Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Club Mad-ness

What is the rationale of having or going to parties?

Having been to and also organised my fair share of parties (at clubs and residences/homes), I really wonder about the meaning and relevance of clubbing and partying, or for some, par-tay-ing.

Is it a rite of passage for most youths to break into adulthood, or what they perceive as adulthood?

Or is it for random strangers to hook up and if they are lucky enough, can engage in anonymous sex (not that it's good or bad)?

With reference to the (heterosexual) clubbing scene, I feel that clubs in Singapore are one of the few platforms for youths (and most people, of course) to flaunt and strut and pose.

It is a meat parade, all the more facilitated by certain club promotions/policies such as "ladies' night", and free entrance depends on how a woman fits into her cultural (and hegemonic) femininity/ladylike-ness.

"Ladies' night" attracts the men (and their money). This promotion obviously plays on the conventional understanding that men will assume the active role, in this case, courtship at the club.

The club is not a natural environment, and furthermore, such preening and posing and meat-parading seldom exist in any natural environment, although gender norms and roles are continually and thoroughly perpetuated.

You take the (over)dressed up patron out of his/her club and the means and strategy of "courtship" (for emotion and/or sexual reasons) have changed.

The club is just a domain ascribed with meanings and understandings that allow such behaviours. More importantly, it allows for the dramatic (re)enactment and reproduction of one's gender identity (and the sexual identity that comes along with it).

A good example of the embodiment of gendered norms and values would be the clubbing girl, or the chick. The daring ones dress to impress. The skirt represents the petals of a flower, the shorter the more teasing, teasing for fertilisation or the act of fertilisation (for those who are not child-ready). Sorry for the male-oriented perspective (a perspective deemed not very academically politically correct these days).

The clothes of the daring girl/woman will not show her breasts, but rather show that she has breasts. A commonly biologically/physically stimulating/stimulated anatomy of the body, the breasts are also as much a cultural pleasure/attraction as they are a cultural taboo (to most Singaporeans).

It takes two hands to clap. The girl/woman wears the things and behaves in ways ascribed/prescribed to be alluring and sexy. The cultural traits of sexiness and attractiveness are worn by them.

The (heterosexual) man validates the existence and longevity of these cultural traits. When the development and cultivation of such traits become necessary since most of society subscribes to this set of traits, there will be a market to exploit it. We are all paying good money to look what we think is good and good for us.

There are another group of people who know they (physically) possess culturally good looks. Good looks, in my opinion, are not universal, but an agreed-upon type of aesthetic within specific cultural boundaries. To expand or sustain these cultural boundaries, there are mechanisms such as validation from men and women alike, as well as the media, which have time and again serve as cultural imperialists, spreading another cultural idea of what consists good looks.

More doors are opened to people who possess culturally good looks, and the decisions made by them are contingent on the extent to which they know they possess the good looks, for example, the (non-exclusive, I stress, NON-EXCLUSIVE) decision to cam-whore and also be "in the scene", going to parties and all.

The club is a social space created to gather together like-minded individuals who share the same subscription to the gendered cultural itinerary.

The thing is, if we already have these subscriptions, beliefs and values internalised, why do we need the space that is the club to exhibit/manifest them? Is it because there is a certain image and set of expectations attached to the club?

The categories of gender are still rather fixed in our society, so why do we continue to seek assurance and validation?


Agagooga said...

Of course they're for people to find others to hook up with. Why do you think we have gay/lesbian clubs and other nightspots?! The fact that these establishments are defined by the sexual orientation of their patrons tells you something.

And as long as you're female you can get in to Ladies' Nights. Some girls have been denied before, but IIRC big fusses were kicked up and they were let in. So free entry does not depend "on how a woman fits into her cultural (and hegemonic) femininity/ladylike-ness"

If the club is not "natural", what else? The savannah?!

Why don't you visit LGBT nightspots and review them? I'm quite sure you'll find similar things to say. So no, it's not just patriarchy.

Agagooga said...

How do I turn on email notification without commenting again?

Sam Ho said...

on the email notification thing, i honestly have no idea.

you got me at the "natural environment" bit. i think all modern day environments are not natural all, given they are ruled by categories and categorisations.

Agagooga said...

Actually categories and categorisation are natural.

Cognition *is* categorisation.

Weiye said...

Agree with agagooga that it's very much the same even in LGBT clubs/ nights.

But I do believe there's still some lingering variance of patriarchy even in these nightspots.

I used to work at Zouk and the first Tuesday of every month was (not sure if it's still the practice now) girls' night, as in all girls only. But these girls assume various roles according to patriarchy as well with the 'men' performing 'manly' acts like paying for drinks, dressing like 'man', etc. It gets a little more complicated though (i presume) since both are physically woman and I've seen cases of couples insisting to pay for the other half. So I just snatch the payment from the 'men'.

Shall not comment on the naturalness of categories and essentialism. =)

sputnik said...

I recently blogged some thoughts (but not as analytical as that on your entry!) on the issue, and also included this:

The Girl Hunt: Urban Nightlife and the Performance of Masculinity as Collective Activity
David Grazian. Sociology. University of Pennsylvania.
Symbolic Interaction. 2007. Vol. 30. Issue 2. pp. 221–243.

Abstract. The purpose of this article is to document the collective nature of gender performance and sexual pursuit, activities typically associated with individual rather than group behavior. Drawing on narrative accounts, I analyze how young heterosexual male students employ the power of collective rituals of homosociality to perform sexual competence and masculine identity by “girl hunting” in the context of urban nightlife. These rituals are designed to reinforce dominant sexual myths and expectations of masculine behavior, boost confidence in one’s performance of masculinity and heterosexual power, and assist in the performance of masculinity in the presence of women. This analysis illustrates how contemporary courtship rituals operate as collective strategies of impression management that men perform not only for women but for other men. In doing so, interaction rituals associated with the girl hunt reproduce structures of inequality within as well as across the socially constructed gender divide between women and men.

:D have a good weekend Sam!!

Sam Ho said...

wow! thanks for the article! greatly appreciate it!