In 1991, Kurt Cobain appeared on ‘The Headbanger’s Ball’ wearing a ridiculous and ostentatious prom dress. This act could be seen as an example of gender performativity because of the way it complicates hetero-normative ideas of masculinity and parodies femininity. By wearing the dress, he was not destroying gender roles but rather, queering them or challenging their boundaries. His image is not somehow above or beyond gender but is a playful and insidious mixing of masculinity and femininity which is all the more effective because of his delicate physique and particularly feminine beauty. His image refers to the hetero-normative model’s concept of gender but not without subverting and destabilising its rigidity. I'm not saying he choose to wear the dress with these particular intentions in mind- probably, it was little more than a fuck-you attitude thing- but the great thing about any kind of performance is its potential to become more than it was ever expected to be.
© 2011 Emma Mould