Gender Expression and Nature

In “Boy in a Whalebone Corset”, Saeed Jones describes the traumatic experience of his father catching him wearing feminine clothing and physically abusing him for it. Beyond the metaphors, Jones’s poem is about his father’s response to his expression of self and the measures that his father is willing to take to suppress Jones’s true self. Jones’s use of the line “negligee, lace, fishnet, whore.” best represents the poem as it shows his father’s perception of him. The first three words are revealing, scandalous clothing or material that is associated with sexuality, and the use of “whore” for the ending of the line shows that Jones’s father views his gender expression in a negative and demeaning light. The line “ His son’s a whore..” (Jones 12) emphasizes this shaming attitude. Aside from this theme, themes of fire versus nature, and waltzing are also present. The destructive and consuming relationship of fire and nature is used to represent the familial relationship. Like fire, his father’s attitude toward femininity and queerness is destructive and seeks to consume nature or metaphorically, Jones’s sense of self. His father’s association with fire comes from the literal description of him holding matches and a jug of gasoline as he prepares to burn Jones’s feminine clothes. (Jones 12) As for the theme of waltzing, it is connected through the mention of Nina Simone’s record playing and the rhythm of the poem is similar to one of a waltz. Jones’s waltzing to her music in dresses furthers his themes of exploration of gender expression (femininity versus masculinity) as he is going against gender expectations. Gender expectations, along with sexuality and abuse are some of the common themes of Jones’s writing. The exploration of these themes paints a picture of the joy and pain that can come with the queer experience.

2 thoughts on “Gender Expression and Nature”

  1. You dove into the negative connotation there is with sexuality when you analyzed the lines describing Jones as a “whore”. These feelings bleed into the association of sexuality and gender expression with violence (physical and emotional), which seems to be repeated throughout many of Jones’ writings. This is not only experienced between Jones and his father, but also Jones wrestling with his own thoughts and internalized homophobia. Another great example of this is in his poem Boy, A History where he is constantly experiencing forms of violence from his father and peers at school.

  2. I really liked how you included the theme of fire versus nature, and the way in which Jones’ father burning his “feminine” clothes was both a physical and metaphorical representation of him burning and attempting to destroy Jones’ identity and sense of self. I think Jones playing with gender expression through his clothing coincides with gender fluidity, and the question of what exactly constitutes masculinity and femininity. It’s interesting how Jones’ father created a direct connection between Jones’ clothing and his queer identity, and believed that this act of violence would work to suppress Jones’ identity. I think Jones is very resilient for enduring this level of abuse from within his own home, and utilizing that pain to voice his experiences through his collection of poems and writing.

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