How Language Treats Gender in Nights at the Circus

Topics: Feminism, Gender, Gender role Pages: 3 (934 words) Published: April 7, 2011
How Language treats gender In Nights at the circus
Gender is socially constructed and this theory is backed up in Nights at the Circus as gender role stereotypes are reinforced here. The main character Fevvers is objectified and portrayed as this creature with wings and magical powers, who is also described as large and having a ‘face, broad and oval as a meat dish’, which would typically be more suited and to a degree even complimentary to that of masculine traits. This both reinforces and challenges essentialism as Fevvers is depicted as an object or an entity with these wings, which are believed to be essential to her stage character. However this does not constitute to the typical essentialist categories of male and female, the idea of which is claimed in Bennet and Royle to have ‘dominated the history of Western Culture’. Instead of the stereotypical view of essentialism which is that the ‘phallus… is equated with power’ it is replaced by Fevvers’ wings which are empowering. Fevvers’ challenging of the phallus and masculinity can be thought of in what Bennet and Royle term ‘Decentring’ which is defined as ‘challenging the phallocentric’, whereby ‘there is alterity, otherness, a multiplicity and dispersal of centres, origins, presences. Thus allowing a broader spectrum of options challenging this idea, which fevers fits into. Although being defined as an entity, through a potentially essentialist view as well as referring to herself as ‘the prodigal daughter’, the character Fevvers is depicted throughout the text as acting differently to the expectations of this view, when in private; ‘something fishy about the cockney Venus- that underlay the hot… sweat, greasepaint and raw, leaking gas that made you feel you breathed in Fevvers’ dressing-room in lumps. This description further emphasises a less than glamorous, yet more realistic approach to such a character. This disrupts what Bennet and Royle refer to as ’one form of sexual difference’, in the context...
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