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My understanding of Judith Butler’s first chapter in Gender Roles is as follows. Butler analyses the idea of women as the subject of feminism. Feminism creates this idea that there is an identity and subject that requires representation. Butler problematizes “woman” as a stable identification and discusses how this category has been used to reify systems of power. False ideas about the static nature of identity also occur. The concept of “woman” is a category complicated by ethnicity and sexuality. Feminism complicates the idea of “woman” and the basic ideas that exist in pertinence to gender are problematic. “Woman” is the subject on which political representation is pursued. But woman as a subject; a political representation, implies a separation from power subjects which affect women. Butler claims that if we critique feminism from within feminism and if women are oppressed yet we continue to talk about women as being an oppressed subject, we are simply constructing them as an oppressed group, reifying the oppressed subject. Butler also states that the splitting between sex and gender is problematic because in reality they are both culturally constructed categories, there is no distinction between the two. Our ideas of sex are always already gendered and our whole conception of biology is already gendered as well , “Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being.” (second to last paragraph, my page 33) Butler comes to this conclusion through an analysis of the construction of gender as a binary category yet concludes that that culture and nature are not separate subjects, they are not binary.

So this is what I managed to understand ladies, please comment with anything else I might have missed or clarify anything I might have understood wrong 🙂