The Performative Restroom

As performance which is performative, gender is an “act,” broadly construed, which constructs the social fiction of its own psychological interiority.”  (Judith Butler, Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. 1988), 8.

What does gender want? To speak in this way may seem strange, but it becomes less so when we realize that the social norms that constitute our existence carry desires that do not originate with our individual personhood. This matter is made more complex by the fact that the viability of our individual personhood is fundamentally dependent on these social norms.” (Judith Butler, Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge, 2004), 2.

“…one only determines ‘one’s own’ sense of gender to the extent that social norms exist that support and enable that act of claiming gender for oneself. One is dependent on this ‘outside’ to lay claim to what is one’s own. The self must, in this way, be dispossessed in sociality in order to take possession of itself.” (Judith Butler, Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge, 2004), 8.

    Public spaces are constructed through site specific social acting and interaction. The workplace and the classroom are both territories marked by social performances: ourselves as students, as employers, as employees. Similarly, the "public" restroom operates to regulate bodies through cultural gender designations. The performance of the restroom masquerades as "private," thrown between what might be considered the significant actions over the course of a day.


My performance site is the women's restroom in the Shapiro Campus Center at Brandeis University. I wanted to investigate the dichotomy of "public" and "private," to explore how gender codes form and inform the social sphere of a restroom. This project includes a documentation of my strip of behavior in the restroom, an analysis of behaviors, performance options for disrupting the strip of behavior, a documented performance, and a discussion of the site specificity of this performance.


The Shapiro Campus Center Women's Restroom, Brandeis University

Photo Taken September 2009 

Webpages created by Sophia Rose

Last Updated 12/10/09

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