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"Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory" - Judith Butler

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Chris Kuo

on 6 December 2012

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Transcript of "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory" - Judith Butler

Judith Butler Performative Acts and Gender
Constitution -phenomenological theory of “acts”- explains how social agents constitute social reality through language, gesture, and all manner of symbolic social sign

- assumes existence of a choosing
agent prior to action (takes gendered
self prior to acts) Counter-argument: Simone de Beauvoir Performative Acts -“One is not born, rather becomes, a woman”

- Gender is not an identity from which acts proceed, it is identity constituted over time through repetition of actions

- Does phenomenological theory or the counter theory of de Beauvoir seem more correct to you?

- In other words, how do you define gender? Sex/Gender:
Feminist/Phenomenological Views - Gender is historical situation rather than natural fact (Merleau-Ponty and de Beauvoir)
- Sex = biological facility
- Gender = cultural interpretation or signification of that facility
- “Gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender create the idea of gender, and without those facts, there would be no gender at all”
- Being female does not have meaning
- Being a woman is a cultural sign
- Agree or disagree with these claims? Binary Genders and
Heterosexual Contract - Compulsory heterosexuality for reproduction to extend kinship system

- This idea cultivates bodies into discrete sexes

- Sex, gender, and heterosexuality in this case are historical products Three Main Focuses by Butler - Sex/Gender: Feminist/Phenomenological Views

- Binary Genders and Heterosexual Contract

- Feminist Theory: Beyond an Expressive Model of Gender Binary Genders and
Heterosexual Contract Theatrical Comparison
- Gender is a rehearsed act (similar to a script),
- However every actor performs lines differently – enacts different interpretations
- Case of transvestite (Good example of distinction between sex and gender)
- If seen in a play more accepted because audience understands that this is only a play
- Different reaction if encountered on a bus
- How would you react to a transvestite in a play or on a bus differently? The same?
- Gender cannot be true or false but performing it wrong receives punishments Feminist Theory: Beyond
an Expressive Model of Gender - Feminist theory against naturalistic explanations of sex and sexuality
- Primarily political interests create the phenomena of gender
- Does not support a preservation of the binary restriction on gender identity (male, female)
- What is your opinion on this "binary restriction?"
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