Nov 07 2011

Response 4

Published by

John Rodriguez

Professor Alvarez

English 363

7 November 2011


Gender and Sexuality: How Cobra is transformed in Severo Sarduy’s Cobra

Cobra is a man that wants to be a woman. She trys to change her physical appearance but what really defines gender and sexuality?

Since the time of Adam and Eve, there have been disputes on the matter of what makes a man a man, and what makes a woman a woman.  Influential theorist of gender and sexuality, Judith Butler, argues that the answer to this is much more than merely biological evidence. Through culture, media, and society, we can see how people consciously and even unconsciously declare their sexuality and gender.

Judith Butler believes gender and sexuality are performative. The way a person acts and what they say, determine their sexuality. I agree with this statement. In an era where there is sexual freedom and many gays and lesbians are outspoken, we can witness how biological aspects does not prove one’s gender role. In other words just because a man is physically a man, it does not mean he portrays or feels that he is one and the same may go for a woman. Butler goes on to say “the more of a man or the more of a woman you are, the more obviously your masculinity or femininity is a performative construct, the more overtly it is acted out.” I consider this to be the responsibilities of your sex, so to speak. For example, men must hold the door for women, act like gentlemen, and be strong and brave. Women must act lady-like, watch children, cook and clean. These performances announce our gender roles. I suppose these actions started off as being conscious but after a while we start to do things we do not even notice that assert our sexuality.

Throughout the years, the media has influenced and expanded the roles of genders. Sexuality from music, movies and television has become standard character for what a man or women should be. A simple model of this would be the Heineken beer commercial. Here it suggests that the fantasy for women would be to have a large room full of shoes. The fantasy for men would be to have a large room full with ice cold beer. Commercials like these shape the idea of men and women and make people live up to those traditions.

A great case Butler presents is Aretha Franklin’s hit ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’. This line advocates that feeling like a natural woman is something learned by a man’s love therefore implies it is the performance that defines gender and sexuality. A person does not naturally feel like a man or a woman, but must be made to feel that way.

A similar example would be from Artist Beyonce’s hit ‘Single Ladies’ constantly repeats the words “If you liked it then you should of put a ring on it”. Here we see how marriage or to get engaged produces the effect of gender roles. It is up to the man to put a ring on it and propose to a woman. In the music video, she uses her sex appeal to attract the male, which was one way to make herself feel like a woman.

What makes you feel like a man or woman? A question like this might be difficult to answer because we might not realize that almost everything we do has probably become second nature to us and defines our gender role. Regardless of what biological features we have, it is the performances we take part in that identifies our sexuality.

This article on Jstor mentions the role of Cobra in gender :



Works Cited

Bennett, Andrew and Nicholas Royle. An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory. Great Britain: Pearson Education, 2009.

Sarduy, Severo. Cobra. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1972. Print


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One response so far

One Response to “Response 4”

  1.   salvarezon 10 Nov 2011 at 8:23 pm

    John, you chose a good article, and I think you can use this for your Response 5 instead because you still should be focusing on Jahn or on one of the books assigned for this class. You mention Cobra here, for example, but you don’t cite it all. In fact, you bring in gender theory without even giving any evidence from the text itself. In this case, for your last response you should find examples from Cobra that you can use. The Butler’s fine to use, but you also have to include her within the ideas of Narratology. For example, how does the performance of gender and narration happen?

    For example, when Aretha sings “you make me feel like a natural woman” who is the “you” and who is the “me”: a male audience? Female audience? Also, what about the “story” of the song? How does it use repetition to give the idea that feeling like a woman must be enacted with specific rituals?

    At any rate: you’ll find lots of gender rituals in Cobra, as well as narrative tricks that attempt to give a “trans-gender” narrative performance.

    In fact, what I think you did in this response was an essay for another class, maybe something from English 120 that would use “media” texts to illustrate a critical point. That’s fine, but for this Hispanic Literature course, you should focus on “Hispanic” gender, or the culture of Machismo. It’s fine to look at Aretha Franklin or beer commercials, but you really should be using the texts we read in class as illustrations. I appreciate the gesture, but I have to take off points for this.

    Finally, Cobra as you cited it here is the original Spanish edition. You didn’t include the translator nor the American press. I took points off for that. I also took off points for too many “to be” verbs. I counted 15. I stopped taking off points at 10. I will continue to take off points in the next response and also for your final essay.

    3.8 out of 5 points.

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