chapter  29
7 Pages

Judith Butler: Gender Performativity and Heterosexual Hegemony

WithPauline Maclaran

American philosopher and literary theorist, Judith Butler is one of the leading thinkers in gender studies and her theories of gendered and sexed identity have had a long-lasting influence on this field and beyond. Of Hungarian and Russian Jewish descent – the Nazis killed most members of her maternal grandmother's family – Butler was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, attending Hebrew school where she was taught Jewish ethics and introduced to philosophy. In terms of Butler's intellectual lineage, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida contribute the discursive and socially constructed nature of the gendered and sexualized subject. Feminist thought also plays a crucial role in Butler's work and particularly the idea of "woman" as a term-in-process. Heteronormativity can of course be disrupted and Butler emphasizes how gender and sex do not have to match. Butler singles out the drag queen, citing the disruptive potential of his gender parody as a way to resist existing power structures and normative cultural expectations.