The issue I chose for this paper is the idea of Sex or Gender in the book Gender Trouble by Judith Butler. The philosophic ideas in these books especially being so interesting for me is because when I was back in elementary school, I was so different from other girls. I loved doing sports, watching anime, hanging out with boys instead of dancing to ballet and playing the piano. I was being called as boyish which made my mother strongly disapproved and claims to be feeling embarrassing when she tried to bring me to meet with other people.
I was confused at the moment, and she answered my question by saying that, “you are not doing what you should be doing. You are a girl!” This short sentence knocked me while making me more confused about the word “girl”. Does being a girl mean I should have contrasted behavior from boys? This invisible line between male and female was built then in my mind. As I grow up, this invisible line has become more obvious for me in many ways.
It could be shown in US history when women’s voting rights in the 19th Amendment was especially separated and even 50 years than men’s voting rights in the 15th Amendment. It could be shown in the working industry where “female scientists and engineers are relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%)” (2018). It could even be shown through the activities were held in regard to feminism. When feminism becomes a fashion, hot topic, women who tried to fight for the feminism even lost and forgot the real meanings of being a feminist, and then falsely accused and blamed a feminist celebrity who was wearing an exposed dress in a shoot violated the ideology of feminism.
Judith Butler in her book Gender Trouble tried to help everyone in the world to learn more about our own identity which may seem to be familiar yet strange at the same time. She questioned the existence of “female” as a category while she believed that gender should focus on the process in which a subject becomes a woman just as Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” (1949)
Butler clearly agree with this idea by saying that “If one “is” a woman, that is not all that one is; the term fails to be exhaustive, not because a… “person” transcends the specific paraphernalia of its gender, but because gender is not always constituted coherently or consistently in different historical contexts, and because gender intersects with racial, class, ethnic, sexual and regional modalities of discursively constituted identities.” (Butler 4) Butler tried to trace the development of the subject in the process of constructing the language. And what her focus is the ‘subjectivity’ of the woman. To further explain, as the subject, a person is first defined by the social, cultural, and discourse systems, and the content defined here is the gender.
By extending this idea, Butler believes that gender is the result of the interaction among various discourse systems, but since the process of this interaction is always in progress, the gender of the person is also ‘in progress’, but should not be concluded as a “fixed state”. By this meaning, we can discern a controversial concept in the Butler philosophy which is performativity. Butler claims that “gender proves to be performative – that is, constituting the identity it is purported to be. In this sense, gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who can be said to preexist the deed.” (Butler 34)
So that when Butler talks about the performativity, it shows that gender should not be tied to our physical, rather it is social-constructed and “gender reality is performative which means, quite simply, that it is really only to the extent that it is performed.”(Butler 527) From gender theory researchers’ view, thinking that “performativity” and “performance” are the same which basically saying that gender is what a person performs. Then people may argue from the basis of biological difference on male and female, stating that there could be a certain degree of performativity in the gender, but overall biological sex is still the most destructive standard for deciding the gender.
In other words, gender role has been played since years ago, which shows that women were originally different from men and both had totally different tasks. For instance, women tended to make more efforts than men on offsprings, and men could do more heavy work than women since they were physically stronger than women. By that means, if a female soul is living in a male body, she will still “perform” differently from a woman living in a female body. Not following the gender theory researcher’s views, Butler wants to express another idea by saying, ‘the ‘I’ neither precedes nor follows the process of this gendering, but emerges only within and as the matrix of gender relations themselves.” (Butler 7) which expresses that the subjectivity is given meaning by the process of ‘performance”.
And also at the same time, she rejected means the gender roles such as ‘men’, ‘women’, ‘husbands’ and ‘wives’ that we have long lived in are not necessarily true for the subjectivity and conceptually established. Additionally, Butler would refute the argument by saying that there are definitely differences biologically in order to reproduce. But it is wrong from the beginning to identify gender with simply the physical appearance. As referring to the other book Bodies That Matter wrote by Judith Butler, arguing that “power operates to constrain sex from the start, delimiting what counts as viable sex.” (2015) There are definitely differences biologically in order to reproduce. But it is wrong from the beginning to identify gender with simply the physical appearance and using power to limit the variation of behaviors in gender and sex.
From Butler’s Gender Trouble, I have finally learned that I shouldn’t feel constrained for being like a boy. I don’t need to even feel shame for being different from other girls. People are performing their roles in the society under the stress and power, but there are some people jump out of social norms, and believing and feeling proud of their specialty and self-identification. Hope one day, society could be completely tolerated for people who couldn’t fit the idealized roles, and giving them complete freedom to have them decided on their life.