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Gender Imago: Searching for New Feminist Methodologies


Niza Yanay and Nitza Berkovitch Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies 2006 6: 193 DOI: 10.1177/1532708605276914 The online version of this article can be found at: http://csc.sagepub.com/content/6/2/193

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Cultural Studies Gender Imago 10.1177/1532708605276914Methodologies May 2006 Yanay, Berkovitch Critical

Gender Imago: Searching for New Feminist Methodologies


Niza Yanay Nitza Berkovitch
Ben Gurion University, Israel

Invoking Butlers notion of gender performativity, Kristevas concept of foreignness, and Laplanches reconceptualization of otherness, the authors examine the power of fantasy to change the women and men that we always already are. Using writing-in-response, they discuss the meaning of gender performance in relation to their theoretical commitments. The article is structured around three different forms of dialogue: (a) two lectures that the authors presented, each one contesting accepted ideas of gender, self, and society; (b) seven e-mail correspondences that develop the ideas presented in the lectures and that dramatize the transition from speaking to writing-in-response; and (c) a discussion, developed both together and separately, that raises the possibility of exploring a new language of gendered subjectivity. The article challenges the concept of direct experience, the separation between psychology and sociology, and destabilizes the space between gender fantasy and performance.

Keywords:

writing-in-response; feminist methodology; gender; identity; otherness; performance; psychoanalysis; sexuality; subjectivity

The idea of using a personal electronic correspondence as a reflexive strategy to explore ideas, theories, and personal commitments followed an invitation we received to speak before members of our department. The aim of the two lectures (delivered sequentially) was to address the psychological, cultural, and philo- sophical challenges of feminist and gender theories to our social thinking, knowledge, and politics. By inviting the two of usa sociologist and a psychologistthe organizer (a feminist colleague) hoped to stage a contentious conversation on gender, self, and society to show the differences between the ways in which sociologists and psychologists frame the questions, formulate the issues, and understand the ways in which gender is constructed, experienced, and performed. Following the lecture Gender Games, Dogma, Fixation, and Psychological Structuring, the other speaker changed her original plan. Rather than talk about the ways in which the category of gender is used
Authors Note: We would like to thank our colleagues and friends Sara Helman, Tamar El-Or, Orly Lubin, and Chatherine Rothenberg for their insightful comments and encouragement. Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies, Volume 6 Number 2, 2006 193-216 DOI: 10.1177/1532708605276914 2006 Sage Publications 193

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(and misused) in sociology, she decided to respond directly to the previous lecture, and the title The Vanishing Lady: On Women, Gender and Sociology was replaced by Essence, Appearance, and Identity Games. This turning pointchanging the format of two loosely connected lectures into a format in which one speaker replies directly to the otheralso triggered the beginning of a private correspondence between the two of us. This was the beginning of a responsive movement toward a correspondence that breaks the structure of serial linearitylecture following lecture, related but separated which established relations of exchange, contrary to the original plan. Thus, something that began as a traditional academic performance continued as an experiment of common inquiry to explore our ideas, attitudes, limits, and possibilities of gender performance. Moving from the strategy of speaking (to an audience) to speaking-in-response and later to writing-in-response was a methodological change, marking the transition from presentation to confession, from judgment to risk, and from review to translation. In that, we join others who are looking for new ways to explore, understand, and write social science. 1 Following the appeal to topple the divisions between narration and science (Czarniawska-Joerges, 1995), Tony Watson (2000) created a fictive ethnography, a short story that never happened, although the events, emotions, and insights described in it are all derived from observations gained by the writer as an ethnographic researcher. Laurel Richardson (1992) proposed poetry. She transformed an open-ended life history of an unwed mother into a five-page poem. In this way, she linked lived experience to the writing of sociology and produced knowledge that is not appropriated and controlled but shared (Richardson, 1992). This movement also paved the way for letting in the self, or in Robert Rhodass (2003) words, it has unlocked the closet door and allowed the self to come out and claim its role in the social construction of knowledge within the context of both social science and educational inquiry (p. 237). Thus, Richardson (1993) presented a dramacomposed from her field notes of a discussion that followed her presentation of the poem (mentioned above) at a scientific conference, combined with reports of her own emotions and thoughts during the eventand used it to explore the relations among research, actual experience, science, and literary writing. Within the genre of auto- or narrative ethnography Lisa Tillmann-Healy and Christine Kiesinger (2001) provide what they call a multistep, conarrated confessional tale. In their engaging work Mirrors: Seeing Each Other and Ourselves Through Fieldwork, Lisa and Christine each write their own autobiography, tell their story of bulimia, read each others stories, and write about each other as a dialogical way to explore and unveil their emotions by responding to each others narrated life. These ethnographic genres now operate under various names, including autoethnography, self-ethnography, self-stories, reflexive ethnography, confessional tales, auto-observation, rhetorical autoethnography (Ellis & Bochner, 1999), and the various performance science texts (Denzin, 1997). In this article, we also use our personal scripts to explore the relations

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between experience and theory, knowledge and identity. This process of knowledge construction was formed out of an interactive process between us. Yet our purpose is neither to mirror ourselves nor to focus on our experiences as such. We do not believe that experience, as some feminists claim, is a truer or better method to know reality. On the contrary, our aim is to problematize experience, because as Clough (1994) wrote, there is no subject outside of unconscious desire and, therefore, discourse (p. 77), and there is no experience unmediated by a text. The telling of our stories was a responsive construction of personal knowledge intended to evoke a social inquiry into the place of theory as a self-acting affair. We used a form of dialoguewriting-in-response to create, negotiate, and understand the positioning of our own experiences as well as the relations between ideas and emotions regarding sexuality, gender, desire, and fantasy. To this end and to present the process of self/other interaction as a basis or place for new knowledge and change, we needed, so we felt, a new feminist methodology.2 This methodology would not attempt to synthesize between our standpoints or subjectivities, as often happens in a mutual writing/working that aims toward unity and sharing, nor fixate or romanticize our differences (Young, 1990). Feminist politics of difference and recognition enhance the importance of difference and the recognition of asymmetries of subjects as an epistemological stand toward social justice. We take this position further to claim that a methodology of correspondencepursuing knowledge (but also writing, reading, speaking, and acting) through response and counterresponsenot only takes the other as a different and equal interlocutor but also transforms consciously and unconsciously what each subject from his or her own position and history sees and refuses to see in return.3 Through correspondence, reflection, and analysis and by keeping our voices separate and interrelated, we aimed to keep open and visible the tension and contingency between the form of our dialogue and its content, the end product, and its process. The method of response (of answering) was enforced by our different disciplinary training, knowledge, and identities but also by our mutual research interest and gender politics. This communicative strategy of writing/working, perceived by us as an act leading toward equality, came on one hand to prevent the illusion of unity and wholeness of the text and on the other hand to show how claiming and answering potentially produces a new way of seeing that was not already there from the start.4 Writing-in-response is a complex activity with no Archimedean theoretical center. In many ways, speaking and writing areexplicitly or implicitly, consciously or unconsciouslyalways in response. It is always a reaction by reply, citation, or negation of previous speech. However, the specific form of writing-in-response as a genre of correspondence and dialogue is, like letters, a practice that can overcome the isolated, lonely, and distant process of academic writing and publishing in that we send our thoughts to a specific interlocutor who is not only imagined but also an actual coperformer. There are a number of

