performance [the]

> performance [La/El]

"La" performance / "El" performance [“lɑ” pərfɔrməns /“ɛl” pərfɔrməns] (noun); the performance


The attachment of gender to the term performance depending on the location within which it is used – i.e. Latin America or Spain – is an interesting point. What is it that makes the article either feminine or masculine? In English, for example, the term is always perceived as neutral: "the” performance. However, in Spanish, on the one hand "la Performance” (feminine) would be perceived as passive, submissive, raped, worn out, dark. As Octavio Paz has argued, this is similar to “la Chingada" (variations of “fuck”) and “la puta” (meaning, whore). "El Performance" (masculine) on the other hand, would be perceived as active, masculine, timeless, bright such as “el cabrón” (bad) or "el chingón" (awesome), which have also been analyzed by Paz.

What is it that evokes distinction between the terms “performance” and "action," coined by Joseph Beuys, or "action art"? Could it be about being active or passive?

According to Octavio Paz, “’the screwed’ is passive, inert and open, the opposite of what ‘screws’, which is active, aggressive and closed. The ‘chingón’ is the macho, the male; he who rips open whereas the ‘chingada’ is the female, pure passivity, defenseless against the outside world.” (my translation)

It seems that, given the invisibility of women, we are programmed to perpetuate sexist canons of machismo. The introduction of the female article "la performance" can win battles, give duality, allow us to see the two sides of the story or the many stories that make up our reality, as mentioned by Chimanda Adichie in "The Danger of the single story" (July 2009). The use the articles "la” and “el" should be conditioned by the "action" being performed and its goal so that many stories could be told.


Author and translator: Carol Borja