Breaking the Binary

The Mythic Being

“The Mythic Being,” which is a series of cartoons and performances by Adrian Piper, has many overlapping themes with our class. To examine these themes, I would like to use the piece from Eve Sedgwick, “Queer and Now.” “The Mythic Being” is a character played by Piper, who is a lesbian, woman-identifying person. They are characterized by a large afro, a mustache, and sunglasses, as well as stereotypically masculine actions such as catcalling. Piper’s goal with this piece is to garner audience reactions and blur the lines of people’s perceptions of gender identity. She does this as she is tired of identifying within her norms as a black, lesbian woman and is instead able to examine the world as a straight, masculine man. She examines how reactions she gets as male presenting are different from those she gets in her everyday life.

In relating Piper’s work to Sedgwick’s piece, I find that much of the motivation behind the Mythic Being could be Piper’s distaste for her own female identity as well as feeling as if she does not belong within the norms of being a woman. Piper switches between her male persona and her female persona to represent her own fluid identity, and that she cannot be constrained the norms imposed on her as a black, lesbian woman in the 1970s. Sedgwick’s piece establishes that queerness refers to “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically” (Sedgwick 8). One aspect of queerness and gender identity is fluidity, which Piper uses the Mythic Being to explore. Sedgwick, with her definition of queerness, explains that one’s sexuality and gender is to be determined by oneself, which Piper explores. The Mythic Being represents Piper’s own fluid gender and sexuality, which is essential to queerness according to Sedgwick.

One thought on “Breaking the Binary”

  1. “The Myth Being” reminds me of Alison Bechdel’s comic strip that we looked at in class. In the comic strip Bechdel demonstrates that lesbian and queer identities look different in terms of gender expression, but that doesn’t mean they lose or gain validity. As you mention in relation to Sedgwick’s piece, queerness does not physically look one way, or even internally feel the same. The freedom in queerness is its “open mesh” of meaning that can disregard the harsh gender norms of the 70s, and can even be applied to gender division now.

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