michael j. morris

Things I am thinking about

Several things have come across my radar the last few days. I have been formulating a potential new piece of choreography for the spring entitled “Negotiation of Gender and Gaze.” It would be intended to explore something I am thinking of as “kinesthetic gender,” or how gender roles are constructed, assigned, assumed, or reinforced by the way in which people move. I am also interested in how the dynamic of “gaze” participates in the negotiation of gender, and more broadly, the experience of dance performance. I am fascinated by the implications of gazing on another person, what it might say about power dynamics or intention or desire or fascination. All of this is steeping in my consciousness right now and perhaps because of this, certain media seems to be jumping out at me, either on these subjects or on adjacent subjects (gender, sexuality, sex, desire, power, etc.).

There was an article in the New York Times Magazine entitled, “What Do Women Want?” It is a fairly involved exploration of scientific efforts to analyze and understand the way in which women (heterosexual, lesbian, or otherwise) experience desire. It is a fascinating read, and an interesting exploration of the differences between the sexes (not to be confused with the differences or lack there of between genders). You can find it here.

I was also reminded of an episode of “This American Life” that my friend CoCo had written about on her blog sometime last year. I found it and listened to it again, and was still amazed by it. It has four “acts” in it: the first is about the experience of a man who, due to medical reasons, stops producing testosterone, and experience a life without desire. The second is about an female-to-male transexual who had the opposite experience, going from relatively low amounts of testosterone to an amount that is twice that of a testosterone-heavy man, and how his experience of life and himself change with that adjustment. The third is an analysis of the testosterone levels of those who work on the show (David Rakoff, a favorite author of mine and contributor to the show, had the most. The gay Canadian Jew living in Manhattan working as an author and contributor to public radio. I love it.) The fourth is a mother asking her fifteen-year-old son what it’s like to be a boy. All fascinating. You can hear it here.

One of the things that I found most profound about this discussion of testosterone is how much it connects to the reading I am doing about “embodied understanding” in a book by Mark Johnson. Johnson spends a fair amount of time rejecting the dualism of the mind and body, the concept that the person is comprised of two parts, and that the immaterial is somehow more “pure” or “authentic.” The experience of the two men in the first and second portion of this show reports just how much “who they are” is affected by the body and this hormone, affecting everything they thought of as themselves. I think it has the potential to at least raise questions about how we think about ourselves, our identities, who we are, etc.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a film my friend Courtney lent me last week also moving around these subjects. I won’t discuss it very far here, so as to not “give away” too much of the story, but it was provocative and subtle and profound. It’s called XXY and is about an inter-sexed fifteen-year-old, and addresses issues of sex, gender, sexuality, etc. You can read more about the film  and view the trailer here.

That’s all for now. I have a rehearsal to prepare for.
Thanks for reading.


1 Comment so far
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Hi Michael. You really should read “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. LeGuin. With all your free time. Among other things it is a subersive look at gender.


Comment by Mara

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