InterminableAnalysis t1_j81msve wrote

I apologize in advance for this sounding sarcastic, but I'm really not sure what it is you think Butler is talking about. Butler isn't talking about how physical traits make certain people more adapted to do certain tasks, so I'm not sure how you're addressing their arguments.

>It is very much the same as how someone with bigger muscle mass will end up lifting the heavy things and the short person will crawl into difficult to get into spaces. There is nothing of a performance in any sense of the word, merely people doing what they are naturally good at.

Note that Butler doesn't use the word performance, and this is important. "Performative" refers to an act which produces a series of effects. In a way, a person lifting a box is a performative act, but it is not necessarily a performance. And Butler doesn't argue that people are performing their gender, but that gender is constituted on performative acts that are essentially non-private.

>what Butler sees may be largely performative, but it is not entirely and solely performative, which is an incredibly difficult kind of case (the "all" structure of her argument, which I think may just be to seem controversial. She may not even truly believe it) to make for even the most modest of claims.

Note that Butler does in fact believe that this performative structure is pervasive, but is also arguing this on the basis of a particular cultural phenomenon, not an all-encompassing concept of gender. The point is that gender identity, as a classification, is essentially a public thing and so is something imposed on people, but not simply or solely imposed, as it is possible to break away from cultural conventions with whatever limited success.

I just want to emphasize two points, since I've been frequently recalling them in this thread and it seems clear that many commenters here are attributing positions to Butler that Butler does not in fact hold:

  1. Butler is talking about identity, not some trivial form of classification that biologists (for example) construct in order to indifferently talk about certain things. Butler doesn't deny that bodies come with certain physical traits and properties and that these physical traits and properties effect how people are perceived, how they act, etc. What Butler is saying is that, insofar as this physical dimension contributes to an understanding of gender/sex identities, it is a social construction (= decided on in a public context, it does not mean that these classifications are simply fake). But identity is established socially, so that it moves into the everyday (into relations with family, coworkers, friends, strangers). Any analysis of gender that ignores the various ways that it is constituted is not a good analysis, and insofar as scientists are also people living in a society, they also have a pre-scientific understanding of gender which informs their inquiry.

  2. Performativity is not performance. Butler is not saying that we go out every day and simply act out our gender as though it were a garb one wears or a role one plays on a stage. The term "performative" comes from linguistics and denotes a speech act which, instead of merely describing something, creates an effect. "Open the door" is a performative utterance. On this basis, Butler proposes that gender is a performative phenomenon since, as social system of classification, it is constituted and established in various acts (not only linguistic) which solidify a conceptual determination as if it were an inherent identity (e.g., there is a difference between saying "this person has manly features" and "this person is a man inherently, and expresses manly features due to that fact").


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7wie4q wrote

>(the major feminist criticism of her work comes from how to deal with trans people, as her model kinda ignores them)

I just want to add a small detail to this: Butler has been explicit about their approach here. The point of the theory of performativity was to show how the (let's say) standard model of sex/gender classification fails to take into account the various other possibilities that are possible (i.e., trans identities).


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7weqgn wrote

The article really doesn't put a good segue on this point so I can see why it seems jumbled. I'll give a shot at an explanation that will hopefully be a little clearer and more accurate

Butler approaches this problem of grievable life on the basis of performativity, not gender, but the approach has to do with their claim about how gender is maintained and produced as a system of classification of identities. Through a structure of repetitive acts that are socially established from many directions, some people are not really acknowledged as fully people, or as having the full value of humanity that allows their loss to be grievable. So the theory of performativity applies equally to how we view people as people (with all the ethical and axiological connotations this concept holds), and not just as man, woman, etc.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7viq5d wrote

>Sex is a classification because it is part of material, empirical reality

There is no such thing as a classification outside of the abilities of a sense-making being. It doesn't mean that, if humans don't exist then there are no such things as, say, apples. What it means is that a classification is explicitly the work of sense-making beings (e.g. humans).

>That's like saying that because some people have a birth defect that gives them six fingers on each hand, that humans as a species don't have five fingers on each hand.

No, the appropriate analogy would be to question "birth defects". What makes a person with six fingers "defective"? Establishing a norm requires looking at variation and deciding what the norm is for. If the norm just means "statistical average", then that's fine, but it doesn't mean that a person with six fingers doesn't have a hand, it just means that it's a hand differently composed than the statistical average. Intersex classification is differently composed from the statistical average of male/female and so cannot be subsumed as either one.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7vi3aa wrote

>What gives Judith butler the authority to claim the entire human species is performing their gender?

Butler talks about a specific cultural phenomenon of gender as it's established on performative acts, not on performance. The two terms are different. Also, it's clear that you're trying to fault Butler with the charge of being presumptuous, but that's not an objection to the content of their argument, so I'll leave it there.

>She also claims biological sex is not "real," and by real, I mean that she is implying that humanity is separate from mammals, which is bizarre

Butler doesn't do this. The argument about biological sex is that it's a social classification (a group of scientists deciding on a definition is social classification), but that doesn't mean there's no reality behind it.

