Annotation: Performative Acts and Gender Constitution

Annotation: “Performative Acts and gender Constitution: an Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” by Judith Butler

In “Performative Acts and gender Constitution: an Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” by Judith Butler, Butler sets out to depict the ways that society has conceptualized gender, and in doing so, brings to light that gender is capable of being redefined. Butler calls these acts of performing gender, “constituting acts” as they constitute an identity of the person that is performing (page 520). Butler claims that the bodies in which we inhabit have been rendered historical figures due to the fact that the way we perform our gender is incredibly rooted in systematic norms and stigmas. For instance, this may be equivalent to boys wearing blue while girls are more likely associated with pink. Historically, the body in comparison to another body has been placed into a binary, where to remove yourself from the masculine or feminine and go to the other side would be the equivalent of breaking the “Heterosexual Contract” that we all signed (page 524). Furthermore, we often make those who continue to view gender as a binary incredibly uncomfortable because of the idea that performing gender is dramatic. Butler uses the example of a trans person on stage versus on the bus to show that society draws a line deeming some things as acceptable because of how dramatic they are and others as unacceptable because they cross over into reality. In the end, Butler sees this binary as unnecessary and takes the radical position of doing away with the entire system of masculinity and femininity and filling it in with something entirely new – although she does not know what. When pondering what could fill this heart shape gap in our identities, I begin to question if the answer is metaphysical, and if so, does it begin with getting rid of ideal bodies?