Rethinking about Gender

Thursday, May 27th, 2010, 00:55 WIB
Rethinking about Gender

Title                  :  Gender Trouble: Feminism and The Subversion of Identity

Author              : Judith Butler

Publisher          : Routledge, New York

Year                 : 1990

Pages               : 172 pages

This book is written by Judith Butler. She is a professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a scholar who follows post-structuralism theory. Her work focuses on feminism, queer theory, political philosophy and ethics. One of her major books is Gender Trouble which was first published in 1990.

In this book, Butler examines the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Julia Kristeva, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Luce Irigaray, Monique Wittig, Jasques Derrida and most significantly Michael Foucault. In the first chapter of this book, Butler argues that the main discussion of feminist theory is identity.  According to Butler, “woman” and “women” are the complicated categories because they are connected to class, ethnicity, sexualities and other identities as well. These terms also are assumed by universality that are coherence with the universality of patriarchy.

In common understanding, there is the basic difference between sex and gender. Sex is connected to the biological, for instance, women have vagina and men have penis. Indeed, in this situation, sex cannot be created by society since it is nature. Unlike sex, gender is not nature. It is a product of social construction. To illustrate, women have to stay at home and men are the breadwinner. These cases are not natural but the society constructs this roles.

In her first chapter, Butler begins her analysis of the differences of sex and gender. Sex in Butler’s view is also constructed. Sexed bodies cannot signify without gender, and the apparent existence of sex prior to discourse and cultural imposition is merely an effect of the functioning of gender. Therefore, gender and sex is in the same position since both are products of construction.  

Butler also does criticize the work of Simone de Beauvoir and Luce Irigaray in the relationship between power and categories of sex and gender. Beauvoir stated that women do not have or lack of their identity since according to Irigaray the discussion is a part of “signifying economy” that indeed leaves out the position of women in this dialog. It can happen because the language is used in phallogocentric language which means that male become the centre of subject or interest. In other words, both scholars put the power of men to be the basic argument to establish the identity. However, Butler argues that from Beauvoir’s and Irigaray’s arguments can be noted that the “self-identical being” of women still needs to represent by other. According to Butler, this argument hides the impossibility of “being” gender for women. (Ninik)