Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fluid Views of Gender

Miranda's post on Butler has made me consider the interplay between historical context and gender. In "Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire," Butler asks, "If gender is constructed, could it be constructed differently, or does its constructedness imply some form of social determinism, foreclosing the possibility of agency and transformation?" (11). Constructed or not, I hardly think the possibility of agency and transformation has been foreclosed. In fact, it seems to me that present-day analysis of gender had become especially fluid, far more than just ten years ago.

"The distinction between sex and gender," writes Butler, "serves the argument that whatever biological intractability sex appears to have, gender is culturally constructed: hence, gender is neither the causal result of sex nor as seemingly fixed as sex" (8). One way of interpreting this point is to say that only when constructions change does the way gender acts change. Short of surgery sex may be intractable, but gender is far from it, and there are signs of society adapting to gender's increasing distance from sex.

A recent and stark example of this is last month's news that a transgendered child was accepted into the Colorado Girl Scouts. Although Bobby Montoya was initially rejected from joining the organization on the basis that "it doesn't matter how he looks, he has boy parts, he can't be in Girl Scouts." After Bobby's mother went to the press, Girl Scouts claimed a representative had misinformed Bobby, saying, "If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout." Somehow, I don't believe Girl Scouts in any state would have accepted Bobby in my own Brownie days.


  1. Our generation is seemingly more accepting of gender differences that any other generation has been in the past. I brought my family into this earlier today when I asked why they thought our generation has taken this "laid back" approach. A member of my family is an elementary school librarian, and she noted that most children learn from their parents, so how could this generation possibly be more tolerant?

    I found that interesting with what you had said - "One way of interpreting this point is to say that only when constructions change does the way gender acts change." - because if we're assuming that children articulate their thoughts around what their parents had thought, how could our constructions possibly change?

  2. To add to this conversation, I wonder if our construction of gender, or what we think is gender, is now being developed in a completely new way. Kids today (I can't believe I just said that) are growing up with artists like Lady Gaga who are actively advocating for a blurring of the gender lines. Butler begins with the explanation of gender as highly linked to political discourse, writing, through the limitation, prohibition, regulation, control, and even 'protection' of individuals related to that political structure through the contingent and retractable operation of choice. But the subjects regulated by such structures are, by virtue of being subjected to them, formed, defined, and reproduced in accordance with the requirements of those structures"(2-3).

    Butler describes a society controlled largely by politics and larger bodies in control. But today I wonder if there is more of a voice coming from the individual as to what defines gender. Because there are more people speaking out for the fluidity of gender, it is becoming part of society. This independent and opinionated way of culture forming could be much more effective than any form of politics as it is coming from the people themselves.


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