Archives for posts with tag: heterosexual matrix

As a gender studies major, I have read a good share of scholarly articles/excerpts in which the writer suggests that all minority groups join together for one main cause: to overthrow the dominant society and to create true equality between all people, no matter what their race, sex, sexuality, class, or any other marginalizing characteristics.  My question has always been, well if this is the answer, why is it so hard to group all these people together and also when they are grouped why can’t there be any main focus that can be agreed upon?  The answer that I am starting to come up with after the few weeks of class along with Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, is maybe instead of trying to come together as one for one main goal, we should try to recognize differences amongst ourselves, as these differences create varying life experiences.  Instead of doing this, when trying to group up a minority, say feminist groups, there is further grouping of a minority and majority within this big group of minorities.

In the example from above, there could be a separation in what should be strived for between black and white feminists, or even between lesbian and straight feminists. . I believe this is because of the way that society has been constructed to keep the minority populations exactly where they are through language, culture, and politics. This is when Butler mentions the heterosexual matrix, in which the combination of heterosexuality, whiteness, male masculinity, and wealth equals dominance and superiority. This and only this combination receives high status, and this system of human worth is created through things in history such as stereotypes, science, cultural customs of what is appropriate for what type of person, and many other things that we now have been born into and assume that is just the natural order of things.

Butler argues that since this is such an ancient form of social construction that it would be impossible to make any difference from outside of this system. For instance, the word woman has multiple meanings other than just biological reasons. Woman also denotes a certain inferiority or submissiveness because of the dichotomy of male and female and their supposed opposite traits. And because of this, there is a transcendence of this system into other parts of the human experience, such as through politics or even the workplace. For the longest time, and sometimes even in the present, because of their given inferiority women were unable to actively participate in politics or excel in the workplace. 

I honestly feel that because these systems of social control have been ingrained in the fibers of our society that it is impossible to reverse the effects that they have had. However, this does not mean change is impossible, as history has shown us. While the overthrow of the dominant population is in dire need I believe that the effects they have had on who we are as a people will only be erased with time. We have seen this with women’s suffrage, African American civil rights, and in our generation LGBTQ rights. While we slowly move away from our Catholic conservative roots, the more accepting we are of other groups of people. Once we are able to get past stigmas placed on others based on traits we cannot change, we are able to see that even with many differences we are all still relatable. Through relation to others comes empathy and through empathy comes a certain unity  between all of us who can relate to being the other.

-Jay Luther

While watching Real World San Diego 2 last Wednesday, there was a preview for this coming Wednesday’s episode, which is at the 40:40 mark for reference:

I. can’t. wait. Anyways, Frank defines himself as bisexual, which both straight dudes Dave and Zach find strange and baffling. In the two episodes that have aired, Dave and Zach have been as quiet and politically correct about it as they can, but in this week’s episode when Frank’s bisexuality becomes “real” and he brings home a guy from the bars, Dave freaks out. When he goes to the confessional room to chat with the camera he says, “Don’t do it when I’m around”, referring to Frank hooking up with a guy.

That night Dave is talking to Zach about his uneasiness of the situation, saying,  “I can’t live with a dude that does dudes.” Zach responds with,”What if it’s a girl, though?”

Dave:”Then that’s okay. it’s a double standard–”

Dave's face when he finds out Frank is about to hook up with a guy in their house.

Zach interrupts by saying,”It’s an absolute double standard.” Even though Zach is standing up for Frank at this point in time, in episode two, he makes fun of Frank for crying and says, “There are few reasons why a man should cry, and this is not one of them,” and later says Frank is “moody” and “on his period”.

In Butler’s definition of the heterosexual matrix, clearly Frank is someone who does not fit in the process of it. Dave and Zach, however, are two examples of heterosexual males that firmly believe in the heterosexual matrix, or “intelligible genders” as Butler puts it (Butler 23).

Butler writes, “‘Intelligible’ genders are those which in some sense institute and maintain relations of coherence and continuity among sex, gender, sexual practice, and desire. In other words, the spectres of discontinuity and incoherence, themselves thinkable only in relation to existing norms of continuity and coherence, are constantly prohibited and produced by the very laws that seek to establish casual or expressive lines of connection among biological sex, culturally constituted genders, and the ‘expression’ or ‘effect’ of both in the manifestation of sexual desire through sexual practice” (Butler 23).

By Dave saying, “I can’t live with a dude that does dudes” is reinforcing the heterosexual matrix as the natural order of things, making someone like Frank be a violation to that order, or the “incoherence” and “discontinuity” of it. Bisexuality is something that is rejected entirely by the norms defined by a heterosexual lifestyle.

Butler writes that gender constructs sex, which applies to Dave and Zach defining what a man or a “dude” should do and with this definition, who these dudes should be doing. To these two “manly men”, men should rarely cry or reveal any type of feelings/emotions to others. By Zach referring to Frank’s crying moment as moody and on his period, he is consciously making a decision to assign Frank to having “girly” traits, or hegemonically feminine ideals. It is with these beliefs of “culturally constituted genders” that all other beliefs stem from Dave and Zach.


-Bailey Cook


Throughout the years, women have been believe to “bond” in certain ways men can not understand.  Is this true? Do women understand things on a more emotional level than men and does this separate women into a group of their own?  Some may follow this idea and believe it is common nature between the sexes.  That it is common nature for a man to act masculine and women to act feminine, but how did this normality come about? After reading both Monique Wittig and Judith Butler, I have developed  a similar idea on how this dichotomy was created.

The heterosexual matrix can explain how males and females relate in terms of sex, gender, and sexual desire. Men are expected to act masculine and a part of acting masculine is to be attracted to women.  If a male is not interested in women, he therefore breaks the flow of the heterosexual matrix and will ultimately be deemed a monster.  Butler believes this heterosexual matrix forms the relationship to build the nuclear family.  Wittig feels that the matrix is simply for reasons of political and economic roles to take place between men and women.  How does anyone know what to believe?

One idea, of Whittig’s, I completely agree with….Sex is not natural, it is historical.  The differences between men and women have been expected because they have been passed down throughout history and no other way has ever been known.  Sex distinction is presumed to always be two, and only two, categories of sex.  No in betweens have ever been excepted.

Both authors refuse to recognize this sex distinction.  The only way Whittig says a woman can “break away from the heterosexual matrix” is to become a lesbian.  Becoming a lesbian, she describes, is the only way to escape.  To dis-identify with the matrix will free individuals from the specified categories of sex.  I agree with this fact, that becoming a lesbian separates a woman from the obvious female, I am still just not sure that it is the only way…

Alexandra Fath