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important recent books that use dialogue as a strategic method to produce, probe, and challenge ideas. They show that knowledge is a mutual project of give and take, love and hate, agreement and disagreement, conformity and rebellion. Of this kind are, for example, the philosophical exchange between Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Drucilla Cornell, and Nancy Fraser (1995) in Feminist Contentions and the dialogue between Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoj Zizek (2000) in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality. These writings demonstrate not only that knowledge is always referential, bounded, and in response but also that ideas diverge, split, reform, and differ within the same political community. In addition, these philosophical conversations illustrate the dialogic contingency between content and form, originality and reply. Exchanging letters was and, to a lesser extent, still is the prototype of the genre writing in correspondence. Numerous ideas have been produced, discussed, and advanced through letters. In this article, we go back to using letters (our letters) as a medium for exploring and discussing certain theoretical issues within the postmodern literature on gender subjectivity. Using e(lectronic)correspondence, we wanted to speak to each other in writing to manage a dialogue that moves from id to ego and from ego to imago. We wanted to do research in two voices simultaneously, to present our differences and similarities interchangeably and rhythmically, to ask and reply, to relate and be addressed at once, as a context for thinking. Unlike our scholarly seminar lectures, which were prepared in advance according to standard academic presentations geared mainly toward educating or transferring knowledge to our colleagues and students, this present correspondence transpired in a less protected place, not only reinforcing our differences but demanding specific explorations of our own gender games, unprotected by convention and formality. It allowed us to write in a nonuniform structure, sequentially fragmented, rather than be bound by cohesion or coherence. It also allowed us a certain freedom in using personal events as working materials, although we knew all along that we were also writing for the public eye. This knowledge again broke down the dichotomy between audiencesthe letters were not only for us, in the sense that the seminars were not only for them. We felt that the structure of eletters helped exploring both ideas and experiences, speaking and writing in a single double-voice public and private, personal and professional at once. This experimental essay, then, combines three different genres: symposium, writing letters, and formal analysis.5 It attempts to amalgamate the spontaneity and immediacy of speaking, the intimacy of writing letters, and the rigor of scholarship. First, we shall (very) briefly summarize the issues raised in our two different lectures. Then, we present the electronic correspondence as it evolved during the months between April and June 2000.6 At the end, we will discuss the letters as two texts that together translate, in different ways, the tension between theory and experiences into tentative conclusions regarding gender imago, identity, and performance.

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The Seminars Here, we present how each one of us, from her disciplinary standpoint, explored the ways in which the perceived unity of the body and its cohesion are related to the constructed nature of sexuality and gender identity. The first lecture, given by Niza, addressed the workings of gender as a subjective experience, fantasy, and desire formed in and against tensions created by hegemonic discourses of femininity and masculinity. The second lecture, given by Nitza,7 addressed femininity and masculinity as powerful normative social categories that can never be challenged beyond masquerade, games, and appearance. Whether focusing on internal or external parameters, both lectures defined a culturally bounded concept of gender. The debate, however, centered on the language of subjectivity and identity and on the question regarding how gender categories are lived. Each of us in her own language has defined the concept of identity games and the notion of performance in relation to sexual identity. The lectures will be presented here consecutively and in the first person.

Niza Speaks on Gender Games, Dogma, Fixation, and Psychological Structuring At the center of my lecture stands the idea that an apparently male biological sex does not necessarily produce male desire and that female desire does not necessarily generate female identity. Furthermore, sexual fantasy is not necessarily consistent with ones biological sex. However, when the rules of the game are violated and the script becomes paradoxical, emotions as well as performance are troubled. I structured the lecture around a number of anecdotes from the psychological literature to exemplify the paradoxes, inconsistencies, and ambiguities of gender identity. Mainly, I wanted to illustrate how psychoanalysis deconstructs the unity of the body (male or female) and sexual identity through the treatment of personal fantasy and desire. The first anecdote told the story of E., a muscular young man, aggressive and intelligent who came to Ruth Stein (1995) for therapy, wishing to be a woman. Born male, E. fantasizes about having sex with men but feeling like a woman. He envies big-breasted women and craves to be a woman. In his fantasy, he has sex with men as a woman. The anecdote raises the questions: Is E. a man or a woman? Why is it important? And why is E. suffering? The second anecdote dealt with a case of bisexuality reported by the British psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, who, in a brilliant therapeutic move, said one day to one of his patients after many unsuccessful sessions, I am listening to a girl. I know perfectly well that you are a man but I am listening to a girl, and I am talking to a girl. I am telling this girl: You are talking about penis envy. After a pause, the man replied, If I were to

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tell someone about this girl I would be called mad. It was not that you told this to anyone, said Winnicott, surprised of himself. It is I who see the girl and hear a girl talking, when actually there is a man on my couch. The mad person is myself. (Winnicot, 1990, pp. 133-134). From that moment on, the Gordian knot binding the physical and the psyche was untied. The patient could now retie it without fear or envy. Feeling sane in a mad environment, he says to Winnicott, I myself could never say (knowing myself to be a man) I am a girl. I am not mad that way. But you said it, and you have spoken to both parts of me. (Winnicot, 1990, p. 134). His answer illustrates the role of unconscious desire in the place of fantasy and the power of recognition in the making of the subject. Finally, the third anecdote dealt with Freuds famous and much discussed lecture on a case of homosexuality in a woman. In this 1920 lecture, Freud (1991) analyzes a case of a daring, intelligent young woman who fell in love with an older woman. Freud treated her feelings of love as a manifestation of her masculinity complex. On informing the young woman of his diagnosis, she responds, How very interesting (Freud, 1990, p. 390). Soon after, Freud broke off the treatment. Again, the anecdote raises questions concerning the norm: Was her reaction as masculine as Freud perceived it to be, or does it express a curious and humorous perhaps cynical response by an intelligent young woman who was confident and unruly in her love? These gender-oriented rebel stories raise questions regarding the construction of sexual identity, its manifestations, problematics, and the intricate affinities between body, fantasy, sexual desire, and subjectivity. These examples lead to a discussion of drag games and their contribution to the theoretical and political understanding of sexual and gender performance and identity. Drag games explicate the nature of gender stereotypes as well as the manner in which they crystallize and dissolve as a performance with emotional implications at once confusing and challenging. Who, in fact, is a man dressed in womens clothing? On one hand, he may say, I am really a man in womens clothing, but at the same time, she might also say, I am a woman in a mans body (paraphrasing Esther Newton, as quoted in Butler, 1990a). Why are the possibilities always phrased in man/woman dualism? Following Butler (1990b), I concluded the lecture with the idea that crossgender appearances allow the subversive reading and parody of the common notions ascribed to the differences between women and men by exposing their superficiality. Such dramatization does indeed recite the feminine/masculine dichotomy in society but subverts it at the same time. Thus, a drag performance is not only a theater of identities but rather, mainly, the production of a mocking discourse that criticizes, reinforces, and deconstructs the conventional, natural, taken-for-granted notions of femininity and masculinity.