>Her writing style is filled with prose, postmodernism jargon and undefined terms.

Butler explains the terms they use for their own arguments, but not the ones they borrow from other authors/discourses. Also, postmodernism isn't really a thing in philosophy, so there's no "postmodernism jargon".

>Her response was to ignore this question and go on to talk poetically about the social construct of biological sex. All claims have a source if you want them.

I already know about such claims. Butler has emphasized many times that pregnancy isn't a defining characteristic of a woman, since there are women who can't give birth (which obviously extends to females, if we want to frame it that way), so responding with a point about the social construction of sex is actually an appropriate and consistent response.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7v93fz wrote

>Saying that "it makes no sense to talk about biological sex existing outside of its social meaning" is scientific denialism and total bullshit

Nope. Sex is a social classification. It doesn't mean that the things we use to make the classification don't exist, just that the way they become established as part of a classification is a social effort.

>Every mammal has two sexes with different behaviors in each sex that evolved over time for the purpose of efficient reproduction.

Even basic biology admits of more than 2 sexes. Intersex classification has been talked to death. Claiming that there are only two sexes: A) misses the point of this discussion, and B) is itself science denial.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7v38yr wrote

The issue is that the establishment of the concept of biological sex is not divorced from social meanings, so that any physical trait as signifying a sex characteristic is socially established (what counts as a sex characteristic? Why? Who decides, and on what basis?)

Some people take this to mean that Butler thinks that hormones and such aren't real or have no effect on bodies, but all it means is that sex is a social classification and so established as meaningful socially


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7ui0ky wrote

I can see why they say that, it's just not right. Take, for example, what Judith Butler says in an interview with the guardian: "Perhaps we should think of gender as something that is imposed at birth, through sex assignment and all the cultural assumptions that usually go along with that. Yet gender is also what is made along the way – we can take over the power of assignment, make it into self-assignment, which can include sex reassignment at a legal and medical level."

There is no presumption here that the body is merely a blank surface for signification to come onto after the fact. I insist on the fact that Butler ties their theory of performativity precisely to already-established conventions, but says that these conventions are not fully constraining. I mean, in a certain sense that even seems to be a truism. Cultural conventions have an impact but are not immutable.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7ug43k wrote

>her philosophy often was more descriptive and and deconstructionist

Yeah that's roughly my understanding as well. I don't really remember Butler saying anything along the lines of "you should all act your gender like this!", though there is a kind of prescriptivism at the heart of any descriptive enterprise (i.e., what I'm describing is true and should be seen as such, or something like this).

>About how we can look individuals that don’t act in the binary and try understand their gender role

Not only that, but also about how to understand oneself when one is unable to identify with some such classification. It really is a work that moves in the direction of some limited kind of liberation.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7udw0a wrote

>Her logic is like walking in a tight rope, it has to be perfectly balanced otherwise you fall off and miss the point

I think you're right about that, and I think that's a general point about following philosophical arguments. But what's wild to me is that we literally have an interview linked and people are still here saying that Butler claims X when that position is either not at all present, or is clarified in the interview -- the one linked!!

I tend to hold to this general rule: r/badphilosophy brings us the gems, but the worst philosophy takes are overwhelmingly in the comments section of this sub.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7u2w6k wrote

>This is clearly the realm of science which is the best means for figuring out reality

It's not, it's in the realm of ontology, which is a category of philosophy.

>Good news: I'm pretty sure her vague theories are also 100% unfalsifiable, so there will NEVER be a study which contradicts it.

They are definitely falsifiable, but you can't just do experiments do falsify them. They are able to be falsified on exactly the basis that philosopher critics of Butler's work take: that the phenomena Butler describes aren't played out in exactly the way they claim, or that Butler's reasoning ignores certain crucial aspects or phenomena that contradict their conclusions, etc.

>So rejects all known facts, replacing them with vague unfalsifiable theories, and does zero experimentation.

Notably, Butler doesn't "reject all known facts", what Butler rejects is a certain notion of gender as inhering in the identity of a person, and supports their claim with a consideration of cultural practices in which the understanding and meaning of gender is produced.

>She 100% implies it, or implies that biology is so small a role it can be ignored. Which is goofy nonsense. We know biology plays a MAJOR role in men and women. She separates sex and gender as wholy separate entirely to make "sex" as small a role as possible.

No, what Butler implies (in fact argues for, as do most other feminist philosophers of gender) is that biology does not determine one's gender (and also that the sex/gender distinction is itself unintelligible, as our scientific conception of sex is based off bodies we already categorize as "man" and "woman").

>If they want to be taken seriously, actually create testable hypotheses and test them!

Again, Butler isn't doing science and never claimed to. This work on gender is ontological and political.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7u1drj wrote

>Think: Butler never did a study and never thought about even testing her ideas. That's literally the bedrock of science!

I agree entirely, but there's a difference between denying science and writing a book that isn't even claiming to do science.

>But that would almost certainly mean that people like Butler would have to NOT make extremely big pronouncements about how the universe operates, and instead make smaller testable claims, then build up from there. And people like Butler don't want to do that. They want big theories of everything.

