Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

January 1997

Publication Source

Women and Language





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The body is one locus of control in the organization of social life, a site upon which social order is maintained. Within that order, a fundamental structure relies upon the radical dichotomization of, on the one hand, female and male and, on the other, femininity and masculinity: gender is understood to be an immutable and consistent distinction which is natural to sex' and therefore to the organization of bodies. In this paper, I take three texts which address the mutability of both sex and gender through genital transformation. I suggest that while these texts challenge the idea that sex and gender are both fixed, they also reinstate a precise relationship between sex and gender, that is, between femaleness and femininity and maleness and masculinity. My main focus is on Will Self's paired novellas "Cock & Bull" (1992), where desires and anxieties about gender mutation play out in a fictional setting. This is complemented by Garfinkel's (1967) presentation of "Agnes," an "intersexed" person, who goes through sex reassignment surgery, and Bornstein's "Gender Outlaw" (1994), an autobiographical work on the same theme.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Printed with the permission of Women and Language


NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Katherine Sender was affiliated with the University of Massachusetts. Currently she is a faculty member of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.



Date Posted: 25 April 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.