The Butler Did It

April 2, 2007

On page 2488 Judith Butler begins with a very interesting bit on trouble.  “To make trouble was, within the reigning discourse of my childhood, something one should never do precisely because that would get one in trouble.  The rebellion and its reprimand seemed to be caught up in the same terms.”  You never want to make trouble or get into trouble, because that would be the cause of and lead to more trouble.  It’s sort of like asking why you can’t or shouldn’t do something, and the answer you’re given is “because.”

On page 2489 she writes, “Is drag the imitation of gender, or does it dramatize the signifying gestures through which gender itself is established?”  I don’t think drag is an accurate imitation of gender.  When men attempt to dress as women, whether it be for a Halloween costume or other reasons (see Silence of the Lambs) there’s pretty much a standard protocol.  There is almost always a dress or skirt and a pair of heels.  Is this what it means to look like a woman?  This is based on stereotype, and is in no way an accurate depiction of female gender.

On page 2500 Butler writes, “Discrete genders are part of what ‘humanizes’ individuals within contemporary culture; indeed, we regularly punish those who fail to do their gender right.”  As always, this can be seen in an episode of Seinfeld.  There is an episode in which Jerry is on a date at a nice restaurant.  His date orders first, and orders a dish with meat.  Jerry orders a salad, his reason is that he is not very hungry.  However, upon ordering the salad he immediately feels he has made a mistake.  Ordering a salad in front of his date is no way to appear manly.  A man is supposed to order a big steak for his dinner.                             salad.jpg                                

This passage can also be used to explain the treatment of homosexuals in our society.  What they do is different from the norm and some of the negative treatment homosexuals receive is because there are some who feel they are not doing their gender right.

I think the differences between gender are created.  This can go back to Saussure and language, and how a tree is a tree because it’s called a tree. There are differences because we say there are.   

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3 Responses to “The Butler Did It”

  1. joei5 said

    Hey Ryan,
    I really agree with a lot of what you said in your blog. In your second paragraph you asked if heels and a skirt represented a woman, and you’re right– it is a stereotype. When girls are growing up they are conditioned by society and by their parents that girls wear skirts and dresses and they don’t get dirty. If you look around campus, most girls are wearing jeans, but isn’t that seen as something that a man would wear? I don’t know, it’s all a little confusing, but it isn’t right to base who and what a person are all about based on their appearance and the clothes they are wearing.

  2. Ry guy,

    It seems as though you know what your talking about. I wonder if you’ve changed your view on drag since class monday. Drag, I think, is meant to be a joke and performing it is supposed to show us that all gender is performed. Now, if one dresses and acts in drag 24-7 I think that that is a different issue. I was thinking about the steak-gender thing too. Are men at a higher risk for heart disease because we are genetically engineered to eat foods with more cholesterol? Are we supposed to drink coffee over tea? Martinis over cosmos? Have dogs rather than cats? So, once we realize we are in a system what are we supposed to do? Is there an answer that she gives us? Thank the Lord this isn’t my major portion of the carnival.

  3. I thought you ideas on Butler were great. “Discrete genders are part of what ‘humanizes’ individuals within contemporary culture; indeed, we regularly punish those who fail to do their gender right.” To me, I felt that she meant that those people who don’t act their gender out to what we’ve accepted it to be in society, are looked down upon. You did a good job of connecting that with the Seinfeld example. Nice job!

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