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Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion…
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Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge… (original 1990; edition 2006)

by Judith Butler

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Member:cesarschirmer
Title:Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge Classics)
Authors:Judith Butler
Info:Routledge (2006), Edition: 1, Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:ontology

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Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler (1990)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This book, which I unfortunately had to read twice, says that gender doesn't really exist; it is merely a social construction. If you don't know that already, you might give this book a skim, though it is really poorly written and often self-contradictory. However, if you understand that, and want to to move on in some direction, there's nothing here to grab onto. Just as an example of the the kind of morass this book leads you into: If there is no gender, than there is no such thing as homosexuality or heterosexuality, since those labels are applied to people based on the gender of their love object. On one level, I can go along with that. But here's the problem: I am attracted to humans with facial hair and penises and so are my gay male friends. But I'm perceived by the world as a heterosexual woman and can pursue my interests without societal approbation or interference. My gay friends can not. In Butler's world this has no meaning (except for an appreciation of the different gender performances each of us puts on). The book makes no acknowledgment of this oppression, nor does it provide a theoretical base to work from if you're going to do anything about it. ( )
  aulsmith | Apr 18, 2014 |
Ha! I feel like I've been reluctantly dragging my feet towards this book for years. I approached it with a heavy heart and a sense of duty. Having gotten the impression that it had destroyed everything I loved (or tried), I thought I had an obligation to hold my nose and research the enemy. I thought it would be pedantic, humorless and polemical. I never thought it would be so much fun! The night I started it I was up until three in the morning reading it, then started again as soon as I woke up and was late to work. Turns out she has a sense of humor AND a sense of style. I felt like I had been living in the joke for years and now here was the punchline. But, sadly, for all the fun, I still didn't leave the book fully convinced.

For one thing, it is so funny to start here, without having read, oh, basically any Derrida, Lacan or Foucault, for starters, and only the littlest bit of Freud. Now that I've gotten a glimpse of all the fun they've been having I'm inclined to check them out as well, and when I do, it will already be through Gender Trouble. So, bam, point for Judith Butler! Way to turn the discourse in your favor. Oh, but that was also part of what raised my suspicion, because I got the impression that she was playing pretty fast and loose, and while running a whirl of words displacing received ideas of meaning and authority, she was also consolidating her own authoritative power! Apparently in spite of herself, but how could that be read other than a little disingenuously? At one of my favorite points, referring to an argument that she made she starts "I have argued" and then tries to excuse this seeming exertion of the subjective self with the following parenthetical: "('I' deploy the grammar that governs the genre of the philosophical conclusion, but note that it is the grammar itself that deploys and enables this 'I,' even as the 'I' that insists itself here repeats, redeploys, and-as the critics will determine-contests the philosophical grammar by which it is both enabled and restricted.)..." Come on, really? Really?? To me this gives a wonderful sort of characterization, like something someone would say in a novel. I love the absurdity and how, it is in trying to disavow her own self-hood that she gives such a human sense of it in the anxiety and frustration of the tone!

So here is the other thing: I am so all for her project to the extent that her project is to expand "the performative possibilities for proliferating gender configurations outside the restricting frames of masculinist domination and compulsory heterosexuality." Subversive bodliy acts sure are fun, aren't they? But in order to do that is it really necessary to dismiss any notion of interiority or a pre-discursive or non-discursive self? I hope not, because I'm fond of it. Here is a quote from a poem I just read by Suzanne Gardinier: "If not this what are you touching then/Inside me all night If not my soul."

Particularly when she goes to Nietzsche, I'm troubled: "The challenge for rethinking gender categories outside of the metaphysics of substance will have to consider the relevance of Nietzsche's claim in On the Genealogy of Morals that 'there is no "being" behind doing, effecting, becoming;
"the doer" is merely a fiction added to the deed-the deed is everything.' In an application that Nietzsche himself would not have anticipated or condoned, we might state as a corollary: There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very 'expressions' that are said to be its results." If one is really to take as an assumption that there is no being, the corollary here seems entirely superfluous. Of course that being has no gender if it doesn't exist! It is like the house has already been knocked down and we are swinging at the empty air. Rather than getting more radical, this seems to be working backwards.

There is something suspect about the way in which she is seeming to reject the notion of authenticity, but at the same time seems to be operating under the assumption that a more liberated (and therefore more authentic!) form of gender understanding would be possible. She surely succumbs to her own romanticisms, and I'm glad she does, but I just wish she would be more out with it. I found something sweet in this: "Genders can be neither true nor false, neither real nor apparent, neither original nor derived. As credible bearers of those attributes, however, gender can also be rendered thoroughly and radically incredible."

I'm glad this book exists. Reading it I really was struck by how much it's shaped the discourse I've been raised in, and to my advantage. I was glad that it played more than I expected, but I wish it had played more than it did because what else is the point of living in a phantasm?
  LizaHa | Mar 30, 2013 |
Don't get me wrong, this book is fantastic! But I gave it 2 stars because I found it dry at times and often put it down to read something more lively. Despite that, this book is a classic, a must-read for anyone studying gender and sexuality. ( )
  jessicaland | Apr 21, 2011 |
A great read that unpacks and rearranges the predominant discourses of feminism as a means to advance new questions and critiques about the politics of becoming-gendered and becoming-sexed. Butler works through feminist, psychoanalytic, and poststructuralist discourses, ending at a new rhetorical plateau whereby she argues that gender is, at its most functional level, a performance. ( )
1 vote mikeandsarahlibrary | Aug 8, 2009 |
Hét boek dat denken over gender de 21e eeuw inleidde: Butler stelt alles in vraag, en terecht. Maar ze is zeer theoretisch en moeilijk leesbaar - Thé book that guided thinking about gender into the 21th century: Butler quesions everything, and with just cause. But her book is very theoretical and very hard to read. ( )
  Maretak | Dec 8, 2008 |
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For the most part, feminist theory has assumed that there is some existing identity, understood through the category of women, who not only initiates feminist interests and goals within discourse, but constitutes the subject for whom political representation is pursued.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0415389550, Paperback)

In a new introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition of Gender Trouble--among the two or three most influential books (and by far the most popular) in the field of gender studies--Judith Butler explains the complicated critical response to her groundbreaking arguments and the ways her ideas have evolved as a result. Nevertheless, she has resisted the urge to revise what has become a feminist classic (as well as an elegant defense of drag, given Butler's emphasis on the performative nature of gender). The book was produced, according to Butler, "as part of the cultural life of a collective struggle that has had, and will continue to have, some success in increasing the possibilities for a livable life for those who live, or try to live, on the sexual margins." An attack on the essentialism of French feminist theory and its basis in structuralist anthropology, Gender Trouble expands to address the cultural prejudices at play in genetic studies of sex determination, as well as the uses of gender parody, and also provides a critical genealogy of the naturalization of sex. A primer in gender studies--and sexy reading for college cafés. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:20 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Arguing that traditional feminism is wrong to look to a natural notion of the female, or indeed of sex or gender, this book questions the category 'woman' and examines 'the masculine' and 'the feminine'. It considers gender as a reiterated social 'performance' rather than the expression of a prior reality.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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