Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Queered Telefeminism

Authors

Department

Liberal Studies Department

College

Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities

Abstract

This paper examines how the characters on Girlfriends, Sex and the City, Living Single, Designing Women and The Golden Girls step outside the boxes of conventional gender and sex roles to engage in the kind of gender trouble that Judith Butler heralds . Decoupling sex from gender becomes a cornerstone for many of these foursome shows. Episodes involving lesbian characters, cross-dressing, female masculinity and transsexual characters call into question gendered and sexed identities of main characters. Although the reifying of heteronormative sexuality may be arguably present in these female foursome shows too, the bonds of female friendship, alternative family and shared female pleasure in womans space and womans talk inspire queer readings of the narrative structure and character relations of these shows. The interrelationship of the four women through the bonds of female friendship expand beyond the boundaries of twenty-first century female friendship and reach back to the intimacy of nineteenth century female friendships. As Cultural Historian Jane Gerhard states, Womens historians have argued that these private bonds were passionate, that they involved psychological and physical intimacy, and provided support and love that women living in racial/gender hierarchies could not get from men, who like women, lived largely in homosocial worlds (2005, 44). In this way, these 21st Century female friendships may likewise extend beyond the boundaries of conventional heterosexual friendship. This intimacy is similarly present in the candid sex talk by the women featured on these female foursome shows. Arguably, the queering of this narrative structure and womans talk produces an alternative space for the feminist project and womens liberation. In Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box, Merri Lisa Johnson and her contributors similarly argue that the queering of television opens up a liberatory space for feminist audiences and may actually have the potential to move viewers beyond the binary oppositions that have plagued our collective psyche for far too long (2007). However, unlike Gerhard, Johnson et al., I argue that the queering of sexuality, whether it is bisexual, heterosexual, gay and/or some of each of these, underscore the crucial point that the third wave of feminism is queer (2007). Hence, I support Gerhards assertion that the queering of narrative structure, womans talk and the depiction of these larger than life women characters open up the space for the feminist project and womens liberation; however, like Johnson and her contributors I recognize these resistant readings of popular culture and media as the products of a queer third wave.

Conference Name

PCA/ACA

Conference Location

Chicago

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