Discussion: Texts by Judith Butler and Michael Foucault
Misty and Jimmy Poulette in the Taxi, NYC, 1991, Nan Goldin
> Butler arguments, that there is a natural difference between the two sexes. Gender on the other hand operates on a spectrum wich causes contradictions and problems. This leads to an intellectual challenge. Everything is constructed because we have this idea of difference of gender. (Sex = biological, Gender = social, constructed)
> Trans-gender: identity doesn’t match sex. The motion of gender is not used as a stage play but as the idea of stage play (Drag – exaggerates what woman is). Performs actions of parody.
> How can we not distinguish between xx & xy? – Criticism leads to Butlers second book: gender trouble. She stresses the fact, that the physical body is not neglected but doubts the difference in xx or xy as criteria for sex. There is scientific evidence that many factors differentiate biologically. We should not reduce to identity but develop more open concepts and see diversity.
> The biological aspects show two stages: x- and y-Chromosomes. During Pregnancy the mother should produce testosterone when carrying a boy. If she doesn’t produce enough testosterone, this has influence on the identity of the child.
> We make this difference visible. Other differences are not a topic. But we make the difference of Sex and Gender a topic, that is where the problem starts.
> Foucault thinks the medical discourses produces own blind spots.
> Cis-gender: is the intersection between gender and identity and sexual orientation. “Queer” can mean all of these things.
> Gender Studies is a research field and doesn’t only focus on feminism.
L’homme mesure de toutes choses – Thomas Carpentier
> on p.11 – woman are seen as the other. There is not an universal person. But today everybody should be seen as universal person. Woman were not seen as that in the beginning. Even caricatures repeat in parodic digression . The body and the political movement have a problem with identification. Women are seen as the subject of feminism. There is the homogeneous gay culture. We should identify ourselves in different cultures. To point figure at constructions always leads to problems.
> Main aim: to open the spectrum between two genders or to have a new universal constructed gender. Universal may be the wrong word. It already makes an assumption on particularities. If everything is seen as heterogeneous in the end it’s very homogeneous.
> Butler does not have an opinion. She only analyses the society and forms categories. The question is: What is the alternative? But Butler doesn’t come up with it.
> Trans-gender: constructed gender, is also used for parody. To dress up as a women identifies where complexities are unfolded. Drag performances are focused on perceived feminity. Today we also find the presence of male and female at the same time which leads to an even more conscious play (drags with beards). Drag moves beyond sexuality and even includes animal elements. What is male, female, human, … This leads to productive performances to address these constructs.
> Cross dressing was already used in victorian times in theatres because woman weren’t allowed to act on stage. Woman dressed up to work under cover. In the early 20th Century men also dressed up as women to be married to their homosexual partner.
> Foucault: before the 19th century it was more about the legal acts and not already identified with sex. Through medical and psychological discussions the aspect of being arrived.
> The idea of drag and cross-dressing is in tune with gender studies and idea to generate complexity. Drag is the “copy of a copy”. There is something useful in challenging traditional genders which leads to an operative performance. To perform and exaggerate it is used to then deconstruct it – this is the opposite of carneval.
> Butler doesn’t suggest we should all drag to deconstruct gender but that drag allows the performance to be seen in everyday life. Today we have plastic surgery even for men to seem more masculine. Gender performs around these expectations.
> Foucault sees the problem of family as relevant when we think about home.