Part of the research for this project is reading up on academic theory around gender, queerness and children, so I am returning to a book I read last year that kick-started some of thinking behind Gendersaurus Rex. Jack Halberstam is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California and is a renowned author and speaker in the areas of queer failure, sex and media, subcultures, visual culture, gender variance, popular film, animation. You can find out more at www.jackhalberstam.com
Halberstam’s book, Gaga feminism : sex, gender, and the end of normal, is described as “a provocative manifesto of creative mayhem, a roadmap to sex and gender for the twenty-first century that holds Lady Gaga as an exemplar of a new kind of feminism that privileges gender and sexual fluidity”.
I’m finding it really useful in terms of thinking about how the work we create for children, as cultural products, might influence and shape the social, political, emotional and psychic worlds of those children. Halberstam talks more about TV, film and pop stars rather than theatre works, but I think there are crossovers and inspirations.
As Michael Bronski, the series Editor writes in his note on Gaga Feminism, “Halberstam is passionately interested in seeing how many manifestations of popular entertainment, which we watch, listen to and experience every day contain within them both a blueprint of dominant culture and its emphasis on stasis, norms, and convention, and a vivacious and joyful template for how we can transform the world into a place that no longer depends on norms, and values maverick improvisations of difference and freedom.”
Personally I’m excited by these “maverick improvisations” and I hope to explore how theatre, which is unlikely to have the mass coverage of a pop star or cartoon character like SpongeBob Squarepants (who Halberstam holds up as a queer hero of our time), is able to rejoice in playful attempts to reimagine the world.
I’m planning to re-read the book and explore these tasty ideas about ‘the end of normal’, ‘more liberated modes of living’ and ‘the anarchist potential of our dynamic present’.