Study Guide

The Silence of the Lambs Gender

Gender

The Silence of the Lambs deals with complicated gender issues, and not just trying to figure out the difference between a ram and a ewe. (That's not very hard, guys. Look for the horns.) Clarice Starling is a female FBI trainee, putting her firmly in the minority. Dr. Chilton suggests she got her assignment because of her looks, and he hits on her like Miggs does in a much cruder way. Clarice always seems to be the object of unwanted stares from men. She's trying to save a woman from a serial killer who wants to be a woman… or at least wants to be a man in woman's skin.

Some critics praise Silence for its story of a strong, courageous woman saving a woman. Others criticize it for transphobia. Which side are ewe on?

Questions About Gender

  1. Is Clarice Starling a feminist character? Is she strong because of her traditionally masculine traits, or her traditionally feminine ones?
  2. What gender is Buffalo Bill? Does it matter? Why does he want to create a female suit?
  3. What is Clarice able to do that male agents are not?

Chew on This

Clarice has to cultivate masculine traits like fearlessness and physical strength in order to excel in a male-dominated environment of the FBI.

Clarice's femininity is a double-edged sword. Lecter probably wouldn't talk to a male agent, but Clarice has to fend off sexual advances from other men while trying to get to Lecter.