Feminist Sundays: Judith Butler

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Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

I will reviewing the amazing and life-chaning Gender Trouble by Judith Butler this week, so I thought this Feminist Sunday was perfect to pay homage to this wonderful writer and philosopher who has changed the way we theorize identities. She is known for her dense style and her very long sentences, but her ideas are so important that I should both run a profile and a more friendly explanation of her theories, because they are so good and can change so much about how we see the world. So, here it is, Judith Butler:

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  • Name: Judith Butler
  • Dates and place: Born in 1956 in Ohio.
  • Historical period: postmodernist and feminist reconstructions of identities
  • Biography: Judith Butler was born in 1956 in Cleveland, Ohio. She attended Bennington College and then Yale University and holds a degree in Philosophy (1978) and a PhD. Since then, she has taught at the top American universities such as Johns Hopkins and Berkeley.
  • Famous for: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) a new approach to the concepts of “gender” and “sex” from a performative and postmodernist point of view that revolutionized the way both terms are understood. Butler pays special attention to how we create our identities and why. Sex is no longer a natural, unchangeable feature and gender is a repetition of acts and gestures that both constructs and perpetuates itself. We act our genders the same way we could act on a play – this is where the label “performativity” applied to her theories comes from – although it is not easy to change from one gender to another as it would be to change characters. Although this seems a very philosophical, it is very easy to see its consequences in real life.

Think for example the very different ways in which women and men hold cigarettes and what is culturally and socially implied when a man holds a cigarette like stereotypically women do. And yes, I had to google “gay man smoking” to get that picture, because this is how performances work and how our identities are constructed through them.

“As a result, gender is not to culture as sex is to nature; gender is
also the discursive/cultural means by which “sexed nature” or “a natural
sex” is produced and established as “prediscursive,” prior to culture,
a politically neutral surface on which culture acts”

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8 thoughts on “Feminist Sundays: Judith Butler

    1. I know! It’s 24 years old but still so very current. I finished it last week and all I could think was “wow, this IS it!” Would you recommend me any other of her works?

        1. I’ll check it, although I am reading Butler for my Master’s dissertation and Gender Trouble has already proved more extensive than what they’ll alow me to write 🙁

  1. For those of you who can read Spanish, “Judith Butler: Introducción a su lectura” (Ed Orto, Madrid: 2003), by Argentinian philosopher María Luisa Femenías, is a must. Femenías clarifies Butler while opening up new vias of reflection. It´s great for students to start with Butler.

  2. Not heard of her before, definitely need to pick Gender Trouble up soon. Sounds like the sort of text that changes the way you see everything.

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