Readers who have followed the postmodern gender debate in the university presses (ranging from Thais Morgan's sedately twisted analyses of Victorian male lesbianism to Judith Butler's acclaimed Gender Trouble
) will delight in the latest little earthquake: Judith Halberstam's deft separation of masculinity from the male body in Female Masculinity
. If what we call "masculinity" is taken to be "a naturalized relation between maleness and power," Halberstam argues, "then it makes little sense to examine men for the contours of that masculinity's social construction." We can learn more from other embodiments of masculinity, like those found in drag-king performances, in the sexual stance of the stone butch, and in female-to-male transgenderism. Halberstam's subject is so new to critical discourse that her approach can be somewhat scattershot--there is simply too much to say--but her prose is lucid and deliberate, and her attitude refreshingly relaxed. Essential reading for gender studies and a lively contribution to cultural studies in general. --Regina Marler
From Library Journal
Halberstam (literature, Univ. of California, San Diego; Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters, Duke Univ., 1995) presents a unique offering in queer studies: a study of the masculine lesbian woman. Halberstam makes a compelling argument for a more flexible taxonomy of masculinity, including not only men, who have historically held the power in society, but also women who embody qualities that are usually associated with maleness, such as strength, authority, and independence. Fleshing out her argument by drawing on a variety of sources?fiction, films, court documents, and diaries?Halberstam calls for society to acknowledge masculine lesbian women and value them. A dense work that requires some knowledge of gay studies, this is recommended for academic libraries and will appeal to scholars in gay studies, gender studies, women's studies, film studies, and sociology.?Kimberly L. Clarke, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis
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