The Repetition of Acts

As I began reading Steinberg’s Spectacle, the first line that jumped out at me came right in the book’s first story, “Superstar,” when Steinberg’s narrator says:

I wanted to be a guy.


By which I mean I wanted to get up in his face.

I’m not talking about anything deep.

I’m talking about a generic performance of guy. (Steinberg 8)

This section, and ones that come after it in the proceeding three stories that deal with the performance of gender roles made me go back and look over my notes from the Butler essay, Performative Acts and Gender Constitution, where she says “gender is in now way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceede; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time – and identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts” (Butler 519). While reading, it did not occur to me that the narrator of this story could have been a male; yes, there are the lines about sitting on another man’s lap and having him grip the narrator’s hips and the part about having sex with the man whose stereo was stolen, but there was never any indication that this narrator was obviously a woman. My only indication for applying the narrator with a “female” gender card was the fact that the book was written by a female. “[O]ne way in which this system of compulsory heterosexuality is reproduced and concealed is through the cultivation of bodies into discrete sexes with ‘natural’ appearances and ‘natural’ heterosexual dispositions” (Butler 524). Because the narrator discusses things involving sex and sexual behavior with men, I am conditioned to think that the narrator is a woman, and this inclusion of the narrator’s desire to be able to “perform” like a man makes me aware of what my thinking was. Granted, as the story progresses, as well as the book (whose narrated by what appears to be the same narrator), it becomes more obvious that this narrator is a woman. However, given that Steinberg discusses the “performance” of genders and, in the next story, “Underfed,” has her narrator describe herself as simply a “body,” as well as chapters titled “Signified,” “Signifier,” and “Spectator,” the theme of gender performance and what acts constitute “gender” will seemingly come up throughout this book of stories. If this is, in fact, the case, then already, with her first few stories, Steinberg has created a meta-cognition within her reader that allows them to be more consciously aware of what gender roles are being employed by the stories, and by the reader themselves.



One comment on “The Repetition of Acts

  1. jaredescobar says:

    What occurs to me also with the narrator’s voice is very apologetic. Which falls in line with preset gender roles. When she has the altercation with the man in the parking lot she is reduced to a small, she’s put in her place. The entire book so far has been rapid succession of thoughts. Loose events strung together in a confused repetitious pattern. All of these thoughts are confessions of misdeeds; men she’s been with, things she has stolen or broken, drugs, harm (to herself and others), etc. They are obscure and seem to have as much guilty in them as pride. The reflection between her own ambiguous gender affiliation. Either a girl who loves to love or a man who loves to go to war.

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