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judith butler - variaciones sobre sexo y género

judith butler - variaciones sobre sexo y género

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Part I
Sex, Gender Performativity,and the Matter of Bodies
Salih / The Judith Butler Reader Final Proof 20.11.2003 6:56pm page 19
 
Salih / The Judith Butler Reader Final Proof 20.11.2003 6:56pm page 20
 
1
 Variations on Sex and Gender:
Beauvoir, Wittig, Foucault (1987)
Introduction
Even if one accepts Simone de Beauvoir’s postulation that ‘‘one is not born, but ratherbecomes a woman,’’ received wisdom would apparently still have it that sex is animmutable essence, so that it should at least be possible to say that people are bornmale or female. Not according to Butler in this early article and in another, similar piecepublished a year earlier, both of which start out from the premise that gender isunnatural, a cultural construction (see ‘‘Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir’s
Second Sex 
,’’ 1986). Reading Beauvoir through Monique Wittig and Michel Foucault, in ‘‘Vari-ations on Sex and Gender’’ Butler provides what she calls ‘‘a schematic outline of a theoryof gender invention,’’ although throughout the article she is careful to emphasize that totalk in terms of gender’s ‘‘inventiveness’’ is not to imply that it is a radical act of creation.Rather, gender is ‘‘an originating activity incessantly taking place,’’ a construct, a process,a project occurring in a culture where it is impossible to be ‘‘without’’ (i.e. lacking oroutside) gender. Jean-Paul Sartre’s ambivalence towards the Cartesian mind/body dualismleads Butler to argue that the body is neither static nor self-identical but something thatis lived and experienced in specific contexts. As Beauvoir puts it, consciousness
exists 
one’s body, which, in the context of culture, involves ‘‘becoming’’ one’s gender.One way of overcoming the Cartesian mind/body dualism is to argue that sex is
already 
gender, since the body/mind split no longer makes sense if you claim, as both Butler andBeauvoir do, that gender is a way of ‘‘doing’’ the body. As Butler puts it, we can only knowsex
through
gender, and although we ‘‘become’’ our genders, there is no place outsidegender which precedes this becoming. Sex, as Butler will claim in
Gender Trouble 
, isalways already gender: the body does not antedate or ‘‘cause’’ gender, but it is an effect of genders which can only be taken up within existing cultural norms, laws, and tabooswhich constrain that taking up or ‘‘choice.’Clearly, gender is not a static entity, and Butler analyzes how gender identities aretaken on and disavowed by subjects who are not, however, engaged in radical acts of 
From Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell (eds.),
Feminism as Critique: Essays on the Politics of Gender in Late Capitalist Societies 
, pp. 128–42 and 185 (notes). Oxford: Polity Press, 1987. Reprintedby permission of Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Polity Press.
Salih / The Judith Butler Reader Final Proof 20.11.2003 6:56pm page 21

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