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date: 23 April 2021

gender and performance 

The Companion to Theatre and Performance

A concern with identity politics made issues of gender fundamental to contemporary culture. The significance of gender in determining social behaviour and in defining power relations between men and women has been a major part of cultural debates since the 1970s. Theatre, like other cultural practices, has developed ways of engaging with theories of gender and has devised critical approaches to performance which foreground gender identity and offer critiques of narrow representations of masculine and feminine ways of being. The term ‘gender’ refers to the socially constructed division between the sexes. It is concerned with the culturally determined group of attributes, including emotional and psychological characteristics, which differentiate masculinity and femininity. ‘Sex’, on the other hand, designates the biological and physiological differences between male and female. Culture ascribes particular gender qualities to maleness or to femaleness, and expectations of masculine or feminine social behaviour are assigned to the male and female child. Theories of gender, deriving from feminism and studies of masculinity and sexuality, attempt to clarify the distinction between sex and gender, opening up possibilities for change. From the separation of sex and gender comes the notion that although the child is biologically defined as male or female at birth, it is society, rather than a process of nature, which shapes women and men.... ...

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