Exploring GenderedSexed Coporeality in Selected Twentieth-Century African American Women‟s Writings Towards an Alternative Theory of GenderedSexed Embodiment

Gayathri Madhurangi Hewagama


Given the general primacy of the gendered/sexed subject that even seems to demarcate the human from thenon-human, one’s gendered/sexed identity gains an originary significance over other identity categorizationssuch as race, class, ethnicity etc. Gender/sex seen as an effect of a mainstream patriarchal ideology ofheterosexuality, further assumes and validates/naturalizes a gendered/sexed corporeality (an assumed“reality”). Such a discourse then makes available a “woman’s body” by giving primacy/recognition toheterosexual difference, on the basis of which discrimination and exploitation are enacted.

What I aim here is to problematize this heterogendered/sexed (gender is always already heterogendered)binary (not to say that sexuality or sexual difference/identity does not matter), by claiming that it is theassumed primal significance of heterogender/sex that is the mainspring of societal sexism. And it is onlythrough a disruption of the very moment of discursive recognition/discrimination/interpellation of the“woman’s body,” that sexist discourses can be subverted. In the above light, the apparent reinforcement ofthe heterogendered/sexed binary and “black difference” in selected twentieth-century African Americanwomen’s writing seems at loggerheads with my theoretical problematizations. However, these writings, readfrom a particular location, also open up a space of ambivalence; for, though beginning in heterogender/sex,these texts have the potential to look forward to a future freedom that transcends constraints generated bythe “woman’s body.”

Thus, I will locate my study in selected African American texts by women (for instance, Toni Morrison’s Songof Solomon, poetry by Nikki Giovanni, Lucille Clifton, etc.) while drawing from poststructural theoreticalsources such as Judith Butler, bell hooks, Monique Wittig and Helene Cixous.

KEYWORDS: heterogender/sex, woman, corporeality, freedom, body

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International Journal of multidisciplinary Studies, University of Sri Jayewardnepura, Sri Lanka