sue watling

We’re sexed at birth. Then it’s rarely mentioned again. We introduce ourselves with what we do rather than Hi I’m Sue, I’m female. We only see ourselves through the medium of reflection. Our identity is the face in the mirror or how we are seen by others. The accuracy of this depends on how honest we are. They say the mirror doesn’t lie but we have nothing to compare it with. We can’t ‘see’ ourselves from the outside; we only ‘feel’ ourselves from within. This split lies at the heart of Lacan’s theory of identity construction. The child sees itself in the mirror as a whole image but feels it is made up of disparate parts. Somehow it has to reconcile the internal consciousness with the social and cultural expectations of the external world. Subjectivity is achieved through identification with external discursive practice which in turn is produced by linguistic signs. A fundamental aspect of identity is sexual difference; we wear it like a precursor of future expectation and opportunities. Freud’s in here too; Lacan reinterprets the Oedipal struggle as the child aligns itself appropriately and represses all that insatiated desire into the nether regions of the unconscious. All this theorising about subjectivity is just theory; somehow we develop from screaming egotistic bundles into functioning sociable individuals but there’s no consensus of agreement on how we do it.

I don’t know how old the study material is but there’s no mention of the Internet either as a source of information or as having cultural influence on identity; the opportunities it gave for ‘performance’ has been written about since the 1980s (Turkle, Borstein etc). The only medium is film with a focus on Hitchcock; nothing about gay cinema and although Butler’s Queer theory gets a mention,  the word gay is hardly used; instead the repetition of homosexual makes the text sound stilted in a repressed British sort of way. There’s no mention of intersex, transsexual or transgender, all integral to identity construction and the tiny reference to French feminism doesn’t do justice to the powerful challenge it presented on traditional male structures of dominance and control. In contrast with the other units which have been totally up to date this ones seems to be lagging in a bit of a time warp.

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