Butler’s Gender Trouble

Butler’sGender Trouble

Atthe mention of gender, it is highly likely that the next thought isabout the distinction between a male and a female. There is a virtualcreation of certain anatomical differences, images of pink versusblue, and dolls versus trucks in mind (Butler 11). The truth is thatgender is a complex term and many scholars define it as the sociallycreated behaviors and roles which the society considers appropriatefor men and women. Judith Butler is a renowned and theorist whoauthored an influential book: GenderTrouble: Feminism and Subversion of Identity.The piece challenges the opinions and issues pertaining genderidentity and feminism to promote equality for women in the society.The purpose of this paper is to present a summary and an assessmentof the arguments by the author.

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Justas the name suggests, there is seeming trouble with the manner inwhich we perceive gender. The book posits that the current feministmovement is limited in the way it defines gender. This definition ofgender is old fashioned and reflects on the treatment of the genderby the world as a set of two distinct and disconnected forms (Smith145). The implication of this definition is that there is a typicalplacing of an individual in one of these separate categories eithera masculine or a feminine basing on certain defined roles andbehaviors from birth.

Theplacement on these categories in most cases dictates our behavior.For instance, at birth, an infant baby girl is usually wrapped inpink garments. From the point of infancy, the newborn girl is taughtto fall in love with the pink color and play with doll toys. The babygirl is also taught to grow up while remaining nurturing, gentle, andalways express herself emotionally. On the other hand, a baby boy isswaddled in blue blankets and laid on a nursery portraying sportstheme. The boy is taught never to show his emotions and always tohave a solution to every problem. These are the issues the authorterms inappropriate grounds for helping the young people understandgender.

Butler’sargument is against this system that categorizes human beings throughoffering an explanation that viewing of gender should be in a mannerthat it can change depending on the context as opposed to beingrigidly defined (Butler 75). The author also shows that there havebeen groupings for women basing on shared abilities andcharacteristics, and such groupings limit their abilities in definingtheir identities. The work of Butler also challenges the attitudethat sex results in gender which in turn determines desire andsexuality. Her argument is that such factors need not be dependent oneach other as opposed to the inextricable connection they ateportrayed to possess.

Butler(101) proposes the definition of gender to be based on what we do asopposed to who we are. She supports her proposal through a comparisonof gender with a play and explains that the behavior we portray isnot a reflection of our gender, rather the performance should beresponsible for the creation of a gender. Performativity, which meansthat a person should have more variability and choice in presentingthemselves clearly explains this phenomenon.

Assessmentof the argument of Gender trouble.

Butler’sGender Trouble has been a powerful tool in challenging our mindset onthe identity of gender. The presentation of ideas and opinions in thebook act as a wake-up call and mobilization of political activismacross the world. The ideas often provide grounds for educatingchildren on the roles of gender, debates in issues of LGBTQ, andadvocating for the rights of women (Cornell &amp Landon 506).Despite the book laying grounds for proper definition andunderstanding of gender and gender roles, the book just like anyother controversial issue has its share of critics. There have beenextensive debates on the matters advocated by the book because theyare deemed to destroy the values introduced by our ancestors. Thediscussions about the ideas of the book have been broad with PopeBenedict XVI criticizing them as a threat to the values of theCatholic Community. However, I feel that the author was right inpresenting the views. These gender defined roles and behaviors haveadversely affected both men and women. For instance, women living inoppression just because their gender does not allow them to questionanything. On the other hand, men have had to suffer silently justbecause their gender does not permit them to show emotions. Butler’sGender Trouble breaks these norms allowing people to live in arealistic world where they would not be judged by inappropriategender roles whose setting has baseless grounds.


Theissues surrounding gender, gender identity, and sex are highlydebated in today’s life in the desire to understand how they shoulddefine human beings. The book by Butler: GenderTrouble: Feminism and Subversion of Identityhas been influential because of its focus on gender identity andfeminism. Although the book has received extensive criticism, itpresents an emphasis on the importance of the fluidity of anindividual’s gender but uses performativity in the description ofgender.


Butler,Judith. GenderTrouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. NewYork: Routledge, 1999. Print.

Cornell,Morna and Landon Myer. &quotMoving Beyond Gender Stereotypes&quot.&nbspTheLancet382.9891(2013): 506. Print.

Smith,Sophie. &quotLimitations to Equality: Gender Stereotypes and SocialChange&quot.&nbspJuncture21.2(2014): 144-150. Print.