- Gender and Sexuality (ISSN:18804764)
- no.12, pp.183-204, 2017-03-31
Gender performativity is the most famous and influential theory in Judith Butler. It questioned the sex/ gender distinction which some feminists took for granted at that time when Gender Trouble (1990) was published. This distinction regarded sex as the natural category on the one hand, gender as the cultural expression of sex on the other hand. It means naturalizing the dualistic representation of gender. On the contrary, Butler's performative theory suggested that sex is not a natural category, but is a fiction which is constructed by repeating gender performances. Through denaturalizing gender, her theory criticizes the representation of gender/ sexual minorities as "unnatural" and "abnormal," and seeks to theorize the way to make their survival possible. This paper examines how gender performativity was theorized from the 1980s to Gender Trouble. Interestingly, her performative theory cannot be reduced to speech act theory, but it was also formed in relation to other theories; feminist/ queer theory and performance theory. Indeed, in her article "Performative Act and Gender Constitution" (1988) in which she referred to "performative" at first, Butler started from Simone de Beauvoir's text, The Second Sex, and then reread Beauvoir's idea of "gender as act" as "social performance" in performance theory. Moreover, she extended Beauvoir's argument of denaturalizing sex, referring to Gayle Rubin's study of kinship, Monique Wittig's theory of sex, and Esther Newton's analysis of Drag Queen. Thus, her performative theory is found not only in the context of speech act theory, but also in contexts of feminist/ queer theory and performance theory. From this genealogical perspective, this article seeks to rethink gender performativity.