Female Masculinity

Female Masculinity

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Masculinity without men. In "Female Masculinity" Judith Halberstam takes aim at the protected status of male masculinity and shows that female masculinity has offered a distinct alternative to it for well over two hundred years. Providing the first full-length study on this subject, Halberstam catalogues the diversity of gender expressions among masculine women from nineteenth-century pre-lesbian practices to contemporary drag king performances. Through detailed textual readings as well as empirical research, Halberstam uncovers a hidden history of female masculinities while arguing for a more nuanced understanding of gender categories that would incorporate rather than pathologise them. She rereads Anne Lister's diaries and Radclyffe Hall's "The Well of Loneliness" as foundational assertions of female masculine identity. She considers the enigma of the stone butch and the politics surrounding butch/femme roles within lesbian communities. She also explores issues of transsexuality among "transgender dykes"-lesbians who pass as men-and female-to-male transsexuals who may find the label of "lesbian" a temporary refuge. Halberstam also tackles such topics as women and boxing, butches in Hollywood and independent cinema, and the phenomenon of male impersonators. "Female Masculinity" signals a new understanding of masculine behaviours and identities, and a new direction in interdisciplinary queer scholarship. Illustrated with nearly forty photographs, including portraits, film stills, and drag king performance shots, this book provides an extensive record of the wide range of female masculinities. And as Halberstam clearly demonstrates, female masculinity is not some bad imitation of virility, but a lively and dramatic staging of hybrid and minority genders.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 344 pages
  • 162.56 x 248.92 x 27.94mm | 589.67g
  • Duke University Press
  • North Carolina, United States
  • English
  • 38 b&w photographs
  • 0822322439
  • 9780822322436
  • 73,213

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Review quote

"Female Masculinity is a full-on attack on the idea that masculinity is exclusively or even primarily the property of men. On the contrary, says Judith Halberstam, women have been practising their own, alternative, masculinities for at least two hundred years... Female Masculinity aims to help restore a sense of butch pride, and to validate the entitlement of women to their own masculinity. There's much to debate and disagree with in Female Masculinity ... But the book's the first full-length study in a crucial area and it's a great starting-point." DIVA "Thank goodness for the dashing Judith Halberstam! Her new book is a smart, entertaining and informed tour of that most threatening of cultural identities: the masculine female. Oh, yum!" Kate Bornstein, author of My Gender Workbook "Female Masculinity is a very important work. Nothing like it exists, period." Esther Newton, author of Cherry Grove, Fire Island "In this landmark study, Halberstam consolidates her position as a key theoriest within Queer scholarship. Female Masculinity is an immensely persuasive, powerfully-written text that imparts exciting and important theoretical ideas... I do not hesitate in locating this book at the forefront of contemporary gender theory."--Maria Antoniou, Feminist Theory, 1(3) 2001

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Back cover copy

""Female Masculinity" is a very important work that scholars in cultural studies will be talking about for years. Nothing like it exists, period."--Esther Newton, author of "Cherry Grove, Fire Island"

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About Judith Halberstam

Judith Halberstam is Professor of Literature at the University of California in San Diego. She is the author of "Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters," also published by Duke University Press, and writes a regular film review column for "Girlfriends" magazine.

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