Response – Halberstam

Jessica Gray

ENG 7110 – Strombeck

Response #12 – 13 Mar 2013


Response: Halberstam


The term female masculinity stages several different kinds of interventions into contemporary gender theory and practice: first, it refuses the authentication of masculinity through maleness and maleness alone, and it names a deliberately counterfeit masculinity that undermines the currency of maleness; second, it offers an alternative mode of masculinity that clearly detaches misogyny from maleness and social power from masculinity; third, female masculinity may be an embodied assault upon compulsory heterosexuality, and it offers one powerful model of what inauthentic masculinity can look like… Finally, I hope that female masculinity can be provocative enough to force us to look anew upon male femininities and interrogate the new politics of manliness…

(Halberstam, 2639)


I am more apt to agree with Halberstam’s first and third assertions here than with her second. I can see (and I think that she effectively demonstrates) that female masculinity offers a way for masculinity to be expressed and understood other than through maleness alone, and the idea that female masculinity directly challenges the heteronormative imperative is compelling, but I am less convinced of her claim that an “alternative mode of masculinity… detaches misogyny from maleness and social power from masculinity.”

It seems that the adoption of masculine traits by women is often and has often been motivated specifically by the connection between social power and masculinity—and to some extent the connection between misogyny (or at least resistance to stereotypically feminine traits and behaviors) and maleness. I am thinking here of the man-tailored power suits and ball-busting, no-nonsense attitude that was attributed in popular conception to professional ladder-climbing women in the 1980s. I don’t know if I buy into the idea that these connections are potentially severed or weakened by the introduction of a female in-road to “masculinity.”

Halberstam’s last point in the above passage is an interesting one. I think an exploration of the differences between the effect of male femininity on the male experience and the effect of female masculinity on the female experience would be eye-opening.

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