repetition of norms. And this repetition is not performed by a subject; this repetition is what enables a subject and constitutes the temporal condition for the subject. This iterability implies that 'performance
Page 7 - To expose the contingent acts that create the appearance of a naturalistic necessity, a move which has been a part of cultural critique at least since Marx, is a task that now takes on the added burden of showing how the very notion of the subject, intelligible only through its appearance as gendered, admits of possibilities that have been forcibly foreclosed by the various reifications...

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About the author (2004)

John M. Sloop is associate professor of communications at Vanderbilt University. His most recent books are The Cultural Prison: Discourse, Prisoners, and Punishment (1996) and Shifting Borders: Rhetoric, Immigration, and California's Proposition 187 (2002, coauthored with Kent A. Ono).

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