Butler, Femininity, Gender Trouble, Queer Theory, Sex & Gender, Trans theory

Queer Theory

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We want to look at what women’s liberation really means, as well as working towards an understanding of what gender as a category is. This, we believe can open up towards a different and new understanding of the category ‘woman’ as well as ‘man’.

As mentioned earlier, second-wave feminism in academic circles developed into various disciplines that each focused on equal rights. An example of a discipline that has developed a few of the points of criticism surrounding feminism further, is queer theory. Judith Butler states that queer is an expansion within feminism:

As I wrote [Gender Trouble], I understood myself to be in an embattled and oppositional relation to certain forms of feminism, even as I understood the text to be part of feminism itself (…) I sought to counter those views that made presumptions about the limits and propriety of gender and restricted the meaning of gender to received notions of masculinity and femininity. It was and remains my view that any feminist theory that restricts the meaning of gender in the presuppositions of its own practice sets up exclusionary gender norms within feminism, often with homophobic consequences

(Butler: VII)

We’re using Butler to achieve a better understanding of what ‘sex/gender’ as a category actually is and/or connotes. Inspired by a queer-theoretical approach towards media representation surrounding (as well as within) new american streaming-series, we want to account for the ground principals within queer theory – which will lead to a short exposition of trans* theory.

In addition, we include femininity in order to understand how it is represented in the media and which subject-positions this understanding of femininity has created, as well as masculinity – how has masculinity shaped our understanding of femininity and vice versa? By bringing these fields of study together, we investigate which limitations this categorical thinking creates when it comes to which subject-positions we are offered.

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Sources:
Butler, Judith : Gender Trouble – Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.

Femininity, Masculinity & Femininity, Why Feminism

Femininity

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The very idea that there are “opposite” sexes unnecessarily polarized women and men; it isolates us from one another and exaggerates our differences” (Serano 2016: 103). In this way, according to Serano, it is possible to project other oppositions on to ‘men’ (and ‘masculinity’) and ‘women’ (and ‘femininity’), such as aggressive and strong (men) in contrast to passive and weak (women).

In the documentary Miss Representation (2011) (Investigates the under-representation of women in powerful positions in the States and challenges the media’s very limited portration of what it means to be a woman in power) Ed.D., writer, and filmmaker Jean Kilbourne, state that:

Girls get the message from very early on that what’s most important is how they look. That their value, their worth, depends on that (…) We get it from advertising, from films. We get it from television shows, videogames – everywhere we look

(Kilbourne i Newsome & Acquaro 2011: 01:46)

The things young girls are submitted to as natural truths affect how they do their gender later in life. This is evident in relation to the sexy body as a power tool. Because of this belief, it is important to make sure the body remains sexy through constant attention, surveillance, and discipline. This is reinforced by the media, since the sexy body is central to the discussion of what it means to be feminine, which is why, the sexy body is one of the most important aspects of being a woman (Gill 2016: 255). The way in which the media constructs this need to look a certain way can be seen in relation to the focus on ‘reclaiming’ the right to sexuality (jf. Fourth Wave Feminism), in which a new subject position has been created: The sexual entrepreneur (Harvey & Gill 2013: 52). Sexual entrepreneurship, inspired by Foucault’s notion of power, is a term, that can be used to explain gender, power, and resistance. In Foucault’s later work, he viewed the subject as a result of ‘technologies of the self’, where the subject has a form of co-determination though it is still limited by certain discourses .

This is useful when looking at sexuality in which there are two notions that both make up the idea of sexual entrepenaurship: : ‘sexual subjectification’ (Gill) (how power works in and through subjects) and ‘technology of sexiness’ (Radner) (the literary heroin has gone from having to protect her virginity to appearing as a attractive, heterosexual individual, that focuses on her looks through makeup, clothes and training).

This subject-position (offered by prevalent discourses) means that women today present themselves in an objectifying way, since they see themselves as sexual subjects rather than objects (interpellation):

Nowhere is this clearer than in advertising which has responded to feminist critiques by constructing a new figure to sell to young women: the sexually autonomous heterosexual young woman who plays with her sexual power and is forever ‘up for it’

(Gill 2016: 258)


 

Sources

Gill, Rosalind (2016): Gender and the Media, Polity Press. ISBN-10: 0-7456-1273-3

Harvey, Laura & Gill, Rosalind (2013): “Spicing It Up: Sexual Entrepreneurs and The Sex Inspectors” in New Femininities. Postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity. Scharff, Christina & Gill, Rosalind. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: 978-1-137-33986-7

Newsom, Jennifer Siebel and Acquaro, Kimberlee (2011): Miss Representation, Girls’ Club Entertainment