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May 30th, 2015

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02:08 am - Judith Butler discusses trans issues
I've never read more than quotes and excerpts by feminist theorist Judith Butler, but I have long known that she's one of the more influential feminist authors, especially among second wave feminists.

Given the often quite serious limitations of second wave feminism when dealing with transsexuals and genderqueer people, I was exceedingly pleased to see this short interview with Judith Butler on the topic of transsexuality and anti-trans feminists Two quotes in particular deeply impressed me.

JB: I have never agreed with Sheila Jeffreys or Janice Raymond (two notable anti-trans feminists), and for many years have been on quite the contrasting side of feminist debates. She appoints herself to the position of judge, and she offers a kind of feminist policing of trans lives and trans choices. I oppose this kind of prescriptivism, which seems me to aspire to a kind of feminist tyranny.

If she makes use of social construction as a theory to support her view, she very badly misunderstands its terms. In her view, a trans person is “constructed” by a medical discourse and therefore is the victim of a social construct. But this idea of social constructs does not acknowledge that all of us, as bodies, are in the active position of figuring out how to live with and against the constructions – or norms – that help to form us. We form ourselves within the vocabularies that we did not choose, and sometimes we have to reject those vocabularies, or actively develop new ones. For instance, gender assignment is a “construction” and yet many genderqueer and trans people refuse those assignments in part or in full. That refusal opens the way for a more radical form of self-determination, one that happens in solidarity with others who are undergoing a similar struggle.

One problem with that view of social construction is that it suggests that what trans people feel about what their gender is, and should be, is itself “constructed” and, therefore, not real. And then the feminist police comes along to expose the construction and dispute a trans person’s sense of their lived reality. I oppose this use of social construction absolutely, and consider it to be a false, misleading, and oppressive use of the theory.

Also, this quote about the lack of necessity of any alleged "proof" beyond individual choice and preference:

My sense is that we may not need the language of innateness or genetics to understand that we are all ethically bound to recognize another person’s declared or enacted sense of sex and/or gender. We do not have to agree upon the “origins” of that sense of self to agree that it is ethically obligatory to support and recognize sexed and gendered modes of being that are crucial to a person’s well-being.

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Date:May 30th, 2015 08:05 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't classify Judith Butler as a second wave feminist at all. I'd say that she may have kind of invented the third wave.

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