Erratic Femininity

The chapter of Gayle Salamon’s essay in Assuming A Body entitled “Boys of The Lex: Transgender and Social Construction” discusses a concept Salamon coins homoerratic, which she defines as “a libidinal economy of sameness whose participants nevertheless wander or stray from their customary or expected courses in unpredictable and surprising ways and whose energy depends on the very unfixablilty of those erotic identifications and exchanges” (Salamon, 71). In other words, homoerraticism refers to the ability for different individuals to consciously occupy a sense of sameness that, within it, houses specific types of deviations and fluid interpretations of that sameness.

I would argue that this concept, one of homoerratics, could be applied to the gamut of ways of enacting femininity as well. Femininity, in its essence, denotes a sense of sameness under the banner of an interpretation of what it means to be woman. However, just as Salamon notes that “homoerotic is an unhelpfully flat adjective that cannot quite keep up with libidinous and identificatory refractions,” I would argue that femininity is often misused, and ill defined in its traditional and most common usage (71). I would, then, call for a term that does what homoerraticism attempts to do and does quite well, but would instead describe a sort of “unfixability” in the multiplicity of the possible interpretations of femininity.

Perhaps erratic femininity could come to stand in the place of the traditional term femininity. Based on this argument, then, I suppose an erratic masculinity must be put into place, as well as an erratic androgyny and perhaps general erratic gender subjectivity. To me, Salamon’s term homoerratic has simply opened the floodgates and rendered a knew image of sameness under specific identities and subjectivities.

-Sally Stempler

I may shut the world out, but this does not make it go away

In “Boys of the Lex,” Gayle Salamon discusses the ways in which gender and gender expression are perceived. Salamon states, “To offer the category of real gender in an attempt to discipline what are perceived as the excesses of theoretical gender is to domesticate gender as it is lived and to deny its considerable complexity, which often outpaces our language to describe it.” (72) In other words, gender is both internal and external, and usually the social is inextricably linked to the personal.

This chapter is an attempt by Salamon to discuss the difficulties of labeling gender a ‘social construct’ while simultaneously showing that it is. Salamon quotes Jason Cromwell: “’If gender were only important in social situations, then transpeople would not know that their gender is different than what societies dictate they should be according to their bodies.’” (80) The idea of gender as a social construct that is only relevant when other people are present does not take into account what happens when we are alone. We do not stop presenting when no one else is around. Some of us may act differently under public scrutiny than we do at home, but this does not mean we become nothing.

One of Salamon’s and other trans* theorists’ problem with gender as construction is the fact that it only allows for men and women. Gender is not thought of in terms of language, because it is seen as a personal, political, or social decision. But without looking toward language, we can only ever have two allowable modes of gender expression. Queer communities across the globe have been attempting to gain recognition for third gender pronouns such as sie and hir, but generally speaking they have not been taken up. When Sweden attempted to add the gender neutral “hen” to its online dictionary, not even the official print dictionary, it was lambasted as “feminist activists who want to destroy our language.”

Salamon says in this chapter, “A reading of gender…that focuses exclusively on the agency of the individual misses this entire matrix of power in which gender takes shape.” (80) Individuals choose in which way they express themselves and their gender, but this expression happens in conjunction with the society surrounding them and the very language with which it is expressed.

-Caitlyn Smallwood