Butler, J. 1993. “Introduction.” Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’.

Butler, Judith. 1993. “Introduction.” Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York: Routledge.

Materiality of the body’s relationship to performativity of gender? How does sex figure into this relationship? Materiality of prior framed as difference, sex difference is more so framed by discursive practices. However, this is not to say that discourse causes sexual difference. Sex cast and functions as a “regulatory ideal” (a la Foucault), as a way to norm, offer power/privilege; however, materialization here is never quite complete. In the instability, possibilities for change can emerge. Performativity is not a singular or deliberate act, but reiterative, and citational- works to constitute materiality of the body, and reinforce heteronormativity.

“Rather, once “sex” itself is understood in its normativity, the materiality of the body will not be thinkable apart from the materialization of that regulatory norm. “Sex” is, thus, not simply what one has, or a static description of what one is: it will be one of the norms by which the “one” becomes viable at all, that which qualifies a body for life within the domain of cultural intelligibility” (2).
Materialization of sex involves the regulation of identificatory practices – breaking these patterns offers a point of change in symbolic power and practice. Mobilization of sex categories within political discourse are impacted by the instability of these categories, where disidentification is critical to questioning these norms and categories, thus producing change in how bodies are framed, the power offered to them, and how they have yet to be understood. Critiques feminist dualism of culture, nature – implicit power difference and abilities to act. Does this hold as an equitable metaphor for sex and gender – dualistic, opposing? “… What, if anything, is left of ‘sex’ once it has assumed its social character as gender?” (5). Who works to construct sex or gender, if it is to be an activity? In the replacement of sex by gender, what truth (or here, fiction) does sex hold? How does gender act as both an institution and an activity? What pre-empts this?

Gender as working through exclusionary terms, opposition, and replacement of neutrality or non-knowingness into an erasure of this, a cultural (kx ^and political) label of knowing.
“And to say that there is a matrix of gender relations that institutes and sustains the subject is not to claim that there is a singular matrix that acts in a singular and deterministic way to produce a subject as its effect. That is to install the “matrix” in the subject-position within a grammatical formulation which itself needs to be rethought. Indeed, the propositional form “Discourse constructs the subject” retains the subject-position of the grammatical formulation even as it reverses the place of subject and dis-course. Construction must mean more than such a simple reversal of terms”(9).

“What I would propose in place of these conceptions of construction is a return to the notion of matter, not as site or surface, but as a process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce the effect of boundary, fixity, and surface we call matter” (9).
Discourse as formative is not to note its creative capacity, but to note that there is no reference to a pure body where this sourced. Points of reference in the process of signification demonstration of presupposition and prior delimitation, boundary. Heterosexuality as this constraint of assumption.

“Performativity is thus not a singular “act,” for it is always a reiteration of a norm or set of norms, and to the extent that it acquires an act-like status in the present, it conceals or dissimulates the conventions of which it is a repetition. Moreover, this act is not primarily theatrical; indeed, its apparent theatricality is produced to the extent that its historicity remains dissimulated (and, conversely, its theatricality gains § certain inevitability given the impossibility of a full disclosure of its historicity)” (12-13).

“The presumption that the symbolic law of sex enjoys a separable ontology prior and autonomous to its assumption is contravened by the notion that the citation of the law is the very mechanism of its production and articulation. What is “forced” by the symbolic, then, is a citation of its law that reiterates and consolidates the ruse of its own force” (15).

“As a result of this reformulation of performativity, (a) gender performativity cannot be theorized apart from the forcible and reiterative practice of regulatory sexual regimes; (b) the account of agency conditioned by those very regimes of discourse/power cannot be conflated with voluntarism or individualism, much less with consumerism, and in no way presupposes a choosing subject; (c) the regime of heterosexuality operates to circumscribe and contour the “materiality” of sex, and that “materiality” is formed and sustained through and as a materialization of regulatory norms that are in part those of heterosexual hegemony; (d) the materialization of norms requires those identificatory processes by which norms are assumed or appropriated, and these identifications precede and enable the formation of a subject, but are not, strictly speaking, performed by a subject; and (e) the limits of constructivism are exposed at those boundaries of bodily life where abjected or delegitimated bodies fail to count as ‘bodies’” (15).
Counters ideas of intersectionality – setting up systems of gender, race, and sexuality as equitable does not consider the unique construction; gender may not be completely removed from sexuality, per psychoanalytic influence.


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