Ayshe Turan

Alexander Pittman

Critical Approaches on Social and Cultural Theory

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12/13/17

Critical Approaches to Social and Cultural Theory

Judith
Butler’s article on “Performance Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in
Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” denotes that gender identity represents a performative
accomplishment induced by social taboo and sanction (Butler 520). Even though
Butler’s theory on gender performativity has played an influential role in
cultural studies and feminist theory, certain areas of philosophy provide
significant insight into critical social theory. From the perspective of
critical legal thinkers, Butler’s idea of performativity is a linked with her
views on gender and plays an important role in legality as well as politics.

Critical theory in gender performativity presents a social theory to critique
and change the society as opposed to the traditional theory. Similarly,
critical theory has the objective to explore beyond the surface of social life
to unveil the assumptions that limit a proper understanding of how the world
functions. The concept of gender performativity instigated by Butler’s book,
Gender Trouble, starts by reflecting on the female identity (Fagot 3). In other words, Butler criticizes the
critical approaches to feminism that influence the idea of identity politics
and the notion of female identity. Similarly, the various approaches seem to
ignore the idea that all the various identities come from the effects of
repressive regimes and authority as well as the issues raised by the feminists.

The concept of gender performativity has a social and cultural obligation to
reveal the hegemonic conceptions of female identity as fictions in the context
of cultural discourse.

Female Identity

The
idea of female consciousness as well as identity as one of the primary concerns
of feminists has been polemical. On the same note, the attitudes that formulate
the gender identity or female identity defines what a woman is. From the
perspective Butler’s concept of gender and sexuality, the construction of
identity focuses on the creation of gender identity based on the effects of the
socially constructed gender roles. As a feminist constructivist, Butler argues
that gender represents what one does and not what a person is; thus, gender
does not represent a stable identity. Nonetheless, female identity is an
identity constituted via the repetition performances and normative gender
roles.

Gender,
as a performance reveals, unveils the internal essence of gender fabricated
through the regulatory frameworks of interacting discourses (Fagot 13). In the process of formulating female
identity, the prescribed gender norms, and rules play a significant role in
influencing the constraints of cultural and social hegemonic frameworks. As
Butler discusses, performative refers to an act as an act because of the very
idea that it happens, for example, the act of working by saying “I work.” As an
illustration, the routine acts of the body constitute gender; therefore, gender
is constituted by the performative acts. As such, gender does not represent the
beginning  because identity is
progressively created through time, which is constructed via the body. In fact,
the acts of performance by an individual create gender and female identity.

Most importantly, the historically constituted concept of gender informs
performance because of the acts performed by the body of an individual.

The
formation of female identity relied on the shift in the post-structuralist
theory from self to the subject based on the perceptions and the relationship
between the conscious as well as the unconscious mind. Most importantly, the
psychoanalytic theory provided insights into the role of gender and sex in the
construction of identity. More specifically, the formation of female identity
depends on the perceptions of the feminism. As an illustration, the
psychoanalytic theory and the feminist theory influenced and inspired Butler to
provide a comprehensive account of gender identity as well as identity
formation.

The
notion that the female anatomy constitutes the main attribute of female
identity was revoked from the system of oppressive power. Conversely, the
belief that a human person does not have authenticity in the context natural
attributes and authorial intention construes to coercive cultural and social
discourse. The theory of sexuality and gender utilizes the notion of
constructed subject to describe the concept of gender performativity. By
extension, gender identity is a construct of citation and the reiterative
practice integrated with the constraint of gender subject and repetition of
gendered norms. In fact, the contemporary perspective of viewing gender
proposes a way of navigating through the traditions and social norms as well as
situating oneself in the heavily regulated frame of cultural and social
fabrication. As a construction, gender identity remains prone to deconstruction
to imply that the political and social nature of the initially natural
retrospective definition can be revealed via discursive power. 

