Judith Butler and the deconstruction of reality
This chapter presents Judith Butler's conceptualization of, in turn, sex and gender, sexuality and power. As Barbara Epstein notes, Butler's idea that the reality of sexed bodies is discursively produced arguably 'strains belief'. While traditionally feminist theory has dealt with the systematic ways in which men are empowered and women disempowered, Butler and the queer-theoretical paradigm she represents shifts focus to how men and women are themselves produced as intelligible identities. A main concern of Butler's is the intimate connection between the performative effects of sex/gender and the production of the subject as such. In Butler's framework the construction of sex and gender is intrinsically tied up with the discursive production of sexuality, governed by the heterosexual imperative. A central purpose of Butler's theoretical project is to offer a radical challenge to the pervasive liberal paradigm that holds power to work only externally and constrainingly upon an essentially autonomous and self-directed subject.