Judith Butler’s chapter 7: Imitation and Gender Insubordination highlights the fact that gender roles are a social construct. I agree with Butler on this aspect because we as human beings are told how to conduct ourselves, how to dress, and all the stigmas that go along with being a normal male or female. Butler mentions that “Gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original” (p.722) emphasizing that heterosexuality is not the original of homosexuality. I originally was on board with Butler, and the idea that heterosexuality is not the original of homosexuality. However after today’s class discussion I have changed my opinion to the opposite view. I believe that homosexuality derived from heterosexuality, because like we stated in class without heterosexuality procreation would have come to a halt in the 18th c. Therefore I have to disagree with Butler on this matter.
Johnathan Swift’s A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed validates Butler’s assertion that gender roles are a social construct. Corinna the prostitute is depicted as being one of the most attractive women in London during this time. Swift describes Corinna as the “Pride of Drury- Lane for whom no shepherd signs in vain,” emphasizing how remarkably beautiful she is…or is she? Further along in the poem Swift details aspects about Corinna that men are unaware of. He emphasizes Corrina’s unladylike features. For example she “ Takes off her artificial hair: now, picking out a crystal eye, her eye brows from a mouse’s hyde, stuck on with art on either side.” Corrina removes all the attributes that defines her as a beautiful young woman. The wig, the hair, and the makeup are all signs of Corinna being a natural woman, and without those things society has deemed that she cannot be a true woman. This emphasizes Butler’s assertion that “Identity is not self-identical.” Clearly Corinna finds her identity in what the men down on Drury-Lane find attractive. (p.725)
One can infer that putting on the makeup, hair, eyebrows, and inserting her glass eyeball is all apart of Corrina’s daily routine. Butler’s essay states that, “There is a need for a repetition…to establish the illusion of its own uniformity and identity.” (p.725). Corrinna has to repeat the motion of dressing up to be a woman to establish her own identity. Butler’s essay helped me understand Swift’s poem because Butler details how we identify with our gender roles by constantly repeating the things that makes us male or female. In other words we are repeating the aspects that make us male or female because we are looking for validation of our identity. So Corinna doesn’t go out her way to put on make-up every day for herself, but more so for others to identify her as a woman.
The beautiful young nymph puts in her dentures, and puts on her girdle to give her a more defined hour glass shape because it has been instilled in her that this is how women are supposed to dress, and appeal to the opposite sex. Swift however incorporates an ironic twist because he emphasizes that Corrina is not a beautiful woman after all. For example this is emphasized when, “Corinna wakes. A dreadful sight!” (Swift). This underlines that although Corrina is deemed as a beautiful creature when she has on her hair, wardrobe, makeup etc. she lacks the innate beauty that women are supposed to have.
I do not think Swift would agree that our biological sex is original to our true gender. Swifts poems advocate that women are supposed to act, and be a certain way, but the reality is they (Corinna for example) are the exact opposite of what they pretend to be. Therefore I believe Swift would disagree that the biological sex is original to true gender. Corinna was born a woman but she does not necessarily fit into the stereotype of the innate beauty and cleanliness that woman are supposedly born with.