Performativity in Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler argues that there is no prediscursive subject, which is to say no doer pushing our actions from behind, no transcendent subject which has identities imposed upon it. In fact, for Butler, the subject is constructed through a process of repeated discursive practices that restrict and dictate the actions and possibilities of subjects as well as create identities within that nexus of intelligible ways to be. And this process of identity repetition compels us to behave within the confines of that identity, but also to juridicize others and ourselves so that we fall in line because this just is how one (who is said identity) must be, Further, identity shades the world and imbues things with affordances (e.

g. having a given gender identity points out which bathroom is for us)~a point only implicit in Butler’s argument unfortunately because she does not engage in phenomenology.

However, if Butler’s point is correct, then we would see the repetitions of gender across many Or as Butler writes, “when the subject is said to be constituted, that means simply that the subject is a consequence of certain rule—governed discourse that govern the intelligible invocation of identity” (Butler 145).

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She continues to tell us that “signification is not a founding act”, by which she means that being an identity is not the basis of that identity (Ibid 145). Rather, she argues that it’s the “regulated process of repetition” of an identity that both hides the creation of the identity as well as ”enforces its rules”.

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In other words, by repeatedly doing the actions culturally associated with an identity, we become that identity. And this process of identity repetition compels us to behave within the confines of that identity, but also to juridicize others and ourselves so that we fall in line because this just is how one (who is said identity) must be.

For instance, Americans often say, “that’s not very lady like”, “real men don’t cry”, “stop being a fag”, “man up”/“sack up“, “stop being a pussy”, “that‘s not something nice girls do”, etc. in order to pull a person back within the range of acceptable behavior for a member of their gender after sensing a transgression of the norms of gender. The repetition of performances of identity also imbues objects with identity—based affordances, eg. which bathrooms afford entering or walking past, what clothes afford wearing, how one ought to speak and behave, at what times it’s acceptable for one to be out alone, etc. are in our culture largely “choices“ with an always-already given answer based on gender identity In other words, what seems like the effects of a gender identity are actually its cause—we create gender by doing it, And this is Butler’s famous idea of “performativity”.

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Performativity in Gender Trouble by Judith Butler. (2022, Jul 13). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/performativity-in-gender-trouble-by-judith-butler-essay

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