Gender Performance

Butler’s
conception of gender has reiterated social performance based on the expression
of previous reality. However, several aspects of gender performance are often
misinterpreted because of the emerging complex perceptions of identity and the
conventional gender roles as well as norms. As Butler puts it, the belief of
gendered behaviors as natural does not conform to the logic of her theory. In
other words, the concept of gender performativity illustrated in Butler’s
theory illustrates gendered performance as a learned behavior associated with
masculinity and femininity in an act imposed by the notion of normative
heterosexuality. The extent to which a person can assume that an individual
constitutes a him or a her does not express the gender identity. In other words,
the expressions of gender do not inform the idea of gender identity; however,
the expressions of performance constitute the expressions for gender formulation
(Butler 34). Gender identity emerges from the acts an individual performs, and
gender identity does not pre-exist.

In
the mid-1980s a new form of feminism emerged that emphasized on the subject as
well as the identity to illustrate the elements of forming gender identity. In
light of gender performativity, the subject acquires an identity by performing
particular acts and following a specific behavioral pattern. Similarly, Butler
theory extrapolates the extent and the significance of social construction in
the formation of gender identity as well as female identity. Butler’s theory of
gender performativity incorporates a nuanced perception that unites the concept
of gender identity in the context of performativity. From the perception of the
feminist phenomenology, the idea of theatrical acting contrasts the
performative act. Since the social and cultural approaches constructed a binary
gender system, the critical analysis of gender in the context of performativity
takes accentuates the element of polarity. However, if gender comes out as
seamless as it appears, different repetitions of acts would generate a
different gender. As an illustration, Butler’s article acknowledges the
subjects in the performative acts exhibit the potential to contest the reified
status (Butler 520). Most importantly, a possibility exists to formulate or
construct a different gender because gender identity is constructed via acts,
which can be changed. The social norms, expectations and taboos discourage the
possibility of altering the performance acts that limit the assigned gendered
space, Consequently, an act that violates the assigned gendered space or
deviates from the socially intended gender results in punishment.

The
origin of Butler’s conception of female identity is that gender identity cannot
be determined by biological means. The distinction between sex and gender emanates
from the fact that gender is centered on the social creation while sex is based
on the discourse of biological differences. The process of constructing
self-identity to develop gender performative theories argues that sex has never
been something stable or fixed and is considered open to fluidity. In this
case, the body becomes the prison of gender and sexuality. The society on the
gender and sexuality as internal while the physical attributes are viewed as
externally imposed by the strict powers and the burden of punishment. The idea
of gender performativity in the context of gender identity revolves around
power and politics.

The Politics of Performativity

Butler’s
concept of gender performativity exposes the hegemonic notions of identity as
fiction. Similarly, the concept of gender performativity provides significant
insights into cultural politics as well as the cultural subversion of the
present cultural norms. Identity politics and cultural recognition from the
minority rights based on the liberal legal discourse causes a critical
engagement from the perspective of political solidarity. The inquiry into the
performative aspect of social structures and reproduction highlights the
permanent disjunction of the society as well as ritualized and repetitive norm
in the society. Most significantly, the theory of gender performance seeks to
elaborate how subversion of power in a dialectical link for constraint and the
subject. On the same note, the contradictory process of social structuralism
seeks to avoid political voluntarism and the connection between social and
personal identity. Since social identity is divided based on the subversion of
the existing norms and the exploration of ethics responsibility. By extension,
gender performativity describes the character of identity as a culturally
oriented phenomenon generated by power via repetitions and citation of norms as
well as their transgressions.

In
light of performativity, political transformation via hegemonic cultural
practices continues to advocate for gender parody. Overall, the recent
exploration of alterity ethics complements performativity politics by
exploiting the subversive potential of gender identity as well as female
identity. For the oppressed individuals, power should be subverted via political
strategy guided by the consequences and punishment with the objective of
maximizing the good in the society. In other words, performativity politics
described by the recent works of Butler takes the form of action
consequentialism. Still, Butler’s politics is reversed by the ethics without
coming to a satisfactory position.

