Subjects of stalled revolution: A theoretical consideration of contemporary American Femininity

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29 Scopus citations


This article suggests that looking at the ways in which subjects relate to and internalise gender norms is a fruitful way to explore socially constructed differences between masculinity and femininity in the U.S. Throughout this article, I am in dialogue with Judith Butler's theory of gender performativity as I focus on practices of subject formation that I denote as 'logics' of subject formation. I propose several key ways to distinguish a feminine logic of subject formation from a masculine logic of subjectivity. I suggest that femininity is a multiplicitous, self-proliferating strategy that forecloses truth as a means for achieving selfhood. Alternatively, I postulate that masculinity tends to masquerade as an (oftentimes failed) achievement that is singular and self-consolidating and that generates truth as a means for realising selfhood. In order to contextualise these distinctions between masculinity and femininity, I look to the recent influx of American women into masculine-marked domains such as the workforce, politics and sports without a corresponding entrance of men into feminine-marked domains. Known as the stalled gender revolution, these shifts, I argue, have created the context for the gendered divergences in subjectivity I suggest here. Focusing on examples of women in sports to illustrate these distinctions, I provide a detailed characterisation of femininity as a logic of subject formation. As such, I argue that this approach to gender may provide relevant insights to understanding gender practice, agency and resistance, particularly with respect to Butler's formulation of gender performativity and subversion. I conclude by providing some preliminary thoughts on how to re-envision agency and subversion in light of the proposed framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-91
Number of pages17
JournalFeminist Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • agency
  • femininity
  • gender
  • resistance
  • sport
  • subjectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies


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