Critical Essay

Essay by aswan9509College, UndergraduateA-, May 2014

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Amanda Swan

English 300W

Critical Research Essay

Final Draft

Performing Genders: I Can be Male or Female

Societal norms are very rigid regarding gender roles and performance. In the view of society, males are to act a certain way. There is a stigma to being a male that you must be strong, non-emotional, and confident. Women are generally thought to be emotional, irrational, and inferior to men. This is a binary not only exists today, but has at least since Shakespearean time. Though societal norms have shifted regarding women since this time, these views of gender performance are still evident today. Further, when we are born our gender roles are placed on us as infants. For example, if a person is born biologically male, it is assumed that he will perform typical male gender roles. He is expected to be sexually attracted to people who are biologically female. It may be assumed that he will be strong, a protector, and interested in sports.

Assumptions may even be made about the type of work he may do once he is an adult. Males are expected to work in such roles as firemen, carpentry, lawyers, or athletes. In Shakespearean time gender roles were very specific. Marriage was to be between a male and female. There were no outwardly homosexual relationships. There were very strong heterosexual norms. In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Portia is threatened by the possibility that her husband, Bassanio, is engaging in a homoerotic relationship with his dear friend Antonio. Throughout the play, Portia's actions challenge and destabilize heterosexual societal norms and in challenging these norms she employs non-heteronormative means to cement her heterosexual marriage.

In entering into marriage with Bassanio, Portia is essentially signing all of her immense wealth over to him. As a female, by...