Gender Identity

Following
the binary roles, the male and the female play in reproduction, the conception
of biological sex remains easy to comprehend and well defined. Conversely, the
concept of gender remains skeptical based on the references in the field of
psychology and behavior. According to Mayer and McHugh, the parents assign sex
at birth to refer to biological status as either female or male associated with
the internal anatomy and the physical attributes (17). On the same note, gender
comes from the historically constructed social roles based on gendered
activities, behaviors, and attributes of a specific society appropriate for the
boys and girls as well as men and women. Butler’s contemporary taxonomy of
gender describes the traditional gendered roles assigned to men and women as
performative that set out new criteria of ascribing to the definitions of
gender as performative.

Most
importantly, the relationship between the deconstruction of traditional gender
role and the gender theory is accentuated in the feminist aspect of gender
performativity. The performativity theory advanced by Butler illustrates that
being a man or woman depends on what a person does as opposed to what one is.

In other words, gender is not automatically assigned based on biological sex
assigned at birth. As Butler denotes in her article, the historical conventions
of gender role limit the possibilities of constructing a different gender
(521). People are under constant duress from the society to conform to the
gendered performance stipulated by the traditional norms and culture. According
to Severiens, the philosophical account of gender identity evolves in the
context of interpersonal bonds and enculturalization, and social realities that
shape a person’s identity (3). Even so, cultural discourses analysis plays a
significant role in acknowledging the difference that exists between texts;
therefore, different modes of communication influence the interconnection
between the text and the cultural meaning the discourse. Besides, the discourse
analysis of culture provides more information on the communication pattern as
well as the generic behavior from the cultural situation and the context of the
social situation. In this case, the intricate weave of cultural psychoanalysis
contests the conception of the previous theme that exists before cultural
identities. More radically, the proponents view of the feminist distinction
between gender and sex. Still, the political stakes at the institutions emerge
from the cultural constructs of sex to contribute to the aspect of political
identity.

Cultural Discourse of Gendered Performativity

The
Michel Foucault theory in the Gender Trouble asserts that gender is a predominantly
cultural agent that operates on the body to constitute the concepts of
femininity and masculinity and at the same time identify homosexuality or
heterosexuality. Essentially, the nature of gender identity is variable and
fluid, the same as the existing different times in the different situations
(Mayer and McHugh 13). For instance, the people who identify as transgender or
the individuals who carry out their gender identity in unconventional ways
experience aggression, exclusion, and hostility. The cultural norms influence
behavior and personality as well as the gender norms in the cultural context.

Most importantly, the cultural and social practices create a socially
constructed category of sex. Consequently, in the context of cultural discourse,
the political and social dynamics influence the achievement of the greater
equality between the women and men.

According
to Butler, gender does not constitute a key aspect of identity but instead
performance the behavior at different times (11). In other words, the discourse
analysis of gender should take the direction of that the subject is not fixed
but fluid and float freely. As an illustration, the status of gender should be
constructed as an independent entity to challenge the traditional notion of
gender identity. Performativity incorporates aspects beyond the performance of
gender to involve cultural. Linguistic, and relational aspects of gendered
norms. For example, when a member of the opposite sex dresses as the member of
the opposite sex, individual subverts the idea of gender norm (148) However,
the illusion of identity challenges the constitutive category that keeps gender
in the traditional cultural aspect of political identity.