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Nitza Speaks on Essence, Appearance, and Identity Games Responding to the previous lecture, I argued that desires, fantasies, blurring of identities, and games must all be understood as taking place in a patriarchal context, decoding and denoting the power of ideology and social organization. One must inquire when the blurring indeed threatens the gender order and the social or biological distinctions between the sexes and when the game is only voyeuristic, as in the beautiful and poetic film The Five Senses, by Jeremy Podeswa (2000). In it, a 16-year-old girl takes her boyfriend to a hiding place and dresses him up in a wig and girdle she has hidden in a deserted building. What do you feel when you look at me? asks the boy. I see you inside out, she replies. Although the film draws our attention to the blurring of the boundary between inside and outside, we need to note that not only the set of distinctions is significant but also the hierarchical order they effectuate. Throughout history, there have been women who masqueraded as men to reach those territories that were inaccessible to them as women. Women pretended to be men to enter the world of study and the world of combat or to escape an unwanted marriage. These figures populate the pages of the history books and the folk tales and folklore of many peoples. Some lived under this borrowed identity until their dying day. In the Middle Ages, for example, women who masqueraded as monks were not considered insane but rather enjoyed social esteem, and a few of them became saints (Bullough, 1975; Dekker & van der Pol, 1989). This pretense indeed undermines the biological determinisma female does not have to live as a woman. But at the same time, it also reaffirms the social order regarding the hierarchy between categories. Most of the stories are about females living as men. Entering the category of men means aiming at a higher and better life to which women are denied. Crossing the gender boundary from the other side was negatively sanctioned and punished. Gender categories are, at times, absurd, but this does not contradict the fact that, when the politics of identity plays a major role both in terms of macropolitics and in terms of the sense of belonging, these categories are highly significant. Sexual identity can become the basis for self-definition and for the formation of an explicatory communityfor example, lesbianism as the basis for identity formation. However, this raises new questions. To what extent are the contents identified with the title lesbian fluid and diverse? Do they too become fixated and unifying, thus excluding alternative interpretations as well? Holly Devor8 discusses women who went through a sex change. Some, prior to the transformation, were attracted to other women and defined themselves as lesbian. The prevalent image of lesbian women as mannish enabled them to define themselves as lesbian. Subsequently, however, they rejected the lesbian identity once it came to exalt the model of a woman who loves women

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and rejects the masculine dimension. This new identity served, on one hand, as an empowering resource for the formation of a lesbian community with clear and conscious feminist overtones but at the same time excluded from its ranks those who did not fit into the new definition, such as the women who wanted to be like men. The significance of this discussion is that the polar, antithetical, complementary, and hierarchical normativity of gender in an andocentric society creates, mainly in women, mistrust of their femininity and a conscious as well as unconscious quest for a different kind of femininity. At the same time, gender ideology also hails mainstream performance, forcing women to cling to, employ, and exploit patriarchal femininity. Womens struggle (their willingness and unwillingness, ability and inability) to transcend and succumb to the significatory limitations of their femininity is often revealed through the voice of literary female figures (Naveh, 1999), in the confessions of women during therapy (Friedman, 1996), and via womens political activity (Helman & Rapoport, 1997).

The e-Letters
April 30, 2000

Hi Nitza I want to start with an experience I had yesterday at the Cinematheque; an unpleasant, albeit intellectually and emotionally intriguing experience. I went to see a film that was being shown within the framework of the Pink Movie Club called Sex Life in Los Angeles (Hik, 1999). Its a behind-the-scenes documentary about the industry of male erotic fantasy in LA, or to quote the Cinematheque movie guide: the film follows the life of male porn actors on set and mainly off set. I knew I was about to watch a film about pornographic sex between men (the unabridged version). I bought a ticket. Men slowly started filtering into the cinema hall, alone and in groups, probably men from the Tel Aviv gay community (how can you tell?). Five minutes before the film began the hall was practically filled with men, young as well as older ones, and a handful of women, none of whom was unescorted. Or so I thought. I didnt really dare survey the hall too closely. I felt like a fish out of waterembarrassed, a bourgeois, straight woman. In a foreign setting all your identifying signs seem to emerge, whether pertinent or not. I had to fight off the strong urge to take paper and pen out of my bag and pretend I was there for some purpose other than a personal, voyeuristic or freakish one. Did I feel uncomfortable as a woman (what does that mean?); would a straight man have felt as uncomfortable as I did? Or would it have been a different kind of discomfort? I still had time to think: here you have a golden opportunity to pretend youre Butler for a moment. Fantasize you are a man who is there to watch the film. I know it was an imagined pacifying/diversionary tactic. But lets say it wasnt. What would it take for the game to work? Would I have to come dressed up as a man? Or, as a drag king?

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Towards the end of the workshop I teach, called Psychoanalysis and Gender Identity, we get to Butler and the discussion of the disintegration of the binary categories of gender, the manipulation of sexual/gender boundaries, and the constitution of liminal identity, on the verge of gender. Hannah Naveh (1999) maintains that the way out of the binary trap is by blurring this distinction, in order to eliminate its categorizing capacity and descriptive power (p. 104). However, Naveh, like Butler and others, relies on a model of combined identity comprising both sexes. For blending cannot be compared to blurring. What is the hybridity of sexuality/gender that we have not yet come across? I sat in the Cinematheque with the sinking feeling that passion, fantasy, and visibility (body), contrary to what Ive taught, are not good enough tools to allow transition, blending and deconstruction of the patriarchal and heterosexual model of femininity and masculinity. I wanted to feel comfortablea woman alone in an audience full of men. Is it possible? Who are the internal wardens in the postmodern era? And why is it that not every game works?
May 5, 2000

