Entering the Simulacrum of Gender

In the African Aka tribe, the men stay at home with the babies while the women assume the role of the hunter, yet these men are not teased for being “feminine” and the women are certainly not seen as undesirable for having such “manly” roles. In the Western world, a man cannot wear a pink shirt without having his sexuality questioned. Certainly, these differences suggest that gender is not biologically based, or a fixed identity; however, we treat it as such. Upon discussing John Walters Female Trouble, Butler notes that the film “suggests that gender is a kind of persistent impersonation that passes as the real” (2541). This statement from Butler reminded me of Baudrillard’s definition of the simulacrum, something that replaces reality with its representation. When you walk into a toy store, you find that the toys are color and gender coded. Anything that is pink is highly acceptable for a girl, yet a blue item could cause that girl to undergo a metamorphosis and have her sex change to male. Nerf, a toy brand which creates foamed-weaponry is typically known for making toys for boys:

The Classic Nerf Gun

The box may be yellow and orange, but thank heavens the toy is blue! In 2013, Nerf released a sub-line aimed for girls entitled, Rebelle. This lead to the release of products such as:

The newly created Nerf gun, now available for girls!

This allowed Nerf to sell toys to girls who could finally experience the joy of shooting foam at one another, as well as defend themselves in a Nerf gun war among boys, without causing the world to end.

Shockingly, the colors blue and pink are not naturally linked to gender (similar to the arbitrariness of the signifier and signified), however, these representations have become our reality. The newest trend in our advanced society is gender reveal parties. In these parties, people gather together in anticipation to find out the gender of an unborn child, as you will see in the video once everyone can get their shit together. Through this, the child becomes identified through their gender before anything else, even before their name. As this shows, gender has become an increasingly significant aspect of one’s identity. Once born, the child will have to perform their expected gender identity and have society police their behaviors. Girls will be told to act “lady-like” and boys will be told to “be a man.” If gender was natural, we should not have to be reminded how to behave; after all, are we reminded how and when to breathe? Butler makes a similar point in her piece Gender Trouble, “That the gendered body is performative suggests that it has no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality” (2548). As gender is a simulacrum, it is a copy without an origin – the gendered body is performative, with its origins unable to be traced other than the very acts that are believed to be representative of gender. Although gender is essentially meaningless, it has become mistaken for reality, and thus, mistaken as definitives of our identities.


Works Cited:

Butler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Lietch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. 2536-2553. Print.

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