Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Thinking Gender Series)

by Judith Butler

Paperback, 1989


Checked out


Routledge (1989), Paperback, 192 pages


Since its publication in 1990, Gender Troublehas become one of the key works of contemporary feminist theory, and an essential work for anyone interested in the study of gender, queer theory, or the politics of sexuality in culture.

User reviews

LibraryThing member srubinstein
If [Gender Trouble] is the wave of feminism for today, woe is me. I have rarely read a book so unintelligible. I resolutely put it aside as the worse case of deconstructionalism or post modernism I have encountered. If, however, the reader is enamored of decoding signifiers and translating jargon, and I respect those who devote their reading time to this project, this would be a prime text.… (more)
LibraryThing member noonaut
The best argument for (relatively) contemporary Continental Philosophy and Feminism being senseless, masturbatory pap is this book.

The vast majority of it is dedicated to an exegesis of exegeses of Freudian and Lacanian theories of gender formation; perhaps, at most, a page or two's worth, total says something interesting about gender in an useful context.

An exemplar of academic insularity and the peacock's tail effect at their finest.
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LibraryThing member aulsmith
This book, which I unfortunately had to read twice, says that gender doesn't really exist; it is merely a social construction. If you don't know that already, you might give this book a skim, though it is really poorly written and often self-contradictory. However, if you understand that, and want to to move on in some direction, there's nothing here to grab onto. Just as an example of the the kind of morass this book leads you into: If there is no gender, than there is no such thing as homosexuality or heterosexuality, since those labels are applied to people based on the gender of their love object. On one level, I can go along with that. But here's the problem: I am attracted to humans with facial hair and penises and so are my gay male friends. But I'm perceived by the world as a heterosexual woman and can pursue my interests without societal approbation or interference. My gay friends can not. In Butler's world this has no meaning (except for an appreciation of the different gender performances each of us puts on). The book makes no acknowledgment of this oppression, nor does it provide a theoretical base to work from if you're going to do anything about it.… (more)
LibraryThing member sparemethecensor
My academic and professional background is in public policy/program evaluation, so I have some academic theory under my belt from social science courses, but it's in political science and sociology, not gender studies. As a result, there are some parts of Gender Trouble I struggled with as I have never read Foucault, Zizek, and other "pure" theorists. There are passages I had to reread to understand. I'm getting the big picture takeaways, though. I'll also note that in my version, which is a recent revised edition, Butler's own introduction notes critiques of the book that have helped me understand it -- mostly regarding the evolving views of gender that young third-wavers interested in intersectionality (which is where I count myself) might better connect with.… (more)
LibraryThing member LizaHa
Ha! I feel like I've been reluctantly dragging my feet towards this book for years. I approached it with a heavy heart and a sense of duty. Having gotten the impression that it had destroyed everything I loved (or tried), I thought I had an obligation to hold my nose and research the enemy. I thought it would be pedantic, humorless and polemical. I never thought it would be so much fun! The night I started it I was up until three in the morning reading it, then started again as soon as I woke up and was late to work. Turns out she has a sense of humor AND a sense of style. I felt like I had been living in the joke for years and now here was the punchline. But, sadly, for all the fun, I still didn't leave the book fully convinced.

For one thing, it is so funny to start here, without having read, oh, basically any Derrida, Lacan or Foucault, for starters, and only the littlest bit of Freud. Now that I've gotten a glimpse of all the fun they've been having I'm inclined to check them out as well, and when I do, it will already be through Gender Trouble. So, bam, point for Judith Butler! Way to turn the discourse in your favor. Oh, but that was also part of what raised my suspicion, because I got the impression that she was playing pretty fast and loose, and while running a whirl of words displacing received ideas of meaning and authority, she was also consolidating her own authoritative power! Apparently in spite of herself, but how could that be read other than a little disingenuously? At one of my favorite points, referring to an argument that she made she starts "I have argued" and then tries to excuse this seeming exertion of the subjective self with the following parenthetical: "('I' deploy the grammar that governs the genre of the philosophical conclusion, but note that it is the grammar itself that deploys and enables this 'I,' even as the 'I' that insists itself here repeats, redeploys, and-as the critics will determine-contests the philosophical grammar by which it is both enabled and restricted.)..." Come on, really? Really?? To me this gives a wonderful sort of characterization, like something someone would say in a novel. I love the absurdity and how, it is in trying to disavow her own self-hood that she gives such a human sense of it in the anxiety and frustration of the tone!

So here is the other thing: I am so all for her project to the extent that her project is to expand "the performative possibilities for proliferating gender configurations outside the restricting frames of masculinist domination and compulsory heterosexuality." Subversive bodliy acts sure are fun, aren't they? But in order to do that is it really necessary to dismiss any notion of interiority or a pre-discursive or non-discursive self? I hope not, because I'm fond of it. Here is a quote from a poem I just read by Suzanne Gardinier: "If not this what are you touching then/Inside me all night If not my soul."

Particularly when she goes to Nietzsche, I'm troubled: "The challenge for rethinking gender categories outside of the metaphysics of substance will have to consider the relevance of Nietzsche's claim in On the Genealogy of Morals that 'there is no "being" behind doing, effecting, becoming;
"the doer" is merely a fiction added to the deed-the deed is everything.' In an application that Nietzsche himself would not have anticipated or condoned, we might state as a corollary: There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very 'expressions' that are said to be its results." If one is really to take as an assumption that there is no being, the corollary here seems entirely superfluous. Of course that being has no gender if it doesn't exist! It is like the house has already been knocked down and we are swinging at the empty air. Rather than getting more radical, this seems to be working backwards.

There is something suspect about the way in which she is seeming to reject the notion of authenticity, but at the same time seems to be operating under the assumption that a more liberated (and therefore more authentic!) form of gender understanding would be possible. She surely succumbs to her own romanticisms, and I'm glad she does, but I just wish she would be more out with it. I found something sweet in this: "Genders can be neither true nor false, neither real nor apparent, neither original nor derived. As credible bearers of those attributes, however, gender can also be rendered thoroughly and radically incredible."

I'm glad this book exists. Reading it I really was struck by how much it's shaped the discourse I've been raised in, and to my advantage. I was glad that it played more than I expected, but I wish it had played more than it did because what else is the point of living in a phantasm?
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LibraryThing member KendraFitz
An interesting take on what it means to be a feminist.
LibraryThing member brleach
Still groundbreaking, nearly 25 years after its first publication.

Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 6 x 0.5 inches


0415900433 / 9780415900430
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