Hi Niza As far as I understand your story, it is a question of which specific social situations drive which of our particular identities to the foreground transforming them from transparent to present and visible. And also, when does this awareness make us feel uncomfortable, or comfortable? Which contexts cause a fixation (if only temporary) of (one or more) identities, and which contexts allow more latitude and fluidity? In other words, we need to contextualize the dynamics Butler introduces and to ask whether and how it works in concrete social situations. 9 I would like to respond with a story of my own. Every now and then I attend lesbian social events. At times, when they are private events, I am the only straight woman in attendance (or so I think). But otherwise, these are public events, held as part of the Pride Week events, Gay Pride Parade, etc., namely, events that celebrate gay sexual identity. On such occasions, I feel comfortable and powerful. Thinking about it, I believe that this sense of power stems from the presence of a multitude of women and the defiance generated by such a presence. The category woman in these contexts is perhaps fixated, but not at the expense of accentuating the many different ways of being a woman, and not based on the object of sexual desire. Within such diversity I, too, find place and room to celebrate my being a woman. As for my sexual inclinationhere there is some room for play, at least insofar as my presence there puts my sexual identity in question. And this has already become a game of sorts for me and my close girlfriends. In other words, at that given moment one binary opposition (lesbian/ nonlesbian) is being blurred, but mainly because another (woman/man) is being fixated. It was not only because of the fact that I was among women and you were among men that I felt calm and at ease. One cannot isolate gender and sexuality from other social hierarchies. Thinking back on the situation, I realized that this group of lesbians is located on the pole closest to the mainstream of Ashkenazi middle-class society, far from the madding crowd of drag queens and kings. If we consider the movie Fantasy: Another Country (Hemo & Hershkowitz, 2000), we are concerned with women who ascribe themselves to that part of society (gay and straight alike) that strives to distinguish itself from figures such as the movies two protagonists, the drag queens Lady Samantha and Lady Chris.

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In the movie, these drag queens themselves at one and the same time ridicule and are hurt by their own rejection for being too black, too feminine, or just too kinky.
May 11, 2000

Hi Nitza I agree with you that gender identity, whether imagined, invented, stereotypical or invisible, is indeed always transient and momentary, concurrently dependent on the specific place in which the sense of identity becomes conscious, as well as on the cultural climate in which our identity is consummated. In the seminar you made an important point when describing periods in human history, in which a certain degree of autonomy was given to both sexuality and gender. This autonomy provided greater leeway than allowed by modernity (Laqueur, 1990). For example, in the story about the Chevalier DEon/Madame DEon, a cultural icon in the second half of the 18th century who gained fame all over Europe due to the obscurity enveloping his sexuality. However, later, in 19th century texts, he was deemed a fraud, and in 20th century psychiatry booksa pervert (Eonism) (Wahrman, 1998). The historian Gary Kates (1995) argues that, contrary to contemporary thinking, he was neither a transsexual nor a victim of what a psychiatrist would have labeled gender disphoria. He did not feel trapped in the wrong body. He was a man who for a period of his life decided to live as a woman. And the public accepted him once as a man and later in life, as a woman. For a short period of history, it was allowed. Similarly, the wonderful story of the transvestite Pope/Popess, Angelicus, which was transformed from fact in 13th century chronicles into a 16th century folk tale. Indeed, the measure of social and cultural ease (namely, ambiguity) regarding intergender transition and transformation plays an important role here. I have no doubt that my momentary desire to join the energies, tension, pleasure, thrill, and mainly ease of the men in the audienceas one of them and not as a womanhas to do not only with the physical unease or unconscious suspicion of the self s explicit motivations, but also with the postmodern context of our lives, which now more than ever allows expansion of the margins of thought and a split practice in the field of identity. Indeed, the sociology of gender is part of the psychology of identity. Still, once again, I would like to stress the problematic quality inherent in the division between sexuality and identity. I challenge this dichotomy precisely against the backdrop of postmodern deconstruction of the categories of sex and genderthrough the identity of drag, for instance. Following Butler, we can see how the performance of drag exposes the mechanisms that construct gender (body, gestures, clothing, feelings), challenging the inner/outer distinction and dramatizing the fluidity of gender markers. But in your lecture you also asserted that the blurring of the boundary between body and identity, or in other words, the multiple implications of the affinity between body and identity, can only occur within the confines of political and sociological knowledge, where gender ambiguity generates amusement, pleasure, and social ease but not in a culture of hatred, rejection, and fear of any behavior that implies the disintegration of the feminine/masculine dichotomy. Nonetheless, I still wonder when the game can work. When can the interplay between passion, fantasy, identity, persona and appearance materialize for individuals in everyday life? At the Cinematheque, for example, the illusion that I could manage to think of myself as a man was a priori doomed to fail, not because I dont have a penis, but because, being seen as a woman, I was not recognized as possessing one by the

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other participants in the event. At that moment the desire not to be a woman only reinforced the boundaries of my female identity and the fixated, dichotomous awareness of it. On the other hand, I am very familiar with the sense of ease and empowerment that emerges from your story, generated by the (imagined) lack of division between you the straight and lesbian women. The (implicit) sexual inclination of the (explicit) female body and the blurring of the boundary between them in lesbian events enable one, as you wrote, to experience feelings of defiance against the dichotomous gender regime, while making it possible to be a woman in a wide variety of modes and roles. It is true that (temporary) transition between the departments of passions and identities of women is more open to potential identification, identity reversals, nuances, and playfulness, since the female gaze on a woman is always mysterious, undifferentiated, inquisitive and elusive. The female gaze on a woman does not mark the woman to whom it is directed as an inversion or antithesis, but rather as difference. My question still remains: can postmodern deconstruction of the woman/ man binary category in philosophy, art, writing, and in islands of subversive culture survive the disciplinary habitus of the body? Freud, for one, (rightly) exerted all his intellectual powers to distinguish between the bodys domination over the psyche and cultural domination, in order to prevent the reduction of psychology to biology. But all that remains of his outstanding, intricate ideas in radical feminism is the awful maxim, biology is destiny. How frustrating.
May 27, 2000

Hi Niza, No, Im not saying that gender identity, or any other identity, is always transient and momentary. Saying that it is time and place dependent, that it is shaped by specific history and cultural climate, does not imply that it is short-lived, certainly not with regard to our immediate personal experience. The assertion that we do gender or perform gender in our everyday practice indeed implies that gender identities require a routine maintenance. However, most of the time we do the right thing, thus, reinforcing the dominant identity definitions, thereby also reconcealing (from ourselves as well) the fact that it is indeed all about an act. It is an ongoing masquerade that not only looks real, but whose power results in an identity that is experienced as essential, cohesive, and stable. Niza, note that I use the term masquerade for lack of a better word. It is somewhat misleading in this context, since it presupposes the existence of a real identity hiding behind the costume, which presents itself as other than what it really is, and this is not what I mean. Even if we consider the way in which Butler tries to avoid the fixation of language, as it were, by replacing the word women with the phrase embodied person located in the category of woman, we are well aware that such social categories have tremendous social impact, no matter how often we put the word women in inverted commas. These hierarchical categories largely determine not only our feelingswhether and to what extent we are comfortable with this never-ending performancebut also our chances in life, in the most basic sense. But lets go on presenting a more intricate picture. Lets add, rather than replace it with, the deconstructive, fluid postmodern experience. It is the combination and coexistence of these two levels that account for your experience in the Cinematheque hall, and the pleasure experienced by drag show spectators. This way we can begin to grasp the sense of discomfort, as well as the desire to play, belong, and mainlythe ability to observe it all from a bystanders position, to

