Hacking Gender Performance: Fat & Queer Bodies Negotiating the Politics of Marginality On/Offline

Thursday, Feb 13, 2014 - Thursday, Feb 13, 2014 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 am

691 Barrows Hall

Hacking Gender Performance: Fat Queer Bodies Negotiating the Politics of Marginality On/Offline
Constructing Performing the ‘Fat Bitch’: Irreverence as Queer Cultural Production
Virgie Tovar, Independent Scholar
In Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity scholar Jose Munoz posits that “queer cultural production is both an acknowledgement of the lack that is endemic to any heteronormative rendering of the world and a building, a ‘world making,’ in the face of that lack.” Anthropologist Don Kulick writes that fat extends beyond a corporeal reality or “biological fact” into a greater cultural one, imbued with meaning. America scholar Amy Farrell explores contemporary and historical texts, and concludes that “fat denigration is intricately related to gender as well as racial hierarchies.” integral to being fat is the “acceptance” of “second-class, inferior status.” “inferior” fat status – and the ways that this performance is compounded by preexisting gender and racial hierarchies – has been given little scholarly consideration.
This paper engages the feminist methodology of autoethnography as well as digital content analysis of blogs by fat people of color to explore the resistance of fat shame and denigration through the creation and performance of the “fat bitch,” a popular culture archetype characterized by shameless impoliteness and irreverence expressed through a refusal to comply with relevant social codes. By deploying Munoz’ queer cultural production framework, I seek to position the “fat bitch” as a mode of political engagement, critique and visible disobedience in the face of a growing cultural presence of fatphobia. I position the “fat bitch” within the tradition of political resistance by queer people of color. I engage gender studies, fat studies and queer studies to examine affect and fashion among fat positive subjects; I include myself among them.
“The Digital as Drag”: Reconsidering Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Asian American Drag Kings, and Queer Feminist Critique
Margaret Rhee, Ethnic Studies New Media Studies
Asian American author Frank Chin distinguishes authentic Asian American authors and cultural works through an articulation of “the Real” and “the Fake.” Specifically, Chin characterized Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior as “fake” in her “false” adaptation of the Chinese fairy tale Fu Mulan. The debate between Chin and Kingston is identified as a key theoretical quandary within the field of Asian American cultural critique. In response to Chin, numerous Asian American feminist and literary scholars argue Chin’s critique of Kingston is “fake,” gendered, and misogynist. On the contrary, feminist scholars argue Kingston’s work is “real,” as King Kok Cheung writes, “Kingston is accused of falsifying culture and of reinforcing stereotype in the name of feminism.”
This paper attempts to digitize the oscillation between “the real” and “the fake” by not disavowing “the fake” but the pointing out the transformative possibilities of “the fake,” “the drag king,” and “the digital.” Through a digital humanities lens, I argue a queer lens reveals how Kingston’s retelling insists on “the Fake” with the incorporation of Fu Mulan as drag king. Additionally, I trace the politics around The Woman Warrior with digital documentary by remapping the experience of identity when distributing my 2007 short film on Asian American drag kings. In my paper, I draw from queer, feminist, and Asian American literary studies to argue how our notions of inauthenticity have and must change in a time of technological transformation. In conversation with Joan Scott’s ‘The Evidence of Experience” and the politics of the anti-essentialist notions of identity, I revisit the debates between Chin and Asian American feminist theory. I argue it is not “the Real” but “the Fake,” the digital, and the drag king that offers us the potential for feminist liberation, imagination, and possibility.

Open to the public. Location is wheelchair accessible.

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