Queer eye for the housewife: Julianne Moore, radical femme-ininity, and destabilizing the suburban family

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This article uses the concept of “radical femme-ininity” to signal the queering of femininity as a political gesture, one that relies on misinterpretations of cisgender femininity as straight in order to disrupt normative expectations around gender roles and gendered behavior. I situate my analysis in relation to theories about femme identity, femininity in heteronormative spaces, and queerness/lesbianism as a productively destabilizing lens with which to engage media representation. I focus on the role of the housewife as one of the most seemingly banal and yet fraught positions historically presented to (white, middle-class) women. Particularly, I examine how actor Julianne Moore embodies these roles via a radically femme-inine representation that queers and refuses social convention. Normative articulations of the housewife writ large cast her as a guardian of familial and marital integrity. As such, housewife characters can destabilize ideas around marriage, domestic labor, motherhood, and feminine virtue from within the context of legible—but not always actual—heteronormativity. Moore often plays characters who question feminine behavioral norms and operate under the cloak of femme-ness (both straight and queer) to buck social expectation. This essay explores two of Moore’s films in which her character’s radical femme-ninity and lesbian identification unsettle expectations of her role as a housewife: The Hours and The Kids are All Right.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-122
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Lesbian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Femme
  • domesticity
  • femininity
  • housewife
  • motherhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies


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