In Glenlengarry Glen Ross And Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

1041 Words 5 Pages
To say that gender is performative is to argue that gender is “real only to the extent that it is performed” - Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
To what extent do the characters in Glengarry Glen Ross and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, conform to or challenge their socially constructed gender roles?

In her seminal work of cultural theory Gender Trouble, Judith Butler regards gender identity as a social and cultural construction, ‘supported by a masculine heterosexual hierarchy within society’ . Butler discusses how ‘subjects play their genders’ and in the process ‘repress, reject, or subvert themselves to fit in with society’ . Within Glengarry Glen Ross and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? this theme is explored, as gender identity is
…show more content…
Martha is obsessed with the ‘figure of masculinity’, to the extent that she imitates it herself. Martha’s identity is established through men which results in this imitation, and anger as she blames her dissatisfaction on them as well. As Butler argues, it is ‘the masculine point of view which governs our lives, which sets the standard’ . One thought is that Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? should be viewed as an early feminist text, ‘portray[ing] and analys[ing] the damaging effects of traditional, stereotypical gender roles’ , highlighting how damaging these expectations are. Martha, for example, through her somewhat masculine ‘performance’, challenges the ‘widely accepted patriarchal values by theatricalizing them’ …show more content…
Honey and Nick, who are younger, are less affected by the wartime gender haze, and more willing to conform to 1950s expectations of gender. However, the couple have also taken on a performance. Their characters highlight what Albee sees as the inability to comply to the crushing conformity of the 1950s, as even the ‘perfect couple’ is flawed; even Nick’s genetic project aims for the ‘perfection of the human species,’ drawing on the 1950’s demand to ‘conform to the image of the ideal man’ . Martha knows that they are playing a role, in the line ‘you always deal in appearances?’ The line displays her knowledge that what she parades before Nick's eyes is a masquerade which she is reinforcing, but also realises that this is not all, that there is something else, beyond this ‘theatre of femininity, family and marriage’ . The words ‘who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’ could mean the ‘fear of the death of fantasy… and of the limited gender roles’ offered . In the last few lines Martha admits she is afraid of Virginia Woolf, ‘I… am… George… I… am’ , admitting her fear of being reduced to the role she is

Related Documents