Rhetorics of Sex Identity in Contemporary U.S. Culture
Analyzes media coverage and public discussion of five highly visible cases of gender ambiguity
An expert on the rhetoric of the mass media, John M. Sloop has written several books on how the spoken and written word can influence political and cultural debate. In Disciplining Gender, he turns his attention to a topic that has attracted widespread public discussion—the treatment of gender ambiguity in American culture.An expert on the rhetoric of the mass media, John M. Sloop has written several books on how the spoken and written word can influence political and cultural debate. In Disciplining Gender, he turns his attention to a topic that has attracted widespread public discussion—the treatment of gender ambiguity in American culture. He offers critical readings of five cases, showing the extent to which, in each instance, public discourse and media representations have served to reinforce dominant norms and constrain or "discipline" any behavior that blurs or subverts conventional gender boundaries.
The five cases include John/Joan or David Reimer, Brandon Teena, k.d. lang, Janet Reno, and Barry Winchell/Calpernia Addams. Sloop draws on queer theory and research in the field of critical rhetoric to examine representations of "gender trouble" in these much-publicized stories. In each case, he provides a comprehensive analysis of the public discussions of their significance. In short, rather than simply study the people and circumstances involved in each case, he examines the public meanings attached to them and the implications of those meanings for how contemporary culture comes to understand what "man" and "woman" mean and which sexual behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate.
In highlighting the ideological constraints imposed by our society, Sloop also suggests the ways that these constraints might be loosened and understandings of gender and sexuality diversified.
"By arguing persuasively that bigenderism and heteronormativity structure, emerge in, and are reinforced by popular discourses, Sloop makes a strong case for why as cultural critics we must remain suspicious of popular representations of not only these cases but also others like them."—Sarah Projansky, author of Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture
"The argument is both compelling and well supported. . . . The book is readable and scholarly, engaging and studious."—Lisa M. Cuklanz, author of Rape on Prime-Time: Television, Masculinity, and Sexual Violence
"You should buy this book. It is tightly argued with engaging prose, and deftly analyzes a fascinating set of five pubilc controversies concerning gender trouble. It provides valuable insights about the way in which potential transgressions of bi-gender heteronormativity are prophylactically contained."—Argumentation and Advocacy
"In his latest book, Sloop demands that readers stop, read, consume, and contemplate the various articulations of sex identity in present-day U.S. culture, particularly as they are portrayed in public discourse and by the media. Beings that appear to question, defy, and/or transcend circumscribed societal notions of gender are rarely validated by the dominant norm, which strictly defines sex identity as biologically either male or female. Sloop attempts to take the reader beyond the confines of contemporary sex identity by reflecting upon five different cases that challenge the notion of a clear-cut male/female identity, those of Brandon Teena, k.d. lang, John/Joan or David Reimer, Barry Winchell/Calpernia, and Janet Reno. Presenting popularized gender and sexuality theories alongside the previously mentioned cases, Sloop challenges many of the theories he cites and gives his reader ideas to consider in regards to publicly held views of sex identity. Highly recommended."—Library Journal