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Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire - Judith Butler

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Jaclyn Turner

on 5 May 2014

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Transcript of Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire - Judith Butler

Subjects of
Sex/Gender/Desire

How Society Defines a Woman
If "women" are easily defined...
Counter-examples obscure reality, and people are marginalized.
Do we need a universal female identity?
Maybe a political coalition doesn't require a totalizing set of identity definitions.
Judith Butler
The "average" feminist theory..
Presumes that there is an already existing feminist identity known as "women.'
Many feminists believe that developing a female identity is essential to creating awareness on women's political issues.
Butler challenges this...
She doesn't think that the idea of "woman" is a well-defined category.
Society constructs subjects and then individuals come to represent them. Requirements preceded identity.
Michel Foucault
The "idea" of a woman may make women alienated from their own society
There may be a deeper identity that defines the category of a "woman."
As long as feminism considers women a well-defined category that's universally identifiable... it undermines its ability to represent women.
Sex vs. Gender
Feminism often splits the unity of women when it splits the idea of sex and gender.
This distinction was first used to undermine the idea of "biology-as-destiny."
But, if this distinction is pushed too far, then the idea of gender becomes disconnected from the body - and we never will understand the process of how sex & gender is socially assigned.
Maybe sex is a gendered category?
Maybe gender is a sex category
Maybe we can't separate the two.
JUDITH - WHY CAN'T WE JUST CHOOSE OUR GENDER FOR OURSELVES THEN?!
THAT SEEMS LIKE A PRETTY LIBERAL, FAIR WAY OF LETTING PEOPLE IDENTIFY THEMSELVES - CAN YOU STOP ARGUING AGAINST EVERYTHING?
Q:
A:
No, and I will only respond in questions. Do individuals only have one gender? Do we posses a gender or is it our identity? Could gender be constructed differently?
If we don't understand where gender originates... then we replace one problem with another.

"Biology-as-Destiny" just becomes "Culture-as-Destiny"
Plus, constructing your own gender is a little complex then you think
Choice doesn't occur within a bubble, closed off from society. Your gender "choice" is caught between free-will and determinism.
Does the idea of "gender-identity" have a meaning?
Gender may not exist in a binary frame
Irigaray & Beauvoir
Luce Irigaray
Simone de Beauvoir
Believes that within a patriarchal culture, women are considered the "other" - or everything a man is not. She argues that gender is not an essential characteristic of a person, but something that one becomes through socialization.
“One is not born, but becomes a woman.”
Irigaray’s believes women are the "other" due to the masculine roots of philosophy and psychoanalysis. The belief that men are superior due to the domination of these masculine projections in ancient texts.
Maybe having such a defined identity will undermine representation.
Butler says: Women should taken an
ANTIFOUNDATIONALIST
approach, where they don't use "identity" as a premise to produce the meaning of a coalition.
Butler says...
The definition of gender should be "permanently deferred" and left open to redefinition at any times.
This will produce better coalitions and effectively promote representation.
There are "intelligible" genders that sustain coherence and continuity between sex, gender, sexual practice and sexual attraction.
The only valid notion of "truth" in gender identity is rooted in the regular practices, that produce coherent gender identities that are embedded in a set of pre-existing norms.
Faucault & hermaphrodites
"Herculine Barbin"
Born in 1956, in Cleveland, Ohio to a Jewish family
Is an American philosopher and gender theorist, whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics, and the fields of feminist and homosexual theory.
She is a lesbian, and lives with her partner and son in California
.
She is teaching at UC Berkeley, where she is director of the Critical Theory Program
Full transcript