Manufacturing ‘girl’ and ‘boy’

Posted: February 3, 2009 in Uncategorized

I am still working on Judith Butler’s ‘Gender Trouble.’ I find it stunning in many ways. It is very theoretical and very applicable to my understanding of my gender travels. This was published 18 years ago. I wonder how she has influenced queer theory, feminism and the Foucauldian social theory.
She has explained Lacan’s theory of gender in a clear way. I am not sure how far she subscribes to it, but it is fascinating nonetheless. Lacan accepts masculinity and Femininity as ontological. They are timeless and preexist ego formation in the infant. Each of us are born bisexual with both male and female. Are originally merged with both male and female parents. I do not get his theory of ‘girl’ formation but ‘boy’ formation goes like this. Boys are expected to separate from their mothers and individuate into a heterosexual male identified ‘boy’. Giving up this bonding and love is a painful process. When the female bond is given up the internal femininity is ‘repressed’ and turned into an object of desire. Social discourse creates taboos  around being feminine and being the object of desire and create a subject who is allowed to desire as long as it is directed at females and not males. An earlier de-merging from the male parent is linked to a kind of primal homophobia, an inability to be close to or desire the masculine. It is male parent is internalized as a ‘boy’ identity but also as an anxiety, a fear for the masculine.
I am less clear on the development of the ‘girl’ identity. Does the mother cut of the ‘girl’ and withdraw unconditional love in the same way that the father does with the ‘boy’? However the development occurs, the ‘girl’ winds up repressing her original masculinity and with it her entitlement to desire. Lacan sees society as creating males are allowed and encouraged to desire and females who are the objects of desire but are not allowed to own their own desire.
Butler seems to subscribe to these ideas generally, although she does not think that masculinity and femininity predate the separation from the parents. She seems to consider them constructed rather than real.


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