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Pre-discussion Judith Butler - Reading and Discussing Feminist Literature
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artemisia28
readingfeminism
artemisia28
Pre-discussion Judith Butler
I'm sorry that I'm opening this discussion while I'm not the discussion leader, but I just wanted to fire away with some questions and remarks already and needed space for it.

I have only read some very small text of Judith Butler yet, and wondered if somebody can explain me the basics of her theory so that I can start reading the book easier. As far as I know, she's a postmodernist who takes the postmodern statement that language constructs reality and that language goes before reality, to gender. So: because we have the duality of gender in our system, we come to define bodies that way and then there will be female and male bodies, but only because of the way we deal with it in our language. Am I right to summarize it like that?

I am not sure yet if I can take this challenge, because I know Butler uses very difficult language, but I'll try. I already scanned the internet for some info, from what I read Butler is very much critizized:

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA01/Cober/mathesis/nussbaum.html

http://auto_sol.tao.ca/node/view/130
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hello_trouble From: hello_trouble Date: July 8th, 2006 10:46 am (UTC) (Link)
don't know if you've come across this website already: http://www.theory.org.uk/ctr-butl.htm

I have read about half of 'Gender Trouble' and also find her quite difficult, but am looking forward to reading 'Undoing gender'. Just have to find me a cheap copy somewhere...
artemisia28 From: artemisia28 Date: July 8th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
wow thanks, this is really helpful!

I'm also not sure yet if I agree with (all of) it. But I first have to contemplate on that :)
From: nymphaeales Date: July 8th, 2006 01:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am actually woefully illiterate when it comes to feminist theory. I mean, I've definitely read more than the general population, but I'd say the majority of this community is better-read than I am. So, apart from her work with NOW, I'm really unfamiliar with Butler. Hopefully, this discussion will teach me more about her.

As far as I know, she's a postmodernist who takes the postmodern statement that language constructs reality and that language goes before reality, to gender. So: because we have the duality of gender in our system, we come to define bodies that way and then there will be female and male bodies, but only because of the way we deal with it in our language. Am I right to summarize it like that?

That's my understanding of postmodern gendering theory. I'm not sure if I entirely agree with it, although it does explain why many cultures (but especially Western ones) are so put off by intersexualism, androgyny, amd any other variety of people that don't fall into our (artificially) binary gender types and roles.
artemisia28 From: artemisia28 Date: July 8th, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
My teacher says, that seeing genderbenders as making a protest to gender stereotypes is naive, as they are actually just improving the stereotypes, and thereby reinforcing them (for example: travestites act so extravagantly female that it seems to people not more than a joke). I'll have to look up what she said precicely, I don't remember it exactly. My opinion not yet formulated.
From: nymphaeales Date: July 8th, 2006 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess that would depend on how one bends gender. I sort of draw a distinction between people who dress in drag for the purpose of partying/special occasions (and exaggerate the gender they're aping) and people who do it as part of their daily routine, many of whom don't go all-fem or all-andro, much less exaggerate anything.
artemisia28 From: artemisia28 Date: July 8th, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
So - that last category sort of does it to mark their being a person, not a gender? Maybe that's the point, to state it simple: that people are not their gender, but some species behind it, and that they could perform anything, and that their 'natural' gender is no more natural to them than the other gender would be.

Thing is though that gender is not really thrown away if people go perform part of the other gender, as they do it with the intention to take things over from the other gender, and the parts can still be recognised as parts of different genders. So concretely: if I (female) would have very short hair and wear a necklace with pins on it, plus a skirt, people would think the skirt female and the hair and the necklace male. And with other behaviour than dressing, the same. So the binary isn't overthrown then... Maybe that's what my teacher meant.
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