I’ll be honest. Reading Judith Butler’s work was quite a challenge for me. I often found myself having to re-read over a sentence 4 or 5 times, but still questioning what I had just read. Every so often, I would understand a concept/theory presented by Butler, and that was definitely a time for celebration. In light of those celebrations, I would like expand on some of my “AH-HA!” moments by offering my own critique and twist to one of Butler’s theories in Gender Trouble: Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire.

 When addressing the issue of gender, Butler brings into question the meaning of construction, and how this constructivism of gender takes place in society. She offers the idea that, “…the notion that gender is constructed suggests a certain determinism of gender meanings inscribed on anatomically differentiated bodies, where those bodies are misunderstood as passive recipients of an inexorable cultural law” (12). It’s my understanding that Butler is expounding upon the fact that gender is solely constructed by linking certain atttributes/characteristcs to either being feminine or masculine onto a rather “blank canvas,” so to speak. So, as many of us have heard in previous gender studies courses: gender is socially constructed. Ta-da!

 If this is so true, then a person’s sex, male or female, shouldn’t have anything to do with whether a person is feminine or masculine. Right? Well, not according to Butler. She believes that by understanding gender, we can in turn understand sex and that our understandings of sex are culturally constructed as well. However, I’ve always been a big believer that a child’s biological sex has a great impact on how that child’s parents are going to raise their child. Well, duh. Yes, I am indeed an essentialist. If a child, later on in life, decides to be more like the other sex, they will ultimately have to become the opposing gender first. This desire of gender opposition in individuals, in my opinion, stems from their biological sex. In other words, a man may want to become a woman because he believes that his present sex is not a true representation of himself. I’m sure there are more examples of this idea that I’m playing around with, but at the moment, this is the only one that’s making sense. But as a brief recap of my babbling, I offer you this picture:

Now, I would like to return to the notion that gender is socially constructed. With that being said, one can only assume that if gender is constructed, that it can be destroyed, to then be constructed once again. In that case, the oppressed would then become the desirable within society. With that in mind, I immediately think back to an episode in season 2 of “Modern Family.” Yes, I am going to briefly talk about my two favorite people on the show: Cam and Mitchell. During this episode, Cam and Mitchell are in search of a preschool for their adopted Asian daughter, Lily. While waiting in the lobby of a potential preschool, Cam and Mitchell are anxiously chatting among themselves as to where or not Lily will be admitted. Hearing their conversation, the receptionist begins to tell them that wouldn’t have any trouble getting into a preschool of their choice because they’re like “diversity x3.” A gay couple with an adopted Asian daughter? You can’t get any more diverse than that, right? Wrong.

 After hearing the news that they are such a hot commodity among preschools, Cam and Mitchell head to a very upscale school where they are certain to secure a spot for Lily, because of their desired characteristics as a gay couple raising an Asian child. But their party was stopped short when a white woman walked into the office holding an African American child. Cam immediately reassures Mitchell that they are in a good position because “being gay is a competitive advantage” that they posses. Just then, the woman’s partner walks, or rather, rolls into the office in her wheelchair. Not only is the woman’s partner disabled, but she is of a different race as well. Which, unfortunately, sends Cam and Mitchell into a panic mode in fear of being beaten by their new competitors.

 Cam ends the scene by saying, “Disabled interracial lesbians with an African kicker? I didn’t see that one coming.”

 Although the situation that Cam and Mitchell find themselves in is quite unheard of, at least for me, it offers a brief example/possibility of what it would be like if gender were to be destroyed and then rebuilt again. All the characteristics and traits that are/have been oppressed would become desirable. This would not only apply to gender, but to race as well, and any other identity that has had to go through some type of oppression.

 My only hope is that some type of deconstruction/reconstruction will happen sometime soon. If I have to personally do it with a chisel and ax, then I better get chopping, but I strongly believe that society is slowly heading in the right direction.

–Aubrey Merrell

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