Esther’s Space- journey through my life

April 2, 2007

Butler: man, woman, or just “radically incredible”?

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 8:21 am

::hysterical crying:: I was so very close to done, then it all disappeared. So, now you will receive the less-entertaining version. I apologize for the inconvenience. And sorry Doug, now you won’t see me today.

What happens to the subject and to the stability of gender categories when the epistemic regime of presumptive heterosexuality is unmasked as that which produces and reifies these ostensible categories of ontology? (2489)

Why, what a great question, Judith, why don’t you tell me? While I’m sure it is Butler’s way of engaging the readers and encouraging us to think critically about what she is presenting, I, too, am an older sibling and know this trick. I’m not going to do her work, it’s not my job. And just for fun, epistemic= of or relating to knowledge and the means of achieving it, and reify= to treat an abstraction as if it had concrete or material existence.

Chapter 3, Subversive Bodily Acts, Including Flatulence, Halitosis, and Sexedness

I just wanna take a minute to holla at my dawgs, Foo-K’o, and to DJ Semiotic Saussure, and tonight we even have Neitzsche in da house!

That gender reality is created through sustained social performances means that the very notions of an essential sex and true or abiding masculinity or femininity are also constituted as part of the strategy that conceals gender’s performative character and the performative possibilities for proliferating gender configurations outside the restricting frames of masculinist domination and compulsory heterosexuality. Genders can be neither true nor false, neither real nor apparent, neither original nor derived. (2501)

Judith, darling, sex and gender are not separated by =. I agree with much of what you are saying, gender is often a performance. But, sex is not necessarily gender. There is essential sex because, most of the population, is in possession of either male or female genitalia. It is a fact, even if a biologically male individual feels like a woman, he is he. He can perform some aspects as a ‘she,’ but there are essentially some that he cannot. Furthermore, I would argue that the performance of a gender is highly influenced by social stereotypes, how else would one come up with a list of ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ traits?




And, who can discuss gender performance without talking about Norah Vincent’s book, Self-made Man. For this book, Vincent spent one year living, working, and acting as a male member of American society, joining a bowling league, going on dates with women, and working in a high-testosterone sales environment. For the entire time, she was never found out for who she ‘really’ was, she had successfully performed her goal gender. As she is quoted in the New York Times article, “I passed in a man’s world not because my mask was so real, but because the world of men was a masked ball.” Vincent and Butler should get together and chat, because they are totally on the same page.



  1. Your post was making me crack up. You made some really awesome connections here. I think Butler wrote on a pretty broad topic here. I thought it was pretty hard to get through at certian times. You raise a good question about stereotyping men and women. Its not so much steroytyping as it is telling the difference between men and women. Giving with our sex men and women hold different traits that can not be told otherwise.

    Comment by annieeinna — April 2, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  2. I wrote the same thing in my blog–Butler muddles up the distiction between sex and gender. Oh wait–she doesn’t make much of a disctinction to begin with. This supports her point that we can’t have an ungendered society. Women and men are always going to be separated anatomically, which, as society is the way it is, will always give rise to different niches and places set up for males and females.

    Comment by kelliem — April 2, 2007 @ 2:47 pm

  3. Exactly! I feel like Butler is totally discounting science. Male bodies and female bodies do have different functions, and it is society that gives them traits. Female as nurturing : boobs and womb. Male as bread winner: areas of physical strength, like upper body. So I think that it is not the body that needs to be destroyed but the image of the body as a symbolic map of personality. For me the words man and woman have their own loaded connotations, so in order to have a body clean of society it would have to be just that; Body. An any body would then be able to assume the role of man or woman, because Butler does not give any hope of us being able to remove the shackles of the soul, but maybe we can control which shackles we decide to put on.

    Comment by hanaa — April 5, 2007 @ 2:41 am

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