Critical Writing Index

The She-Man: Postmodern bi-sexed performance in film and video

by Chris Straayer

Screen, Summer 1990, v. 31, no. 3, pp. 262-280

Examines empowerment of "She-men" utilizing "bi-sexed" performance to crossdress as women. Straayer articulates the ways "femaleness as sexual power" has been established through feminist actions and theoretical challenges to the phallocentric status quo; it is this power that is now being usurped by the male drag performer, who is no longer simply a comic figure. The "phallic femme" (parodying patriarchy) and "Medusan femme" (challenging with plural female sexuality) are two historical/conceptual processes contributing to and allowing for the She-man formation/empowerment narrative. Straayer finds that video becomes an ideal vessel for "bi-sexed" performance in part because it disrupts film's traditional modes of signification and viewer identification. The article goes on to consider examples of the postmodern collapse of gender discontinuity in "She-men" video art and music video, and ends by considering the possibilities for women's empowerment through "She-butch" performance.

ITEM 1990.100 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

A Trip Through the Wardrobes of the MindJohn Scarlett-Davis

The Kipling Trilogy: Perils of PedagogyJohn Greyson

Chinese CharactersRichard Fung