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Essay On Gender Performativity

Theatre Journal

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Coverage: 1979-2012 (Vol. 31, No. 1 - Vol. 64, No. 4)

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ISSN: 01922882

EISSN: 1086332X

Subjects: Performing Arts, Arts

Collections: Arts & Sciences III Collection, JSTOR Essential Collection

Gender Performativity Essay

Nina Flyvbjerg 14-04-2014

Student number: 672054 Thinking Sex

Gender Performativity

Butler argues that gender should be seen not as an identity but instead as a form of 'performativity'. What does she mean? Explain the key points of Butler's concept of performativity, and discuss what you see as the most important implications of this theory for understanding sex, gender and sexuality.

This essay will demonstrate the way in which Judith Butler argues that gender should be seen as a form of performativity constituted through the individual's acts. Furthermore this essay will discuss the heterosexual matrix and argue that the idea of performativity makes it possible to challenge the heterosexual matrix.

Gender as a form of performativity

In Judith Butler's work on queer theory she differs between sex and gender. Butler's term sex refers to the biological differences between men and women but shouldn't be understood as something natural and unchangeable but understood and located within a set of historical and cultural discourses. The idea about the complete natural sex is therefore impossible (Lloyd, 2007:38). Gender refers to the socially and culturally constructed gender that is changeable depending on the context it is played out in (Butler, 1990:6). Butler does not see sex as being determinative of gender since gender can be constructed in many different ways and be described as liquid and changeable (Butler 1990:6). Gender does not denote a substansive being, but a relative point of convergence among culturally and historically specific sets of relations (Butler 1990:10).

According to Butler gender should be seen as a form of performativity, meaning that gender is something that is done unconsciously through acts. Gender is performative because it only exists in the act which constitutes gender (Lloyd, 2007:48). Gender is not attached to the body and its anatomy, instead gender is a series of repetitive acts, gestures and language: Gender ought not to be construed as a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts follow; rather, gender is an identity tenuously constituted in time, instituted in an exterior space through a stylized repetition of acts (Butler 1990:179). According to Butler it is impossible to be a gender, gender is doing without being and gender is therefore performative. In doing gender there is no subject prior to the act. The subject doesn't exist in itself but becomes in the doing of the act. It is irrelevant what sex the acting is and with the idea about gender as a form of...

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