Date of Award

5-2020

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Open Access

1

Abstract

In this MFA thesis, I use Emily Post’s famous manual Etiquette (1940) as point of departure for my investigation of the implications of the various demanding, yet often unacknowledged, social requirements made of women. Rather than aspiring to one, consistent manner of comportment, there are social demands placed on women to perform a variety of roles depending on the situation. Of course, all people, regardless of gender, shift their behavior in some way depending on the context. Yet I propose that women in particular learn to choreograph their conduct in order to live up to the many contradictory, simultaneous requirements presented by Western patriarchal society. Dance, an artistic field rooted in nuanced physical performance, offers a valuable lens through which to understand the complications of idealized femininity. Like much concert dance, which seeks to hide the labor of choreography to present a slick, smooth creation, a woman must not reveal the labor that shapes her into a “beautiful” product. I am interested in cracking open this façade by investigating the work that goes into choreographing the ideal woman and displaying the consequences of this labor. I argue, using examples from sociology, neurology, dance studies and the work of Pina Bausch and Adrian Piper, that these consequences include: an essentialist conception of gender that incorrectly blames women for their own oppression; a sense of dissociation from the body; and a connection between women and blankness. Finally, I demonstrate the ways in which I incorporated these theories into my own performance work and website, Refrain from Doing Things Badly, and how I worked to both complicate and reclaim the relationship between performer and audience during the period of social distancing brought about by COVID-19 in 2020.

Submission Agreement

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