ABSTRACT

She appears to be calling here for the abolition of different signifiers to designate ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Indeed, it is not just the cultural distinction between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ gender identities, imposed by a masculine hegemony, with which she takes issue here, but the basic concept of biologically determined sexual difference, dividing human identity between ‘male’ and ‘female’. She supports her point by citing several exemplary tales of hermaphrodism, sexual transformation and mistaken sexual identity. These examples fuel her argument for the contingent, accidental and fundamentally unstable nature of sex, for instance in the case of Iphis, daughter of Telethusa, an example drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.2 Iphis happened to change from a woman into a man: ‘en lieu d’une pucelle elle devint homme’.3 Neither identity is represented as Iphis’s proper sexual being; each is a position she holds or performs.