This week during our discussion of Simone de Beauvoir's work, we examined the difference between sex and gender. The former is a biological technicality, written clearly and explicitly on your birth certificate. The latter, on the other hand, is a social performance or project, something and individual must develop for him or herself. As Beauvoir herself says, "One is not born a woman, but becomes one." Such a claim is consistent with Sartre's claim that "existence precedes essence." A person is male or female before he or she becomes a man or a woman.
What I found most interesting was the notion that gender is not a constant; it is not a trait that a person creates for themselves but then never evaluates further. If we consider gender to be a spectrum or gradation rather than an either/or distinction, it becomes easier to imagine an individual being closer to one end on some days and closer to the opposite end on other days. Bad Faith was mentioned in class in relation to one's sexuality, but I began to think of its application to this gender spectrum. If it is the case that each individual is constantly fluctuating between masculinity and femininity, in some ways finding themselves male and in other ways female, then would calling oneself wholly male or wholly female be acting in Bad Faith? It certainly is reminiscent of Sartre saying that we act in Bad Faith when we consider ourselves to be wholly transcendent or wholly at the mercy of our facticity.
Consider a woman who calls herself a woman, yet also claims to identify much more with the male gender. She is not easily overcome by emotion, she is not delicate or feminine, and she does not dress in "pretty" clothes. She is fully aware of her departure from the woman gender, but she still considers herself a part of it. Is this Bad Faith?
Of course, this may be an unfair evaluation. It's very likely that this hypothetical woman would not be aware of the difference between sex and gender. It's even more likely that she would not believe gender to be a spectrum. But if she were told those things, would she still consider herself a woman or would she consent to being, at least in part, a male?
The example of drag queens is especially interesting when considering Bad Faith, because it would seem that they are the most sincere in their gender role. They recognize both their feminine and masculine characteristics and don't try and throw themselves into one gender.