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Judith Butler discussing performativity, Big Think, 2011.

Judith Butler on gender as a 'mode of becoming', 2006.

Judith Butler

In her seminal work Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), Judith Butler deconstructs traditional essentialist notions of gender and argues that gender is a construct which comes to life not through being, but through doing. She argues that gender performativity is constituted in the moment, constantly reinforced through acts; “gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time-an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts.” (Butler 1988) The idea of a stylized repetition of acts, which then create meaning, value or subject is something which surfaces in much of my work.

Butler also argues that gender makes the do-er, the do-er does not make the gender. A performance of gender might mean that gender is a role that is taken on by an individual, however the performative nature of gender that Butler argues for “means that it produces a series of effects. We act and walk and speak and talk that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman…we act as if that being of a man or that being of a woman is actually an internal reality or simply something that is true about us. Actually, it is a phenomenon that is being produced all the time and reproduced all the time." Although the construction of gender is dependent on the very intimate and personal individual everyday acts of those performing under the role, the sheer magnitude of people partaking in performance obscures that it is nothing more than a cultural fiction. Personal acts are a shared experience and collective action. In this way, the personal becomes the political. This is an idea that I aimed to imply in Rottweiler, and explore further in the Narrative Identity section of the Critical Analyses.

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