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Be a Man: Gender Performativity Through the Eyes of Judith Butler and Disney's Mulan

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Bevan Brown

on 29 October 2014

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Transcript of Be a Man: Gender Performativity Through the Eyes of Judith Butler and Disney's Mulan

Be a Man: Gender Performativity Through the Eyes of Judith Butler and Disney's Mulan
Family and Education
Born: 1956 in Cleveland
Family background: Jewish
Early education: Local synagogue
BA: Bennington College (1978)
Ph.D: Yale University (1984)
Teaching Experience
Wesleyan University
Johns Hopkins University
University of California, Berkeley
Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature
Famous Critical Works
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1989).
Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (1993).
The Psychic Life of Power (1997).
Undoing Gender (2004).
And others...
Critical Contributions
Prolific philosophical writer on post-structuralist feminism.
One of the founders of queer theory.
Best known for her work addressing gender, identity, power, and desire.
Coined the controversial term of "Gender performativity."
Butler's Main Points
Terms that categorize gender are too restrictive; people cannot be defined by their gender alone.
Ambiguity and complexity of gender.
No universal gender exists.
Sex and gender: not that related to each other.
Sex= biological trait


Gender= ???
Outside Influences
Michael Foucault
Gender Performativity
Gender is not an identity but rather a behavior shaped by culture, context, and choice.
"To perform something is to play at something; to play at something is not to be that something” (Richter 1621).
No one is born a specific gender (Butler).
"Gender is not expressed, but 'done'" (Digeser 655-6).
Gender Trouble, Chapter 1:
"Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire"
Compulsory heterosexuality and other regimes of patriarchal power.
Construction of sex in language...
Emphasizes "differentness" between genders (gendered pronouns).
Feminism keeps gender in its place by creating the illusion of identity and by putting women in a universal box (Butler 44)
"Bring Honor to Us All"
"Men want girls / With good taste / Calm, obedient, who work fast-paced / With good breeding / And a tiny waist / You'll bring honor to us all" (Fowler).
Gender roles and expectations according to China's culture.
"Bring Honor to Us All"
"We all must serve our Emperor / Who guards us from the Huns / A man by bearing arms / A girl by bearing sons" (Fowler).
Women's "otherness" in society.
Cultural influence and restrictions of gender.
Gender is more related to culture than it is to sex, yet it is still flexible.

"I'll Make a Man Out of You"
"Let's get down to business to defeat the Huns / Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons? / You're the saddest bunch I ever met / But you can bet before we're through / Mister, I'll make a man out of you" (Osmond).
Shang is depicted as the ideal man whose job is to transform the "feminine" recruits into real men.
Sexist because even womenly men are not seen fit to go to war.
Gender Performativity in
Mulan and drag/cross-dressing.
Mulan learns to become a man by being arround them and watching them interact with each other.
She must blend in or die.
Eventually takes gender cues from social context and becomes masculine in the way she talks and acts, and behaves.
Mulan is seen here taking her social cues by those around her.
Gender Performativity in
Mulan does not perform well as a woman in her society.
Speaks out of turn
Doesn't fit in
Taught to act feminine, but not comfortable with this role.
Mulan's struggles to live up to a new set of expectations and figure out what being a man really means.
"I'll Make a Man Out of You"
"Be a man / We must be swift as a coursing river / Be a man / With all the force of a great typhoon / Be a man / With all the strength of a raging fire / Mysterious as the dark side of the moon" (Osmond).
So Mulan Saved China...Now What?
"If one thinks that one sees a man dressed as a woman or a woman dressed as a man, then one takes the first term of each of those perceptions as the 'reality' of gender: the gender that is introduced through the simile lacks 'reality,' and is taken to constitute an illusory appearance. In such perceptions in which an ostensible reality is coupled with an unreality, we think we know what the reality is, and take the secondary appearance of gender to be mere artifice, play, falsehood, and illusion" (Butler xxii).
Gender Performance and Cross-Dressing
Jacques Lacan
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jacques Derrida
Sigmund Freud
Simone de Beauvoir
Karl Marx
Faced with a choice: Take the position of honor offered by the emperor or return to her family.
NOT a feminist film because even though a woman was the hero she only succeeded because she dressed up as a man.
IS a film about performativity and how one's behavior is what makes one's gender identity.
Works Cited
Butler, Judith.
Gender Trouble: Feminism And The Subversion Of Identity
. New York: Routledge, 1999. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 8 Sept. 2014.

Digeser, Peter. “Performativity Trouble: Postmodern Feminism and Essential Subjects.”
Political Research Quarterly
47.3 (1994): 655-673. JSTOR. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Fung, Juliane. "Feminist and Queer Analysis of Disney's Mulan." Feminist and Queer Analysis of Disney's Mulan.
, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.

Fowler, Beth, Lea Salonga and Marni Nixon. “Bring Honor to Us All.” By Matthew Wilder and David Zippel.
Mulan Soundtrack
. Walt Disney Records, 1998.
. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Dirs. Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook. Walt Disney, 1998. Film.

Osmond, Donny. “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” By Matthew Wilder and David Zippel.
Mulan Soundtrack.
Walt Disney Records, 1998.
. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Richter, David. “Queer Theory and Homosexual Panic.”
The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends
. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 1620-1. Print.

Ruttenberg, Danya. "Butler, Judith."
Encyclopaedia Judaica
. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 317.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.
"When the constructed status of gender is theorized as radically independent of sex, gender itself becomes a free­floating artifice, with the consequence that man and masculine might just as easily signify a female body as a male one, and woman and feminine a male body as easily as a female one" (Butler 10).
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