Saturday, November 26, 2011

Judith Butler and Juridical Systems of Power

Juridical Systems of Power

- “…produce the subjects they subsequently come to represent,” (2)

- Appear to regulate political life in purely negative terms (2-3)


§ Limitation

§ Prohibition

§ Regulation

§ Control

§ Protection

...of the individual via choice


Following Foucault’s analysis of juridical systems of power, it seems that Butler is pointing out that in order to emancipate “woman” from the patriarchal political system, we must define woman inside the very same system. It seems like she is making a point towards readability, in that in order to make a call for respect of whatever it is that is agreed upon to mean womanhood, it must be defined in terms that make it digestible in the current patriarchal system.


This reminds me of the current gay-marriage debate. Many gay rights activists have chosen marriage as a platform to represent equality because many gay couples have been prevented from living the lives they want. By this I mean people want to be able to visit their partner in the hospital, want to be able to share their partner’s last name, and want to be given the same tax breaks as heterosexual couples. The problem with this logic, as I think Butler might agree (although I don’t know for sure) is that requires gay couples to define themselves in terms of traditional, hegemonic straight culture. This becomes problematic because it does not address the root of the problem, in that people should be able to live their lives the way they see best, which involves the constructing of one’s family. Gay marriage does not help the straight/gay/queer etc. person that does not live a lifestyle that neatly conforms to the current heteronormative one prescribed to us.


I think this relates to Butler because I think she is noting the problem of having a singular subject (woman) be what feminism represents. This requires then that any female-bodied person be readable to the world in a particular way. I think she is pointing out that feminism, at the time she is writing, was far too uniform in how it chose to represent women. Butler posits that, “If one ‘is’ a woman, that is surely not all one is; the term fails to be exhaustive… because gender is not always constituted coherently or consistently in different historical contexts, and because gender intersects with racial, class, ethnic, sexual, and regional modalitites of discursively constituted identities,” (4). Here Butler incorporates what black feminists have been proclaiming for decades: identity is not singular and not uniform. While intersectionality as a feminist approach is not explicitly named here, it is certainly being alluded to. If intersectionality is not Butler’s point, I certainly think it is an axiom she builds upon throughout her paper.

1 comment:

  1. The issue of gay marriage is very much a polarizing issue even within the gay community. The emphasis on gay marriage is arguably being pushed as an agenda by middle-to-upper-class gay rights activists and it is also argued that those are the people that would stand to benefit from legalized gay marriage, should it come to pass. It is very true that many see this as a ploy of restricting queer people into a hetersoxual-normative box by declaring that 'we are just like everyone else.' The problem with this is that not everyone wants to be like everyone else. Not everyone wants to fit into the simple categories that get laid out as a guide to how people 'should' live. Many queer people argue that marriage is a straight institution and trying to affix it to the gay community is just another way of trying to conform the abnormal to the normal.
    Gay marriage surely is an important issue, at least in regard to what you mentioned: hospital vistation, shared recognition of a relationship status, and the same tax breaks heterosexual couples recieve; however, some consider it to be the wrong issue to be pushing. ENDA seems much more important, affecting a wider sweep of those in the LGBT community (although the transgendered community was thrown under the bus the last time ENDA was being speculated) than the push for gay marriage does. Admitedly, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which I was an adamant oponent to, falls under the same category as gay marriage. Both only affect certain people in the gay community (not every gay person wants to get married and not every gay person serves in the military) wheras something like ENDA has the possibility to impact more than just a select few.
    Not all women tote the same ideal of feminism. Not all homosexuals tote the same ideal focus of activisim. It is polarizing indeed.

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