Fagot
states that gender is learned via socializing and culture of the precise
society in question (5). For instance, several cultures encourage boys to act
in a manner that displays male traits. From the perspective of cultural
analysis, textual analysis brings out the personal and the shared contexts of
interpretation from the audience after reading and understanding the work. More
precisely, the cultural discourse analysis of text unveils multiple
perspectives of textual discourse analysis. Furthermore, the aspects and the
all the angles of communication, the multiple frameworks of interpretation and
the sort of perspectivism engages the appropriate audience to utilize the
chance of producing contextual, textual and insightful literary and critical
reading in the discourse analysis of the text Gender Trouble (Bulter 39). To
demonstrate this, the psychoanalyst and the structural account of sexual
differences and the formation of sexuality concerning power preempt the
conservation of culturally conservative societies. In other words, the
complexity of gender defers the totality that gender and sex have become
inseparable. Additionally, Butler articulates that the context of culture
constructs the idea of gender and sex; hence, the cultural configurations of
gender and the naturalization of sexuality dispositions the fallacies that
gender is an effect. Aspects of transgender performativity involve power,
culture, and embarrassment, where Butler proposes gender identity is a social
phenomenon that primarily shapes the cultural understanding of the gendered
identity.  Controversially, the system of
homosexuality and bisexuality creates the disposition of heterosexuality into a
complex oedipal situation. By extension, the repression and the denial of the
female principles increase the attention of the femaleness and the existence of
the cultural norms. What’s more, every culture employs the biological sex as
criteria to describe gender; however, gender roles differ among the societies

Gender;
as sociologists have sipped at the revitalizing portion of post-modern theories
insist on the optional aspects of gender that conceive an elaborate fabrication
of gender stability as a concept. The text Gender Trouble by Judy Butler is an
interesting text that that is capable of inspiring the answers to several
questions that regard the cultural understanding of the definitions of ‘woman’
and ‘man.’ Moreover, in the text, Gender Trouble, the author discusses gender
identity, the interrelation between sex and gender in a manner that
incorporates the notion of gender performativity (Butler 28). More
specifically, the interest of cultural analysis on the social interactions and
the cultural analysis discourse for identity, gender, sexuality, and culture
presents a clear analogy from the ample rhetoric analysis of the text Gender
Roles. Conversely, gender identity does not exist in the expression of gender;
but rather from the performance point of view, that expresses a combination of
behavior, culture, and social interactions at a particular time. As such, the
feminist distinction between gender and sexuality proposes that sex is a
cultural construction of the identity subversion that presumes to deconstruct
the identities of the human beings.

Mayer
and McHugh assert that to determine gender an individual must take into account
the cultural and social perceptions of feminine and masculine characteristics
as well as the roles (8). Concisely, gender identity is a product of behaviors
and actions and not a manifestation of an intrinsic essence. As an
illustration, the everyday activities, representations, speech utterances,
dress code and gestures as well as behaviors and certain prohibitions produces
the perception of an essential masculine or feminine identity. According to
Butler, the illusion of the sexual body is a deconstruction of the cultural identity
that undermines the essence of integrated and stable identity. By extension,
people construct the gender identities at will because the views of gender and
sex in the perspective of gender role influence the cultural view of the
construction of true equality. In fact, the assumption that disregarding the
sex differences and ceasing the classification of people into either female or
male makes the subject of true equality possible. According to Mayer and McHugh,
gender identity and expression of gender are not related but rather, the
expressions constitute the performativity of gender stability (5). However, the
notion of gender identity seems to originate from the belief that sex (male and
female) causes gender in the form of feminism and masculine.

In
conclusion, the Butler persuasively argues that the concept of identity for
gender presumes to speak freely of the genealogy of identity. At the same time,
the culturalist theory of gender and sexuality reverts the attention of
feminist politics to highlight the contradictions in the cultural matter of
gender. Therefore, the community’s version of literary conceit somehow deemed
sexuality abhorrent because of the modern ways of reading the culturally
construed form of identity. As Butler puts it, the belief of gendered behaviors
as natural does not conform to the logic of her theory. In other words, the
concept of gender performativity illustrated in Butler’s theory illustrates
gendered performance as a learned behavior associated with masculinity and femininity
in an act imposed by the notion of normative heterosexuality. Even though
Butler’s theory on gender performativity has played an influential role in
cultural studies and feminist theory, certain areas of philosophy provide
significant insight into critical social theory. Indeed, the concept of gender
performativity has a social and cultural obligation to reveal the hegemonic
conceptions of female identity as fictions in the context of cultural discourse. 

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