Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although somewhat impenetrable to a person with no background in either philosophy or social sciences, this was a very interesting read. I'm not sure what to think of the psychoanalytic argumentations, but the discussion about the concept of biological sex as a social construction I found especially intriguing. Not to mention the allusions to the power of language.
“Concepts, categories, and abstractions, [Monique Wittig] argues, can effect a physical and material violence against the bodies they claim to organize and interpret: "There is nothing abstract about the power that sciences and theories have to act materially and actually upon our bodies and minds, even if the discourse that produces it is abstract. It is one of the forms of domination, its very expression, as Marx said. I would say, rather, one of its exercises. All of the oppressed know this power and have had to deal with it." The power of language to work on bodies is both the cause of sexual oppression and the way beyond that oppression. Language works neither magically nor inexorably: "there is a plasticity of the real to language: language has a plastic action upon the real." Language assumes and alters its power to act upon the real through locutionary acts, which, repeated, become entrenched practices and, ultimately, institutions. The asymmetrical structure of language that identifies the subject who speaks for and as the universal with the male and identifies the female speaker as "particular" and "interested" is in no sense intrinsic to particular languages or to language itself. These asymmetrical positions cannot be understood to follow from the "nature" of men or women, for, as Beauvoir established, no such "nature" exists: "One must understand that men are not born with a faculty for the universal and that women are not reduced at birth to the particular. The universal has been, and is continually, at every moment, appropriated by men. It does not happen, it must be done. It is an act, a criminal act, perpetrated by one class against another. It is an act carried out at the level of concepts, philosophy, politics."”
Thought-provoking, to say the least! Queer feminism is some powerful shit.
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