This website is an interactive academic
tool for CEA-UNH course:
Gay Paris:
Culture, Society, & Urban Sexual Identity

CEA GlobalCampus | Spring 2009
UNH Course Code: GEN230
Credits: 3 | Location: Paris, France

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Judith Butler | Gender Trouble

One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one.
- Simone de Beauvoir

Strictly speaking, "women" cannot be said to exist.
- Julia Kristeva

Woman does not have a sex.
- Luce Irigaray

The deployment of sexuality...established this notion of sex.
- Michel Foucault

The category of sex is the political category that founds society as heterosexual.
- Monique Wittig

The very subject of women is no longer understood in stable or abiding terms.
- Judith Butler

"It is not enough to inquire how women might become more fully represented in language and politics. [Or homosexuals for that matter]. Feminist critique ought also to understand how the category of 'women,' the subject of feminism, is produced and restrained by the very structures of power through which emancipation is sought." (p. 2)

What does Butler mean when she speaks of the "ontological integrity of the subject before the law?" (p. 3)

"Am I That Name?" (homosexual? lesbian? woman? p. 3): A question produced by the very possibility of the name's multiple significations.

"If one "is" a woman [or a man, or a homosexual], that is surely not all one is; the term fails to be exhaustive, not because a pregendered 'person' transcends the specific paraphernalia of its gender, but because gender is not always constituted coherently or consistently in different historical contexts, and because gender intersects with racial, class, ethnic, sexual and regional modalities of discursively constituted identities." (p. 3)

"Is the construction of the category of women [or homosexuals] as a coherent and stable subject an unwitting regulation and reification of gender relations?" (p. 5)

Is this contradictory to emancipatory aims?

"Perhaps a coalition needs to acknowledge its contradictions and take action with those contradictions intact. Perhaps also part of what dialogic understanding entails is the acceptance of divergence, breakage, splinter, and fragmentation as part of the often tortuous process of democratization." (p. 14)

"An open coalition, then, will affirm identities that are alternately instituted and relinquished according to the purposes at hand; it will be an open assemblage that permits of multiple convergences an divergences without obedience to a normative telos of definitional closure." (p. 16)

"To what extent do regulatory practices of gender formation and division constitute identity, the internal coherence of the subject, indeed, the self-identical status of the person?" (p. 16)

"To what extent is 'identity' a normative ideal rather than a descriptive feature of experience?" (p. 16)

"The heterosexualization of desire requires and institutes the production of discrete and asymmetrical oppositions between "feminine" and "masculine," where these are understood as expressive attributes of "male" and "female." (p. 17)

Butler quotes Wittig saying, "The lesbian is the only concept I know of which is beyond the categories of sex." (p. 19)

Why does Wittig make this claim?

Foucault uses the example of Herculine (the hermaphrodite): why?

"Gender is performatively produced and compelled by the regulatory practices of gender coherence. Hence, within the inherited discourse of the metaphysics of substance, gender, proves to be performative - that is, constituting the identity it is purported to be. In this sense, gender is always a doing." (p. 25)

"The 'presence' of so-called heterosexual conventions within homosexual contexts as well as the proliferation of specifically gay discourses of sexual difference, as in the case of 'butch' and 'femme' as historical identities of sexual style, cannot be explained as chimerical representations of originally heterosexual identity. The repetition of heterosexual constructs within sexual cultures both gay and straight may well be the inevitable site of the denaturalization and mobilization of gender categories. The replication of heterosexual constructs in non-heterosexual frames brings into relief the utterly constructed status of the so-called heterosexual origin. Thus, gay is to straight not as copy is to the original, but, rather, as copy is to copy." (p. 31)

"To claim that gender is constructed is not to assert its illusoriness or artificiality, where those terms are understood to reside within a binary that counterposes the 'real' and 'authentic' as oppositional. As a genealogy of gender ontology, this inquiry seeks to understand the discursive production of the plausibility of that binary relation and to suggest that certain cultural configurations of gender take the place of 'the real' and consolidate and augment their hegemony through that felicitous self-naturalization." (p. 33)

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