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ponder and ask these questions while the show goes on; add to this the fact that you were almost the only woman in an audience of men, and the ensuing basic sense of threat. At the same time, however, there was also the somewhat confusing sense that this audience of men was mainly interested in men, rather than in you or the few other women who were present in the hall. Drag shows, in all their variations, draw their subversive power, as well as their ability to entertain, precisely from the fact that they take place in a cultural context where there is a hierarchy between body and identity. Lets consider the drag show featured in the film we already mentioned, Fantasy: Another Country (Hemo & Hershkowitz, 2000), where Ritas song Take Me Under Your Wing is performed.10 The unique aspect of this rendition, as opposed to most other drag rendition, was the blending of masculine attributesshaved head, exposed masculine chestwith feminine attributesa muslin blouse, exaggerated, even satanic facial makeupand a hypnotizing performance: dramatic, violent and sexual. The hypnotic quality resulted, to my mind, from the blending of feminine and masculine sexuality. In this context, the body is perceived as a basic essence, albeit typified by a changing meaning; thus it is the body that determines identity, when there is (as in the patriarchal order) an unequivocal binary distinction between the male and female body.11 At the same time, it is only within this repressive cultural domain that the show can be ascribed subversive meanings. In a cultural context that a priori allows freer transitions between categories and manipulation of various sex markers, such a show would be no more than harmless G-rated entertainment. It is the present cultural domain, a domain comprising both levelsthe fixating and the deconstructingthat accounts for the feelings of hatred and rejection elicited by such phenomena, alongside the pleasure, attraction, curiosity and wonderment they evoke. Still and all, one must also bear in mind that we are concerned with a theatrical performance delineated in terms of time and space, and acted out on stage before an audience. The game takes place within boundaries that are clear and distinct. It has a starting point and a finish line in terms of time, as well as spatial boundaries. This delineation creates a clear-cut distinction between that which takes place inside the hall and the surrounding world outside, thereby also rendering and signifying that which occurs inside as performance and that which takes place outside as reality. An important element that contributes to the sense of illusion transpiring inside is the fact that the performers use a taped soundtrack, lip-synching the words. The sound played in the background serves as yet another prop. The same applies to the performers use of their bodies to create the performativity of gender; like dancers who employ their bodies to create lines, forms, and motion in space, so drag artists use their bodies and voice to illustrate the illusive quality underlying the stability of gender markers. However, the context within which this dramatization occursthe performance dissolves this meaning too, defining the occurrence as an extraordinary, shortlived event based on momentary fantasy.
June 11, 2000

Hi Nitza It seems that our differences (how expected!) stem from our divergent disciplinary approaches. I try to trace the emotional and psychic significance of female or male identity as the fragile turning-point that allows a person, albeit within the repressive dichotomous category of masculinity and femininity, to

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experience the gendered other on deep psychic levels as antithesis and semblance at one and the same time: those fleeting moments of contrastive, imagined, creative identity, which is binary yet opposed to the predominant man/ woman identity. Let me give you an example from the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwishs wonderful poem Home Economics (Darwish, 2000).12 Note that he writes this poem as a woman in the female voice.13 He asks: How many am I? and then continues: In the morning, I went to the Thursdays market / I bought our home produce, / And chose for me an orchid, and sent letters. / Rain has wet me, and I was filled with the sweetness of the orange. / You once told me I was like a pregnant palm? / Or was it my imagination? If you do not find me / I will be hovering over your head, dont be afraid of the weak air, / and sleep, my love, a sweet sleep. It is a long poem and I cannot cite all of it here. Briefly, my point is that one could probably read the poem in a traditional way and understand it as a love poem between the female muse and her male lover, the poet. Darwish is taking the role of his female muse, speaking in her name. At the same time, one can also read it subversively as Darwishs female otherness arising as the male writer goes shopping for food in the market place on Thursday morning, and in-between shopping for groceries and picking an orchid, he senses/experiences his breasts and his exiled/lost feminine body, impregnated by the surrounding smells of the market and his past memories of home. In this reading, the muse is only a cover story for Darwishs inner explorations of the other/outer in him. In the case of the Israeli poetess Yona Wallach (1992), moments of female and male passion create moments of alternative, alternating identity, as do the colors in her poem Bursting Colors. At times she is a woman with a penis and female passion (Strawberries), at other times, a woman who puts on teffilin (phylacteries) and assumes a sadomasochistic desire (Tefillin), and at yet other times a woman refined under male degradation (When You Come). In her wonderful poem Me Being Myself, a gender duality similar to that operating in Darwishs poem is discernable, but in reverse. Yet, she writes: Everything in the bounds of reality Everything along known boundaries (are the known boundaries those of femininity or masculinity?). In this poem, one possible reading suggests that the poetess and muse converse like two women friends. Another reading leads to the impenetrable, impervious encounter between the poet and the other woman within her. She cannot touch upon the emotional shell wrapped in a pearl-covering of the other woman within her, yet she recognizes her, senses her existence. Wallach writes with my living self, I shall come to her, and go. Mundane actions, I would like to argue, provide us with numerous opportunities to experience our bodies and ourselves in all kinds of reversals and inversions, not only through the defiant drama of dragwhich, to my mind, is only one political option among many. However, the experiences of inversion, interplay and defiance can seldom be separated from the perpetual noise on the soundtrack along the continuum of binary sexual identity. Only the artist or poet can carefully unravel the antithetical coils of sexual identity through lines, words, and sounds that together generate concurrent duality and totality. Modern mans need for cohesion (or order) pushes the sexual otherness to which I refer, and which is furnished ceaselessly by everyday experiences, to the realms of perversion and pathology. Had we adopted psychological and social acceptance regarding the realm of gender options we would have experienced the everyday through alternating moments of identity which, like emotions, create a harmony of contrasts and contradictions. In this respect, I can relate to your sociological sentiment, which perceives cultural and discursive climates as the arena of sensi-

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bility and the main source of modalities of perceptions that allow or disallow gender unruliness both in psychic terms and as a cultural and social practice.
June 20, 2000

