oth Tootsie and Split Ditches examine cross-dressing from the perspective of
violating societal norms. Michael Dorsey thinks only of getting a job by cross
dressing and does not anticipate how he will be trespassing on another world and
what that effect will be on those around him — and on himself as well. For him,
gender is binary. He is never in doubt that he is a man dressing as a woman – he
sees it as playing a great dramatic role. He also never loses his male identity. He is
in love with Julie as a man. He does not say, like Edward in Cloud 9, “I think I’m a
Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw, members of the performance group Split Britches,
view gender more fluidly. The philosophy of their performance is to view performance
through a lesbian perspective of the world. This makes them question binary gender.
Most of the time Lois performs as a “femme” lesbian while Peggy performs the role of
the “butch” lesbian. They will, however, drop these “costumes” and switch roles -mostly to heighten the comic effect. Their performances are unsettling – intentionally
so. They are always in drag – whether as extravagantly femme or confidently butch,
or something in between, or neither. In this context, gender becomes something to
question. Does one have to be butch and the other femme? Can they both be the
same? Can they be neither? What is the intersection between sexuality and gender?
Drawing on film, video, and interviews with the artists of Tootsie and Split Britches,
write a 6-page essay exploring the intersection between sexuality and gender and
whether there is a cost – and to whom – of transgressing gender lines.
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