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Genderism and the Bathroom Problem: (re)materialising sexed sites, (re)creating sexed bodies

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This article introduces the possibilities of a new term, 'genderism', to describe the hostile readings of, and reactions to, gender ambiguous bodies. Genderism is used here to articulate instances of discrimination that are based on the discontinuities between the sex with which an individual identifies and how others, in a variety of spaces, read their sex. The article suggests that intersections between queer theories, that destabilise the dichotomy of man/woman, and performative geographies, that recognise the (re)formation of space, could facilitate, and indeed necessitate, a consideration of how the illusion of dichotomous sexes is (re)formed at the site of the body (re)constituting men and women in context. Nine women, who participated in a wider research project about non-heterosexual women's lives, spoke of being mistaken for men yet understanding themselves and living as women. Using these narratives the 'bathroom problem', where women are read as men in toilets and as a result subjected to abusive and even violent reactions, is examined. These policing behaviours demonstrate the instability of sexed norms as well as how sites can be (re)made 'woman only' and simultaneously 'women's' bodies (re)produced. The article then examines how women negotiate the policing of sexed spaces such that bodies, sexed sites (toilets) and the location of these sites (nightclubs, service stations) are mutually constituted within sexed regimes of power. In this way the article aims to explore how sexed power relations (re)form the mundane 'stuff' of everyday life by examining moments where boundaries of gender difference are overtly (en)forced.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Brighton Brighton UK

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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