Hi Niza I think its time to wrap things up, although Im still trying to decipher the feelings you spoke about and come up with answers to the quandaries they triggered in me. The way I chose to deal with the many question marks scattered throughout your text was to try and put the phenomena, experiences and stories into a wider contexthistorical, social, and political. As a follower of the sociological mode of thinking, I believe that the path to understanding passes through context rather than text. However, in the course of our correspondence I was forced to confront issues in which I am not well versed. In my scientific work I deal with gender without sexuality, women without a body, and feminism without sexual identity. I discuss motherhood without mothers. The personal experience is not given admission. And now, all these have become the focal point of our joint discussion. Still, the division of labor created between us allowed me to reemploy the tools with which I am more familiar and more comfortable. Did I thereby fixate the reality that you insist on keeping as volatile? I feel something has happened to both of us in the transition from the seminar lectures to this dialogue: for in your lecture you sounded much more decisive about identity games than in our correspondence, and in my lecture I was more critical and reserved, whereas now, for the first time, I had to address the dimension of emotional experience and discovered its efficacy as a tool for exploration and understanding. Still, I must admit that writing was extremely difficult for me this time. A dialogue may lead to either entrenchment in ones beliefs or new insights. In my case, I think both occurred. Nevertheless, if our discussion was significant in any way, then its significance lies in the attempt to explore an explicatory framework that is open to and skeptical toward reading the gender reality around us in a manner which is relevant to our work as feminist scholars, as well as to our everyday insights about ourselves and about others. Niza, have I answered the questions you raised along the way?
June 24, 2000

Hi Nitza My thoughts and feelings keep tugging me in many directions even with the conclusion of this correspondence and under its influence. Truth be told, until this very moment, I am not quite sure what the source of this quest is. While writing, I tried to touch upon the option of interplay and oscillation of gender identity in everyday life. I especially tried to explore the pragmatic meaning of moments of gender identity as a theoretical option. Perhaps to pursue some feeling of sexual otherness which I still cannot fully grasp, in order to unravel my femininity, in which the entire burden of my socialization is embedded. Our correspondence allowed me to obtain feedback in unexpected directions. When I asked you whether a woman who imagines herself as a man is a man or a woman (or is she an-other woman?), you asked me why one has to pose such a question in the first place. You always pulled me toward the normalizing social context that at one and the same time generates the fixation of my femininity as well as quandaries and quests for alternatives. Thus, perhaps unknowingly, you have rendered some of my questions both absurd and ever more real. You allowed me to

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examine the embarrassment in my femininity, that day in the Cinematheque, in a wider political context, when you pointed out the classifying, meaning-generating cultural forces that made me want to feel at ease among men and all-too-quickly waive my femininity, whose other meaning I still seek.

Reading In lecturing before our colleagues in the department, we assumed, rightly or wrongly, that most of our colleagues did not see the normative definition of femininity and masculinity as socially problematic, discriminatory, or possibly hurtful. Thus, our primary purpose was to challenge their comfortable, unassuming attitude by sowing doubt in regard to the common social definitions of gender. Our personal correspondence allowed us to take a different road, the road of inquiry and reflection-in-response. We didnt want to reach consensus or agreement. Rather, we wished to find something through dialogue, but we didnt know what it was. We planned to start from our personal questions, hoping to gain a better understanding of our actual experiences, theoretical commitments, and the relations between them in the process. In this last section of our article, we return to our letters as readers. We plan to explore and theorize the relations between knowledge and performance, theoretical commitments and experiencesboth psychic and visceralas these are formed and questioned in our letters.

Comment 1: Niza In my first e-mail (April 30, 2000), I wrote the following: I still had time to think: here you have a golden opportunity to pretend youre Butler for a moment. Fantasize you are a man who is there to watch the film. I know it was an imagined pacifying/diversionary tactic. But lets say it wasnt. What would it take for the game to work? Would I have to come dressed up as a man, or as a drag-king? I read and teach Butlers theory of gender trouble. I identify with her work. However, in the cinematheque, my pretension that I could play another gender through fantasy failed. I did not have the proper masquerade or the tools to play a masculine (homosexual) other as my imagined/materialized self. I could not perform the stranger to my gender. Not even for a moment was I able to transform my hegemonic femininity, which I resist, criticize, and reject in theory, into playing (feeling like) a homosexual man. The power of my socialization resisted me. It is one thing to challenge the politics of gender through teaching, writing, and believing and quite another to create a symbolic internal functioning that theatrically/psychically performs the other as oneself. What does it take to translate theory into experience or performance? Translation, claims Derrida (2002), is a responsibility, a debt we owe. But to what origin do we owe our fantasies, memories, experiences, and visions? To what

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translation do we owe our desires or prejudices? There are memories that can only be translated as madness or hypocrisy, says Laplanche (1999). So were my feelings of alienation, humiliation, anguish, and shame in the midst of the gay mens celebration just inevitably normal feelings stemming from untranslatable memories of my gender? To which knowledge do I owe my illusion, to which knowledge my failure? Regardless, I believe that I have touched the stranger in myself. I have experienced myself as a stranger who wants to know, yet all the same knows nothing. This experience, which I consider a failure, was nonetheless a moment of discovery of the foreigner as a neighbor, a different gender. The foreigner, says Kristeva (1991, p. 13), comes in when the consciousness of our difference arises. Yet it is the recognition that we are our own foreigners that counters hatred and creates the sole support that we can attempt to live with others (Kristeva, 1991, p. 170). The power of ones own gender, features, movements, and affects is stronger than our consciousness or ideology. Commitment to a subversive theory of gender will not bring with it peace of mind. Still, that moment in the cinematheque constituted, in Kristevas (1991) words, a constant quest for welcoming and going beyond the other in oneself (p. 76). The success of our gender games is not given. It depends on powerful factors beyond our control: family bonds, language, culture, ties, social experiences, and so forth. However, the decision to worry or smile, says Kristeva, is ours. Like politics, theory is a form of translation, a responsibility. It is true that our commitment assumes too much already. Yet the phantasmal game guided by theory, even when it fails, is our debt to change.

Comment 2: Nitza I responded with a different story about playing games (May 5, 2000). I wrote, Every now and then I attend lesbian social events. At times I am the only straight woman in attendance (or so I think). . . . On such occasions, I feel comfortable and powerful. The questions that come to mind are as follows: What is the difference between the two events? Why was one successful and the other a failure? And we tried to provide some tentative answers throughout our correspondence. But at this point, I would like to discuss the fact that there is also a difference in the ways we formulated the stories in terms of the relations between experience and theory and among fantasy, emotions, and imagination. At the cinematheque, your attempt to feel more comfortable, by imagining and pretending, was theoretically inspired. But you could not carry off your gender game. Your disappointment derived from your sense that the theory failed. But what I want to point out is that you experienced the situation through and by the theory. It may not have provided satisfying answers or a means to deal with the situation, but it equipped you with the linguistic tools to verbalize the questions so that they are meaningful on both the theoretical and subjective level.

