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  • Writer's pictureThe Feminist Times

Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

When we read feminist literature, one book cannot be omitted- Gender Trouble by Judith Butler. Butler is hailed as one of the pivotal contributors in Feminism and Gender Studies. For literature students, it is said that if we have read Butler then we have half the knowledge about gender trouble since the beginning of the time. This book is very difficult to comprehend at times because of the academic linguistics, and you might as well need to read thrice for better understanding. Therefore, if you have read intense philosophies then you will find no difficulty but if you are into easy reads then I will suggest reading online analysis available.

Gender Trouble is a book written specifically through a post structural perspective where Butler eliminated the two binaries of gender i.e. man and woman, and observed that there is no one gender but every human being performs gender through “stylized repetition of acts”. She also put emphasis on how gender is socially constructed and that the society imposes gender roles for men and women. She says, “the feminist subject turns out to be discursively constituted by the very political that is supposed to facilitate its emancipation.” The power regimes hold the authority to make changes as per their will and who holds this power? The Patriarchy. Patriarchy does not work in favor of men and women and impose different gender roles to maintain the balance in their pseudo-society.

When I reviewed Orlando by Virginia Woolf here, I was writing a research paper on it by using Butler’s book as the base. If you remember my review, I talked about how Orlando changed her gender from male to female and the way society treated her differently thereafter. Woolf and Butler both assert that there is no male or female, you practice a gender and perform it. If you plan to read Gender Trouble, I suggest to read the last essay on ‘Bodily inscriptions, performative subversions’. If we try to understand what this book is about, then Butler simplified it in her Preface. She says, “Gender Trouble sought to uncover the ways in which the very thinking of what is possible in gendered life is foreclosed by certain habitual and violent presumptions.” The book takes into consideration intellectuals and philosophers like Foucault, Freud, Wittig, Kristeva and Irigaray and then argues within how their thoughts clash with hers. For her, the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are not biologically fixed but culturally presupposed. She has discussed the root cause of gender that troubles us till date.

Even as a literature student, I don’t think I can limit what Butler has argued in 200 pages but what I can assure is that reading this book will expand your knowledge and understanding of gender. I suggest reading from the Routledge edition. Its PDF is also available online.

- Aayushi

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