Meeting: #5, August 2019
Article: Tan, Q. H. (2014). Postfeminist possibilities: Unpacking the paradoxical performances of heterosexualized femininity in club spaces. Social & Cultural Geography, 15(1), 23-48.
Team: Center for Alcohol and Drug Research, Aarhus University (@CRF_Aarhus) Maria Dich Herold (lead), Vibeke Asmussen Frank, Mie Birk Jensen, Sarah MacLean (visiting scholar), Marie Bræmer, Thomas Friis Søgaard, Jeanett Bjønness, Cecilia Rand.
“Delight yourself completely & entirely with a Sex on the Beach, then take the pleasure further with our concoction of an Orange Ecstasy. With our Strawberry & Peach Martinis, enhance the satisfaction already begotten at this juncture & enter the zone of uninhibited indulgence. Finally, ladies, step up to the plate & down Singapore’s special, the Caramel Super Meltdown. As the music transcends the night, the place gets wild & the women rule the dance floor.” (Tan, 2014, p.23).
In her 2014 article, ‘Post-feminist possibilities: unpacking the paradoxical performances of heterosexualized femininities in club spaces’, Qian Hui Tan addresses a central site for alcohol consumption: the (mainstream) nighttime economy. However, in contrast to most of the literature on young people, alcohol and gender, this article refreshingly focuses on a Singaporean context, which is vividly and elegantly presented for the reader in the article by means of thorough descriptions as well as by advertisement graphics, cf. the quotation above. Thus, this article adds to the existing literature, inter alia, by focusing on an Asian context, which is only rarely referred to or fore-fronted by qualitative alcohol researchers.
Tan approaches Singaporean nightclubs as places for, not only, drinking, dancing and socializing, but as the above quotation also indicates, as “a (hetero)sexual market place” (p.24). In doing so, she zooms in on ‘Ladies’ Nights’ as events which are highly commercialized, and which at the same time can be paradoxically seen as (sexually) emancipating for young women whilst also demanding very specific (sexual) performances of the female body. One of the great strengths of this article, then, is the ways in which the author insists on emphasizing the complexities of how gender is performed in mainstream Singaporean clubs; how this relate to gendered power structures as these play out in this nighttime economy; and how mainstream club atmospheres affect young clubbers’ possibilities of performing gender in rather paradoxical ways.
Tan employs a variety of qualitative methods, which are described in the article’s methods section. These include in-depth interviews with female as well as male identified clubbers and club workers; ethnographic fieldwork conducted across five clubs all of which employed ‘Ladies’ Nights’ as a marketing strategy; and discourse/textual analysis of publicity materials from webpages and social networking sites.
By means of this methodological battery as well as a sophisticated conceptual framework (drawn from affect theory, (post) feminist theory, cultural theory), Tan produces an empirical analysis which demonstrates that being intoxicated in the club space influences the ways that “sexualized gender subjectivities are being played out” (p.31) and, thus, that these spaces “are not neutral backdrops where socio-sexual relations unfurl” (p.26). In particular, Tan casts light on tensions around masculinity-femininity; agency-constraint; centrality-marginality; and empowerment-disempowerment as these emerge in club spaces, and she argues that they “do not map neatly onto male and female bodies” (p.32). Rather, on the basis of her carefully conducted empirical analysis, Tan for example shows how “women can be empowered to (re)claim masculinist clubbing space, as they dance themselves into the nightclub scene, albeit fraught with paradoxical affects” (p.40).
Taken together, this article presents a well-designed study, which draws on a variety of qualitative methods along with a well-constructed theoretical framework. Due to Tan’s impressive overview over the literature, the article furthermore serves as a good entry point into existing club studies, particularly club studies which focus on the gendered dimensions of clubbing. Finally, we wish to highlight Tan’s inspiring style of writing and not least her great analytical work, in which she manages to forefront the nuances, paradoxes, contradictions and ambivalences of situated gender performativity.