Writing Out Loud: Gender Trouble

Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble is a seminal text in gender, feminist, and queer theory. Her argument about the performativity of gender--that is, gender is not a fixed identity but rather something that we act out over time--is also a sophisticated critique of feminist politics, which she outlines in the excerpt included here. Read the passage carefully and answer the following questions.

Theme: Rise of the Avatar


  1. Why does Butler find identifying women as “the subject” of feminism “politically problematic”? Related, why does she think not all women are part of the same common identity?
  2. Butler argues that sex, and not just gender, is socially constructed. What do you think she means by this?
  3. Butler writes that the assumption that there must be a universal basis for feminism implies that patriarchy is also hegemonic and universal. Butler suggests instead that the meaning of gender varies in historical contexts and “intersects with racial, class, ethnic, sexual, and regional modalities of discursively constituted identities.” Provide two examples of how gender intersects with these other modalities in contemporary society.
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