I *Heart* Judith Butler

On Tuesday in my Women's Studies class, we talked about Judith Butler. We read excerpts from Gender Trouble, the introductory chapter of Bodies That Matter, and "Imitation and Gender Insubordination." I volunteered to write a summary of one of the excerpts from Gender Trouble, the short concluding chapter. Here are the recurring concepts I saw in my read of it:

Butler begins by rearticulating her thesis that gender is a performance that is never stable or absolute, but tenuous, reified and made powerful by its constant repetition. Gender and sex are not natural; they are only naturalized through repetition and people's belief in the correct performance of their designated gender—their designated term in the binary. Western epistemology, with its need for (and reification of) self/other hierarchical dualisms expressed in discourse, produces masculine domination and compulsory heterosexuality, and Butler argues that no subject (“I”) or body precedes, or exists outside of, that discourse. She goes on to argue that, when reduced to a set of identity categories such as “woman,” “bisexual,” “white,” “disabled,” and “working-class,” the subject's potential agency is enabled by, but also compromised by the same categories. Such categories are not useful as a foundation on which to build a politics. Butler argues that there are no foundations or ontologies, that such concepts are mere discursive constructions. As a theoretical tactic, Butler argues for “subversive repetition” of gender performance, or disrupting constructions of gender through parody, and “proliferating gender configurations” (p. 187), or many genders.

I'm very interested in four ideas in Butler: "proliferating gender configurations," parodizing gender, "subversive repetition," and "cultural intelligibility" (and cultural unintelligibility). I see Pat
as a powerful subversive repetition that is also culturally unintelligible. Everybody around Pat asks hir questions, trying to tease out which of the two genders ze is. All the questions are parodies of gender stereotypes--they ask Pat if ze wants a drink: Would you like a beer or a cosmopolitan? Pat says, "Oh, I shouldn't. I just took an antihistamine." LOL! Another very helpful assignment follows:

Butler Exercise

I was asked to consider these two Derridean claims:

(1) we have no access to "an outside' of language
(2) we are within and implicated in the play of language

and find an emblematic Butler quotation on each term I've listed here that invokes one or both of the claims.

“That the body which one 'is' is to some degree a body which gains its sexed contours in part under specular and exteriorizing conditions suggests that identificatory processes are crucial to the forming of sexed materiality.” Bodies That Matter, p. 17.

“Gender ought not to be conceived merely as the cultural inscription of meaning on a pregiven sex (a juridical conception); gender must also designate the very apparatus of production whereby the sexes themselves are established. As a result, gender is not to culture what sex is to nature; gender is also the discursive/cultural means by which 'sexed nature' or 'a natural sex' is produced and established as 'prediscursive,' prior to culture, a politically neutral surface on which culture acts.” Gender Trouble, p. 11.

“Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being.” Gender Trouble, p. 44.

“Consider that a sedimentation of gender norms produces the particular phenomenon of a 'natural sex' or a 'real woman' or any number of prevalent and compelling social fictions, and that this is a sedimentation that over time has produced a set of corporeal styles which, in reified form, appear as the natural configuration of bodies into sexes existing in a binary relation to one another.” Gender Trouble, p. 178.

“the regime of heterosexuality operates to circumscribe and contour the 'materiality' of sex, and that 'materiality' is formed and sustained through and as a materialization of regulatory norms that are in part those of heterosexual hegemony;” Bodies That Matter, p. 15.

“If repetition is bound to persist as the mechanism of the cultural reproduction of identities, then the crucial question emerges: What kind of subversive repetition might call into question the regulatory practice of identity itself?” Gender Trouble, p. 42.

“The juridical structures of language and politics constitute the contemporary field of power; hence, there is no position outside this field, but only a critical genealogy of its own legitimating practices.” “Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire,” Gender Trouble, p. 8.

“If identity is asserted through a process of signification, if identity is always already signified, and yet continues to signify as it circulates within interlocking discourses, then the question of agency is not to be answered through an 'I' that preexists signification. In other words, the enabling conditions for an assertion of 'I' are provided by the structure of signification, the rules that regulate the legitimate and illegitimate invocation of that pronoun, the prectices that establish the terms of intelligibility by which that pronoun can circulate.”
Gender Trouble, p. 183.

Totally random thing that has nothing to do with Butler: I think that people should start using the term "stool sample" as an insult more often.

You stool sample!!!

See, it's great!


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I heart Judith Butler too! He

I heart Judith Butler too! Her writings should be mandatory reading for the general public.


judith butler


Re: judith butler


count me in...

count me in...

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