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For me, on the other hand, it was not until I wrote my story in response to yours that I started to think about it in theoretical terms. Only then did it occur to me that the situation I am describing poses a wide variety of questions and requires theorizing as much as your story. Only then did I realize that my pretense and fantasy calls for answers too. In other words, for each of us, the movement to and from theory and experience shifted in different directions. Whereas you translated theory into experience, I translated experience into theory. This difference may derive from the fact that our research, methods, and teaching shape both our subjectivity and the kind of questions we ask not only in our academic inquiry but also about our daily experiences. In your work, you deal with the complexity involved in the relations between subjectivity and emotions, body and sexuality, narrative and culture, whereas I examine the gendered nature of social structures and processes. As Ive said before, I deal with gender without sexuality, women without a body, and feminism without sexual identity. Emotions, subjectivity, and the self do not enter into my academic work (at least not explicitly and, until now, obviously). But it may also be the case that it is not our professional practice but, rather, the way we experienced the situation that took us down different routes. You felt uneasy. You were self-conscious. For you, the gender game failed. Thus defined and experienced, the situation called for theoretical inquiry. I, on the other hand, felt at ease. When one feels that a situation poses no challenge and no problematics surface, one is not compelled to explain it. The game was successful. This success anaesthetized the sociologist within me. It is only now that I realize that what I call success cannot be taken for granted and calls for theoretical investigation as well. Thus, failure makes one more alert theoretically and politically, whereas success is more likely to conceal the theoretical and political implications of the situation so defined.
****

What can we conclude from our questions and replies, stories and counterstories, comments and claims in relation to genre and gender? When we started our correspondence, we were first drawn to the different language we had used in the seminars and to the different way in which we contextualized similar notions of gender. We didnt have a research question in mind, but we had a desire to use our different theoretical inclinations as a field of knowledge to further explore the meaning of gender identity through and beyond ourselves. We were not sure to where it will lead us and whether we shall gain something out of this experiment. Reading post factum our e-mails, the two of us agree (and so does a mutual friend who read a draft of this paper) that from the very start, there are two different questions competing on and blurring a cohesive conclusion. The form of the article demands a methodological conclusion alluding to experimentation with a multivocal writing, whereas the content presses toward an alternative conceptualization of gender subjectivity and

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spaces of identity. Is the article about writing-in-response or about theory, performance, and identity? Although the methodological reason was behind it all, we certainly feel that the article contributes to both directions. What follows is the response each of us gave to the question of what can we conclude from our writing. Consistent with our method, this part is presented separately, yet each part already represents the results of our correspondence and incorporates our new understanding. Being answered, in agreement or disagreement, gave each of us the feeling of legitimacy, respect, and power to reform her theory and experience. Can this new methodology be translated into a radical politics of social justice? 14 In our closing words, we do not answer this question directly. However, one could by an imaginative projection claim that correspondence, as a method of research using repetition, reconstruction, and explication of self and other, and as a politics of welcoming the foreigner into oneself even if momentarily (as developed in our very last section), is a methodology that has the power to move each party toward building a new ground of recognition and justice.

Writing-in-Response (Nitza) It is common practice for academics to work jointly with colleagues (one or more) on articles and books. Many of us have been involved in such activity and find it rewarding (and at times frustrating) intellectually and socially. The ways people tend to work together can vary from a division of labor, in which each person writes separate parts and then blend them together into a single text, to laboring together over each sentence and paragraph. But regardless of the specific mode of work, the result is always the same: a unitary and indivisible text. The only evidence that it was a collaborative work is the fact that it bears the names of two (or more) authors. In one case, the authors even merged their names into one. Julie Graham and Katherine Gibson (J. K. Gibson-Graham, 1996), two feminist economic geographers, wrote the book The End of Capitalism (as We Know It) under the name of J. K. Gibson-Graham. But this is an exception. Usually, the names are kept separate, whereas the text is one. If there were any disagreements, divergences of opinion, or even conflicts, they are all concealed behind the uninterrupted text. The different voices of the authors are fused into one sound. Moreover, it is considered a flaw if the style of writing has not been thoroughly homogenized and the imprint of the individual author is recognizable. We followed another route. We kept our voices at times separate and at times fused. They are fused when the text has been produced together, and they are heard separately when indeed we spoke (in the seminars) or wrote (the correspondence and the comments) individually. But it is important to note that separate does not mean isolated. One of our reasons for engaging in this project was to experience exploring and writing as a process of producing knowl-

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edge in interaction and negotiation, in dialogue, and in various forms of conversation without necessarily reaching harmony. Also, it is likely that many use the same method we did and exchange ideas and portions of text via electronic correspondence. But once they have decided that the writing has been completed, the correspondence is trashed. It is treated as scaffolding that should be removed once the structure can stand on its own. For us, by contrast, the scaffolding is as important as what it holds. We place in broad daylight what others push to the backstage. We consider it an integral part not only of the writing process but of the end product as well. Thus, in our search for new modes of collaboration, we believe that we have found a way that did not force us to find a common ground, which conceals our divergent standpoints. This method helped us highlight the differences in our academic training, personal experiences, and intellectual inclinations, which emerged through the process of writing-in-response. And we used them to prompt each other to think and rethink our perceptions and ideas and elicit insights that would not have come to the fore in other ways.

Theory, Performance, and Identity (Niza) In the letters, we put our feelings and ideas to the test, questioning the strength of our a priori sexual identities (our anxieties and fixations), our will to play games, and the power of our theoretical identifications. There is no one criterion or one way to cross gender cultural limits and limitations. Gender performance materializes in many illusive internal modes, including affective and psychic experiences in addition to theatrical transvestive acts. One can always fail to perform. But this is not our point. Gender performance is not only what we do but also how we feel as well as what we know or imagine. Neither theatrical failure nor its success is the sole challenge to hegemonic gender identity. What counts, we believe, is also those brief moments of identity in which foreignness creep(s) into the tranquility of reason itself (Kristeva, 1991, p. 170). These moments of counteridentity, or identity in translation, form, even if only temporarily, an imagined gender-stranger-other relation, which could or would be the self in translation/transition. This hypothetical imagined other challenges, either fearfully or playfully, our logic, fantasy, and sensations. It irrigates our very speakingbeing estranged by other logics (Kristeva, 1991, p. 170). Calling on the power of theory and imagination, we can rebut for a moment, through the wish to play or else, the one ascribed alternative of our only sex. In Darwishs (2000) poem Home Economics, the market (the place of home, father, and culture) triggers Darwishs femaleness. In the market, a smell, vision, or movement suddenly awakens his memory, inspires a fantasy of otherness, making room for the woman otherfriend, lover, housewife, guardian, and poetin himself. He writes, And that among us who was the

