On my definition of terms page, I talk about the Oxford dictionary definition of interpellation, and how it differs from my own in regards to gender interpellation specifically. The distinction lies in the inclusion of ‘policing’ –colloquially referred to as the ‘hey you!’, after a quote from Judith Butler.
Most times, the policing is more subtle. But this video shows that is not always the case.
Yet this blatant gender-policing is still so socially acceptable that the parents in the video feel perfectly comfortable enforcing the genders of complete stranger’s children, and even imparting ‘advice’ to those strangers.
In a way, the fear and concern the parents show over the boy’s feminine preferences run deeper than the fear of a ‘proto-gay’ child, to use a term from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. In Sedgwick’s paper, “How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay”, she points out that many (in her context she is referring to psychoanalysts, but I believe it may apply to a far larger group of people) are prepared to like an openly homosexual man, provided he behaves masculine. The psychoanalysts go so far as to say the masculine gay man is ‘properly integrated.’ Meaning, of course, that the feminine gay man is not. So could it be that the fear is not that the boy will be gay, but that he will be the wrong kind of gay…the kind that will make him hyper-visible to those that want to hurt him?
Bullying is brought up several times in the video. It’s the justification used to prevent the children from performing certain ways. Don’t do this, or you will be bullied.
Don’t do this, or you will be punished.
So here interpellation is used to protect children from unjust punishment; I don’t believe it is always hateful in origin. I truly believe they mean well. After all, “it’s always open season on gay kids,” (Sedgwick) and on those who are perceived to be gay or queer.
But by acquiescing to the demands of how a boy should behave (or, for that matter, how a girl should behave), all they are doing in the end is feeding the power the bullies already possess. After all, they are influencing the behaviour of grown adults, and they are not even in the store with them. That’s a lot of power for a handful of prepubescents.
Even worse than that, the parents are buying into the societal expectations that made it dangerous for a boy to wear a princess gown in the first place.
(Kill Bill posts are coming soon, wordpress has done something strange to my drafts of them that I need to fix. So I wrote this new post in the meantime instead)