Norton’s anthology of Theory and Criticism is a collection of influential critical statements that are drawn from the classical era to the present times. These topic areas has been contributed by different scholars who have written on wide range of issues that covers different interest that touches on the history of poetics to post modernity. One of the topics that Norton looks at is criticism of Simone De Beauvior’s feminist argument and that of Judith Butler’s on gender trouble. Judith book, Gender in trouble is a fictional account of women’s issues in the modern societies. She borrows De beavouir’s feminist theory to analyze some of the issue facing women today.
Social construction of Gender
Butler is a radical feminist who is trying to examine some of the foundational roots of gender identity that are culturally embedded within the fabrics of the society and is now characterized by political correctness. She was very much influenced by French writers such as Mitchell Foucault, Jean Sartre but above all Simone De Beauvoir. She draws much of her theoretical thinking on about feminism from De Beauvior’s concept on the Sex second.
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Simone de Beauvior was born and grew up in Paris in a wealthy and but very religious family background. He later the family lost their wealth after World War one. Her early childhood life was very much influence by her religious faith, but later turned atheist. Even during his formatting years, De beauvior displayed signs of intellectual prowess which hugely influenced his father. She managed to study mathematics, philosophy and literature, after which he ventured into the field of education. It is argued that beauvior engaged in a romantic relationship with both men and women.
In her book, Sexuality, Existentialist feminism and the Second Sex, De beauvior talks about the whole use of feminist sexuality by referring to her own sexual experiences in the mandarins. She laments how women’s sexuality has been social constructed by the patriarchal system and stereotypes to belong to the lower beds of the society. Unfortunately, men’s perception of women is attributed by other factors such as race, class and religion. As a result, men refer to women as weaker vessel and used sex to confine them to the lower levels of the patriarchal system. In response, De beauvior comes up with the concept of feminist existentialism which contains ideological concepts and theoretical framework that underpins these moral changes.
Gender as a choice
In her book gender in trouble, Butler emphasizes on the performative nature of gender is constantly trying to free itself from cultural oppression, prejudice and sex perversions. Drawing from her role model, Butler argues along the lines of gender and sex in relation to women, lesbians and gay men. From this book, Butler argues that our understanding of femininity is actually based on cultural interpretation rather than scientific examinations. As a result our perceptions of gender and sex are socially constructed or dictated to by what our societies think, say or portray to us.
She refers to the term gender as choice to criticize victimization of women as purported in classical literature. We cannot choose sex or our bodies but we can clothe it according to our cultural understanding. Thus, Beauvoir’s theory has radicalized our cultural understanding of gender and gender roles. Beauvoir is one of the key feminist thinkers of the 19th century. She advocate for women’s freedom in choosing what is right for them and not to be dictated to by nature or conventional social laws initiated by men. She further explains that women should not allow themselves to be defined by biological gender, rather on their personhood. Beavour argues that the society’s reference to female becoming a woman is used to identify them with domestic chores and duties such as cooking, cleaning or being a wife or a mother.
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In addition, her concept of female becoming a woman encompasses the society’s obsession with beauty that is being reinforced by male dominated media which also defines what is deemed to be appropriate modes of dressing. Butler explores the relationship between that exists between power and categories of sex and gender. Through this book, she attack some of the prevailing gender assumptions on women’s’ social roles and sexuality as dictated to by male dominated society. Butler therefore reiterates that there is need to differentiate between biological make up of female body and cultural perception of gender. She uses her dominant theme concerning gender as normative to call upon the society to tackle the gender trouble head on in order to deal with some the existing subversive concepts of women.
Women’s liberation thinking of the 19th century greatly influenced thinking of many scholars including academicians and literary writers. One of those literary writers who were not spared by feminist movement was Simone De Beavouir, French intellectual who found her feet in America. Her move to America enabled her to develop a free mind as she embarked on her literary journey. De beavour used her own sexual experience to develop her feminist theory. Today, her feminism theory is being used widely by other postmodern writers an tool for developing independent feminist thinking. One of those post modern feminist writers is Judith butlers who have drawn much of her ideas from De beavour thought of feminist liberation. Through, her book Butler argues that the society in general need to come up with new ways of dealing gender and sex, by tackling what she calls gender trouble.
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