So, today I wanted to take a different approach to my weekly addition to this blog, and share with you one of my most favorite heroes. To put it bluntly, she was the reason I read my first theoretical literature, and she was the first feminist I ever looked up to. I know it sounds cliché, but the very first time I ever picked up one of her books, I was blown away. The way she used language to describe gender as a concept to me just… made sense. Well, sorta (after I read it a few times it did). Most famous to me for her gender performativity theory, this person built THE dialogue I used to intra-personally create my understanding of gender.
That person, is the one and only Judith Butler. And the reason why I’m writing about her this week is to persuade you to check out one of her books on the social construction of gender. While her main hypothesis has slightly morphed over the years – any of her works will do. Seriously. To kind of put it as a blunt little snippet, she posits that gender is one big performance. One big drama. That part of everything we do is putting on the role given to us, like in a play or a musical.
Which, is important when you or I try to come to terms with how we play out our “role”; or how we choose to play other roles. Do we know our honest self? Do we live our honest self? When I think about it, sometimes the thoughts are overwhelming. But that’s good- that’s what discourse is about. The idea that a single book can change your whole meaning making process is pretty crazy, which is (once again) why you should check her out!!
Now I know what some of you are thinking… why would I care about a book on theory? What does it matter anyways? Well, I hope no one is thinking that, but you never know. I’m telling you now, this theory matters because Butler has given us this opportunity explore and look at ourselves. Some questions I’ve struggled with are: How do my actions fit the part of some script that I’ve been given, and who is at a loss because of it? Do my actions as a white male mean that I play the part of oppressor, with an expectation that someone will “act” the part of the oppressed and vice versa? I know it sounds stupid, but think about it.
From what I’ve gathered through literature, our socially constructed perceptions effect our every verbal and nonverbal message we send. More importantly, every message we don’t send.
If there’s one thing you should take away from Butler though, is that we feel assigned to this role… and that it is our subjective view. We can’t judge others who take on different roles- unless we attempt to take on that role too. And then it will still always be partial. So yes, this post ended up being a lot of rambling, and I doubt many (or any) of you made it to the end. But if you can answer just one of these questions and it makes you uncomfortable- then it’s a good day. Thanks.