Sunday, November 19, 2017

Summary: Critically Queer / Judith Butler - part 2

Gender Performativity and Drag
In a similar discussion to the one held in "Gender Trouble" about Drag and gender performance, Butler's next move in "Critically Queer" is to link "the notion of discursive resignification... to the notion of gender parody or impersonation" (Critically Queer, p.21). In "Gender Trouble" Butler used the example of Drag to show how gender is a matter of performance, since it is something that can be imitated, thus alluding to its conventional nature. Here Butler stresses that this does not imply that gender is a matter of pure choice.
Butler wants to reminds us of the subordination aspect in the word "subject". She stresses that "Gender is performative insofar as it is the effect of a regulatory regime of gender differences in which genders are divided and hierarchized under constraint" (p.21) and therefore " There is no subject who is “free” to stand outside these norms or to negotiate them at a distance" (p.22). We are always already positioned and constituted by discourse. This means for Butler that gender performance is not a matter of voluntary choice but a matter of repeating existing norms that are always negotiated within a matrix of power.
The thing for Butler is that gender roles are never performed to perfection, which means it's always an open category. But "this failure to approximate the norm... is not the same as the subversion of the norm" (p.22). Denaturalization of gender performance does not directly mean subversion of it (is can even go the other way). Butler links performance to speech acts, saying that both of them are "expropriable".
The be called "a girl" is to cite the conventional norm of a girl which is required in order to be acknowledged as one, and not only as a girl but also as a subject which does not precede its signification by discourse. For Butler there is no "you" that takes on a gender role, it is the gender role that creates the "you". This is why Butler holds that we need to rethink gender performance. Expropriating the term queer from its derogatory usage can be a position of resistance for Butler.
Butler concludes "Critically Queer" in asserting that the theatrical cannot be opposed to the political. On the contrary, intensified theatricality can lead the way to political changes for the queer community. In this manner "queer" moves away from a meaning and social position of denunciation to what Butler calls "theatrical rage" as a form of resistance.