Gender Trouble; Subjects of sex,
gender & desire
A presentation by Katie McDonnell
‘Women’ as the subject of feminism.
- Many theories suggest there is an existing identity understood through the
category of women, however representation within a political process seeks to
extend visibility and legitimacy to women as political subjects, and developing a
language that represents women is critical to this.
- The subject of women is no longer understood in clear terms, therefore the
qualifications of being a subject must be met before representation can be
extended to each woman.
- Critics would argue that the category of women is produced and restrained by the
power structures in which emancipation in sought.
- Political problem: the assumption that ‘women’ denotes a common identity.
Gender is not always constituted consistently in different historical contexts,
whilst also linking to class, race, sexual and regional identities.
- Therefore, it is impossible to separate the term of gender from both
the political and cultural intersections in which it is produced.
- It has been suggested that there is a universal patriarchy, and as a
result of this there is a political assumption that feminism has a
universal basis, and is cross cultural, seeing the oppression of women
as a singular form in the hegemonic structures in society.
- Butler suggests that the presumed universality of the subject of
feminism is undermined by the constraints of the representational
discourse in which it functions.
Debates on shared conception of women…
- Is there some commonality among women that pre-exists their
oppression? Or do women have a bond shared by virtue of their
- Are there specifics to women’s cultures that is independent to their
subordination by masculine cultures? Or are the specifics of women’s
practises always specified by the more dominant cultural formation?
- Is there a region of the specifically feminine, one that is unmarked by
- It is argued that the identity of the feminist subject should not be the
foundation of feminist politics, if the formation of this subject takes
place within a field of power regularly buried by that assertion of
- It could be that this idea of representation of women is a paradox
which will only make sense for feminism when the subject of women
is nowhere presumed.
- Overall, it is clear that the idea of ‘women’ cannot just be presumed
according to a representation as it differs cross culturally.
- Also, in most cases, the term women and femininity are highly due to
the effects patriarchy and the dominant culture, meaning that the
definition of ‘women’ is clearly linked to hegemony n society.