chapter  19
16 Pages

Judith Butler, 'Gender Trouble, Feminist Theory and Psychoanalytic Discourse' (1990)

Within the terms of feminist theory, it has been quite important to refer to the category of “women” and to know what it is we mean. We tend to agree that women have been written out of the histories of culture and literature that men have written, that women have been silenced or distorted in the texts of philosophy, biology, and physics, and that there is a group of embodied beings socially positioned as “women” who now, under the name of feminism, have something quite different to say. Yet, this question of being a woman is more difficult than it perhaps originally appeared, for we refer not only to women as a social category but also as a felt sense of self, a culturally conditioned or constructed subjective identity. The descriptions of women’s oppression, their historical situation or cultural perspective has seemed, to some, to require that women themselves will not only recognize the rightness of feminist claims made in their behalf, but that, together, they will discover a common identity, whether in their relational attitudes, in their embodied resistance to abstract and objectifying modes of thought and experience, their felt sense of their bodies, their capacity for maternal identification or maternal thinking, the

nonlinear directionality of their pleasures or the elliptical and plurivocal possibilities of their writing.