Marjorie Garber's Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety

1483 Words3 Pages

Marjorie Garber's Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety

The tendency to establish rigid social codes of gender-determined behaviors is apparent everywhere--though specifically present in literary texts. Women are expected to, in essence, be women and act, dress, and behave in a manner that distinguishes them from men. While these constructs are rigidly defined, they are easily and recurrently transcended. In her, Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety, Majorie Garber demonstrates the concept of "cultural binarisms", illustrating them to be the social and historical obsession with polarizing individuals, male or female, into either "one" group or the "other." In her essay, she concentrates her discussion on the importance of dress in the construction of gender and its power in undermining it. Garber writes that gender boundaries--which she defines as blurred social concepts--can be transcended by the cross-dresser. Additionally, the appearance of a transvestite character indicates that a "category crisis" is present, but not limited to gender identity. This "category crisis", is resultant of the "binarisms" which have been disturbed. Herman Mann's account, The Female Review: Life of Deborah Sampson, the Female Soldier, reinforces Garber's assertions about the cross-dressing figure in literature-- once Sampson puts on men's clothing, her identity is changed. She is, therefore, able to transgress the limited capacities of a woman and access her desires to see the world. Mann addresses several instances of "binarisms"--including gender, class, and status--throughout his text. Through his character of Deborah Sampson, he is able to display a separate, but relevant issue of a socially and politically ...

... middle of paper ...

...and(habit). Also, Mann states about Sampson's desire to become a soldier: "and in the end, perhaps, [she would] be instrumental in the CAUSE OF LIBERTY, which had for nearly six years, enveloped the minds of her countrymen" (Mann, 233). This statement makes a direct comment on the state of his country and Sampson's impact on its freedom. In this way, he connects her desires of cross-dressing and living as a man to his desires of witnessing American Liberty.

Works Cited:

De Erauso, Catalina. Memoir of a Basque Lieutenant Nun. Beacon Press: Boston, 1996.

Garber, Marjorie. Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety. Routledge: New York, 1992.

Mann, Herman. The Female Reveiw: Life of Deborah Sampson, the Female Soldier. Boston, 1797.

Rotundo, Anthony. "Community to the Individual: The Transformation of Manhood". American Manhood, 10-30.

Open Document