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victimlet him dream now / within us, more than the others (p. 44). In another beautiful poem named We Have Missed a Present, Darwish, the male poet, questions the woman/muse: Am I you differently / and you a different me? Darwish, the man, refuses to be himself twice: and I will not be I twice / and yesterday came instead of my tomorrow / and I was divided into two women / I am not eastern / and I am not western (p. 12). A few lines later, he writes that there are no total solutions to personal fantasies (p. 12). Further down, he writes, Where are we? Lets go as we are; / a free woman / and a veteran friend / we shall go together in two different ways / we shall go together / and be good people (p. 12). It seems almost called for to read this poem in the context of the Jewish-Palestinian struggle, as alluding to the pain of losing the land, the Palestinian homeland. The longing for the land in Arabic, as in Hebrew, is always gendered. But, it is also possible to read this poem as a quest for his missing female other/self. His fantasyand illusionreplaces a missed present and a missed identity. However, the dreamer, also a victim divided and puzzled (how many am I?), is inscribing otherness with love, knowing that his very dream, contrary to (national or sexual) logic, makes him a good person. For the poetess Yona Wallach, the context of play with otherness and difference, through fantasy, dreaming, or writing, is the scene of sexual intercourse. During those moments, words freely perform the irregular, acting the other way around against ones gender yet assuming nothing. If Wallach is a woman, she can still love like a man or like a woman with a penis. She can be a victim or an executioner or choose any other possibility, limited only by her imagination. For Wallach, who was ill and dying for a long period of time, those fragmentary, fractal moments of transvestiture, whether written, spoken, felt, acted, or faked, were moments of escape, granting her freedom from scientific logic, ideology, automatism, and her fixated gender learning. According to Bauman (1991), the foreigner, neither a lover nor an enemy, is the unknown, feared stranger who lives among and within us as an object of projected hatred. Paradoxically, however, hatred makes him real, authentic, solid, or simply existing, writes Kristeva (1991, p. 13). To understand this paradox is to recognize that the opposite of hatred is not love. Love and hatred stem from similar fears, needs, and cultural/normative contexts. The opposite of hatred is welcome, hospitality, generosity, and forgiveness (Derrida, 2001). This knowledge is clearly recognized by both poets, Wallach and Darwish. Coming from different yet in some ways similar worlds, both Wallach and Darwish form in their poetry the other in addition to the same (Kristeva, 1991), recognizing the difference between disavowal and recognition, hatred and welcome. The stranger, treated as a friend, lover, and guest, is invited to enter or leave the scene of otherness with the generosity of those who know that the other will never be the self. Yet they can go together on their separate paths and be better people. We claim that fantasy and theory, which invite other genders to stay, even for a moment, constitute a moral political standpoint that opens a space for

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changing the women or men that we are. These moments of pretense and identification, distance and closeness, similarity and difference are also moments in addition to normative gender identity, which can challenge the history of what our socialized self usually is. In this sense, the theoretical is also personal. Imagination is an intellectual apparatus, a language, constituting consciousness and a belief of identity. Because of the power of appearance and its control over the body like a skin, imagined (sexual but also racial) identities, like communities, can be stigmatized and pathologized. At the same time, when the power of fantasy is welcomed, imagined otherness (as a political or poetic effort) can destabilize what we have always already been, becoming better people. Notes
1. The theoretical and empirical literature is abundant. See, for example, the collection of articles in Ellis and Flaherty (1992) and Gillbert (2001). Both present a beautiful collection of experiments with the various new genres. Lincoln and Denzin (1994) and Lincoln (1995) locate these developments within a broad theoretical overview. 2. We retain the word methodology here (and in our title) because, as this concept implies, we use it not only simply as a method or a research technique but also as an epistemological strategy that produces consciousness and understanding of what knowledge is, who the subjects are that produce knowledge, and what the social forces are that determine their relations. 3. Of course, there is always the question of what happens when we refuse to see someone as our agreeable interlocutor, such as in cases of hatred, rejection, and contempt, or when the other is not considered worthy of our attention and respect. 4. We are aware of the fact that some would read this passage as a Habermasian version of communicative action that relies on a common rationality between two negotiators. We believe that writing-in-response does not necessarily assume a shared rationality. At the same time, we suspect that without some shared worldview based, as in our case, on ambivalence or skepticism of hegemonic narratives (for example, gender skepticism) and a shared belief in multiple and contested discourses, it will be very difficult to sustain such practice of association. Hence, a further theoretical thinking should be devoted to the relations between correspondence, its different practices and meanings, and the question of unequal power relations. 5. For a different type of division, see Jackson (1993, as cited in Denzin, 1997). In her performance script, Jackson combines reportage, dramaturgy, and critique. 6. We have edited the correspondence only minimally and added references where needed. 7. By chance, we have in Hebrew the same name. However, in English, we spell it differently.

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8. In a lecture delivered at KLAF, Tel Aviv, June 14, 2000, titled More Than Manly Women: How Female-to-Male Transsexuals Reject Lesbian Identities (see also Devor, 1999). 9. It is true that the issue of situational identity has already been discussed in sociological literature, mainly as a critique of essentialist theories. However, even in that case, there was an apparent hierarchy of identities, in terms of which identities are more natural and which are more social, for there was latitude only for ethnic and national identities, whereas gender identities were taken for granted. 10. Rita is a very popular, expressly theatrical Israeli performer. The lyrics of the song were written by the Israeli national poet H. N. Bialik. 11. Those born with an ambiguous sexual identity are socially perceived as pathological cases luckily born at a time when advanced medicine can heal and replace them in the proper and well-defined sexual order. 12. All poems cited here were translated by Niza Yanay from Hebrew. 13. In Hebrew as well as in Arabic, verbs attached to the pronouns I and you are gendered. 14. We wish to thank Norman Denzin for raising this insightful and important question.

References
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Niza Yanay is a senior lecturer of social psychology in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Ben Gurion University in Israel. Her areas of expertise include the social psychology of emotions and feminist theory. She has published articles on the relations between autonomy, dependence, and culture on national hatred and subjectivity and a critique of reconciliation. She is an associate editor of HAGAR: Studies in Culture, Polity and Identities. Nitza Berkovitch is a senior lecturer in sociology in the Department of Behavioral Sciences in Ben Gurion University in Israel. Her work deals with gender, citizenship, womens movements, human rights, and globalization. Her book From Motherhood to Citizenship: Womens Rights and International Organizations (1999, Johns Hopkins University Press) explores the history of global struggles for equality and rights of international womens movements. She is a member of editorial boards of Social Politics and Israeli Sociology.

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