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What does Judith Butler mean by the social construction and performativity of both sex and gender - Essay Example

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What does Judith Butler mean by the social construction and performativity of both sex and gender

Social construction designs the way in which interaction takes place. The concept of performativity provides for an understanding that roles of gender and sex are the product of acts that are repeated and ritualized in order to define what is meant by those terms. Even deviances from what are considered norms become socially constructed towards the identifiers of sex and gender. While Butler discusses these concepts under the umbrella of choices made, she clarifies later that what she means is while social construction of both sex and gender are created through the choices made, they are by no means voluntary choices. The compulsion to enact gender or sex through the acts that are considered non-conforming are also enacting gender and sex that has been designed by society. The development of ways in which to name different gender types, such as transgender and transvestitism provide ways in which to legitimize and understand how those enactments of gender and sex are a part of human existence. The following paper critically examines the concepts of social construction and performativity in order to understand what Butler means as she discusses gender and sex in these terms. Through looking at examples of human existence in order to understand her intentions, the foundational elements of her philosophy emerge. Post-modernism Post-modernism, according to O’Brien (2009, p. 368) is “the elimination of universal and dichotomous categorizations of, particularly, the identity and the recognition of co-existing social realities or truths, as well as knowledges and identities”. The post-modern concept of identifying the construction of society is based upon the idea that almost any part of social interaction is the result of the choices to continue to act in manners that replicate, even if evolve, the behaviors and ideas about the world in which human beings live. Under this type of thinking there is almost no absolute truth, but constructed truths that define the individual, the roles within society, the manner in which those roles are acted, and the way in which the constructed reality becomes an interrelated set of norms that are undeniable and virtually unquestionable. Butler (1993) discusses how the term post-modern was ascribed to her rather than taking on the role of a post-modernist on her own. She seems to be concerned with the habit of the post-modernist to make sweeping generalizations when being critical about the state of the world. Butler (1993) writes of Charles Jenckes who described a temporal collapse, which for Butler signaled that there could be no postmodern because there was a void after the modern period. This collapse was a sign that there was no ontological foundation on which to build theory. Therefore, it is difficult to refer to Butler as a post-modernist, but at the same time many of her theories can be set into a post-modern framework Butler herself, however, does not see the concept of a post-modern framework. Hesse-Biber and Leavy, (2007, p. 86) write that Butler feels that post-modernism is a catch-all idea which has no boundaries to time or meaning. Where O’Brien (2009, p. 368) discusses post-modernism in terms of breaking down barriers to truth, Butler describes postmodernism as a non-existent and ill-defined concept in which whatever exceeded modernism was lumped in order to find a way to discuss that which came after modern thinking. However, where Butler seeks to ...Show more


Judith Butler is a post-structural philosopher who examined the construction of sex and gender within the post-modern world. The theories that she promoted were founded on the idea of social construction and performativity as they were ascribed to both gender and sex. …
Author : lavernebotsford
What does Judith Butler mean by the social construction and performativity of both sex and gender
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