Male-Woman and Queer Male-Bodied Gender

Posted: January 30, 2009 in Uncategorized

I am grooving on Judith Butler’s critique of the metaphysics of gender in ‘Gender Trouble’ p. 28-31.  I usually encounter social-science critiques which say male and female are determined by society. This critique gets bogged down in debates about nature versus nurture, but actually accept the categories of man and woman. Butler goes after the metaphysics of woman/man. She says that these are ontological categories which are taken to be true prior to the need to prove them. It is like a critique of ‘God’ which says ‘I am not going to debate the nature of God. I dispute that you ever showed the existence’ and does this through a historical analysis of the category of God. Not surprisingly this critique comes by way of Nietsche.
From a Butlerian viewpoint, most of us are trying to locate the metaphysical substance of “woman” and “man”, the nature/nurture debate is ultimateley fruitless because the metaphysical substance or essence cannot be located anywhere. It is not genetic or hormonal or taught. It is just assumed within our ways of talking and behaving and ascribed to an individual or a body.
That being said, I think there are still subjectivities and discursive positions that are created around the concepts and ascribed to particular anatomies. For me this opens up the possibility of treating ‘woman’ as a discursive position, subjectivity or sociological gender and choosing that for myself.
The world changed for me while I identified 24/7 as girl, because I encountered enough people (mostly women) who were willing to assign me that discursive position. I was still locked in essentialist thinking of the transexual narrative, however. That thinking says “I have the true essence of ‘woman’ in spite of my anatomy.” This position is ultimately problematic because the essence of ‘woman’ (or ‘man’) is based in metaphysics. Neither of these things exist. By claiming it transexuals buy into a discourse which will always marginalize them. It is more fruitful to say “I do not have the essence, but neither do you, and I dispute your monopoly on the sociological gender of ‘woman’.”
For me this opens up a new and fascinating elective male-bodied queer gender, that of Woman. So I or others could present the gender Male-Woman which does not need to be backed up by claims of science or medicine it is an elective choice that persons of all anatomies may make. In addition, in a Latourian frame a Male-Woman does not need to marshal technologies of clothing, makeup, jewelery, hair removal, hormones, plastic surgery or bottom surgery to support the ‘truth’ of this claim.

  1. ollda97 says:

    Some of Butler makes me happy, I’ve read “Precarious Life,” and an essay of hers on terrorism, (I think). In talking about gender trouble intersecting with various communities’ definition of gender normativity. The various genders nonEuropean communities/nations may have, like some North American indigenous nations (Richard LaFortune is an activist that does activist/academic work on two-spirits and the various traditions of gender socialization among different North American indigenous organizations), extend beyond the binary as well as creating more categories than what’s been ‘allowed’ by Western science (Anne Fausto-Sterling’s work identifying five ‘biological’ genders). Conversations about the ‘metaphysics’ of gender are also very critical, of course, Signifiers of gender differ not only scientifically and culturally, but also spiritually as well. After reading this, I am considering reading ‘Gender Trouble.’ Again, I am grateful for finding this blog because I’m loving your discussions. 🙂

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