Sitting in on writing sessions for CSW’s House Ensemble is both a learning process to observe and engage. The bouncing around of ideas and the courage of words that live in us should never be undermined. Because this is the root of developing a CSW show. In a room full of writers, performers, poets and facilitators, we each bring what we know, what we’d like to know, and what we don’t to fuel discussion. And in relation to our upcoming show of Handsome Animals, the bravery and strength to relive our personal experiences and relationship with gender unravels a dynamic, uncomfortable, redeeming, abstract, terrifying, and intimate connection to our bodies.
The social construction of gender has become an ever-increasing topic in our society, I think, as it should. There are countless numbers of conversations on what it means and what it represents to us. But what does the “social construction of gender” mean? This is something I think is one of CSW’s biggest points, and something that should be thought of as both intimate and public, a paradox, an inconsistency, and fluid performance of ourselves. A social construction is something that simply does not exist in our “natural world” but merely a mold, guideline and invention of society. Constructs are just like a set of rules, and once those rules become a norm, it becomes the foundation of what is considered “right” or “wrong.” However, this is where gender as a construct becomes messy. Idealizations, characteristics, beliefs about natural abilities, and “scripted” ways of behaving fluctuates from culture to culture. And human being to human being.
Here are some recollections I’ve gathered in essence of our conversation on gender:
- Some of us are more aware of our own gender than others. What it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman is entirely our own.
- Social constructions have shaped gender into what defines a male or female. But when we “violate” these norms or blur them, often, we are criticized for our individuality.
- The sexualization of gender has become a powerful asset to how we think about our bodies in social spaces and moreover, how sexuality has become an outlet to defining someone’s gender expression and identity.
- Sexual orientation is distinct from gender identity. But the way we treat sexuality in relation to gender differs from a man and a woman.
- As writers, performers and directors, it is a challenge. How do we remain as inclusive as possible? How do we talk about something as fluid, sensitive and personal as gender?