It should be noted that Butler's arguments on gender doesn't claim "this is necessarily what gender is". Butler rather approaches gender as a specific cultural and historical phenomenon, and talks about the conceptions of gender that we already have, however contingent they might be, and what it is about their production that causes them to arise with the particular ontological structure they have. That's why,

>The thesis is so goofy - saying that humans are blank slates

Butler does not claim this. A significant premise of Butler's thesis is that performativity only works by citing past cultural conventions, and that these conventions are not fully able to take account of all of the possible variations that, A)it can actually admit of, and B)can be produced outside of the possibilities it can admit of.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7u0ayo wrote

>because of some simple differences in men and women biologically, the greatest of which is chlidbirth, there has been a natural division of labour that's been present in nature since before we were even humans, and, over millenia that difference in division of labour has even caused us to evolve to have some biological differences

To be fair, Butler doesn't deny anything about the distribution of physical traits on bodies, but rather approaches the issue in terms of how an understanding and establishment of the concept of gender and sex are constituted within a culture.

>Yes, people do perform to societal expectations, but people also make choices that are practical, and while that's less dramatic and interesting, I think it's at least part of the truth of the matter.

The performative is not contrasted with the practical, and is also not equivalent to a performance. The operative word, "performative", comes from linguistics and denotes a speech act which, instead of describing something, instead causes an effect or makes some change in the world. An example Butler uses is that of a judge: a judge passes a sentence in a court of law by combining the authority given to them as having power over certain legal procedures with their linguistic capacity to communicate such a sentence, and thereby produces a performative utterance. But just as we wouldn't say that the judge thereby created their own authority or even the law, but are citing cultural conventions, so in the various acts constitutive of cultural conceptions of gender, one "cites" those conventions of gender. That's why, oddly enough, Butler's theory of performativity actually seems to agree with you when you say that we shouldn't go for the position that "it's all just performativity". The kind of freedom that Butler talks about in this regard is to realize that while we may be determined to some extent by our culture and its conventions, we aren't thereby fully determined.

>Overall I'm still quite amenable to the position that a significant amount of gendered behaviour is performative; I just think that saying that all of is is getting overly ambitious

I think the ambitiousness in Butler's work on gender has to do with its approach as, not just a sort of incremental/social theory of gender (which we can find similarly in de Beauvoir, for example), but its particular position on how various acts concerning an understanding and establishment of gender are necessarily tied to the past in a way in which gender, a social classification, comes to be seen as merely natural and original. Though I admit that some of the more mainstream misunderstandings of Butler's work are the overly ambitious kind that you mention.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7tz1gf wrote

Nope! It doesn't deny science, what it denies is a particular philosophical commitment within a particular scientific discourse, but not science at large. Moreover, it is in no way a form of gender creationism, since Butler's main point is that in gender performativity the structure of repetition of acts is based on prior conventions and understandings of gender.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7t47jm wrote

>there are behaviors (being heterosexual) and physical traits that naturally occur in the most naturally occurring genders/sexes.

The idea that there are naturally occurring genders/sexes (and so masculine/feminine hormones) is exactly what's being questioned in Butler's work.

>I also find it odd that the word gender has been usurped to be defined as how one identifies

It should be noted that this isn't how Butler understands gender, but is a more socially mainstream conception (one which has been noted in philosophy as admitting itself to circularity, and so not being a good definition of gender). Butler rather claims that gender is produced in a repetitive structure of acts which consolidate a certain type of understanding of bodies into a classification, which is then treated as merely reflecting a prior nature.

>But those are the performativities Butler spoke of.

Butler's theory of performativity doesn't have to do with gender roles in particular, but the way in which gender as a concept in a system of human classification is constructed. This includes layperson understandings as well as scientific discourses, legal discourses, political positions, medical discourses, etc.

>I know my argument is semantic, but I feel like there are better words to describe what we’re talking about. Butler chose to be They/Them because of her assertions that being called girl/boy is usurping the individual from generating their own identity

I don't think your argument is semantic, you seem to be bringing in points that are more substantial than how we should speak about things. Also, Butler says that they go by she/her and they/them, but prefer the latter because they never felt "at home" in the she/her. Butler is consistent with their theory of performativity on this count, as the theory doesn't claim that one should, or even can, generate their own identity. Rather the claim being made is that we are all determined to some extent by our culture and society, but not therein fully determined, and there is a relative space of freedom for self-creation, be it only partial.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7s319v wrote

I hear you, but I should make it clear that I'm not making any claims about Beyonce in particular, only reporting how intersectional analyses would approach the situation. The details are much more fine-grained in those analyses, and the authors performing them often have some other justificatory arguments, and that just won't all fit into a reddit comment.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j7ryr4n wrote

>never getting over the lost of a loved one

The point Butler is making is not about a person never healing. The argument is that if the person who is lost (say person A) is a part of the identity of the person who has lost (say person B) then person B undergoes a change in identity. You're right to say that healing is to be considered on an individual basis, but if a person loses any part of their identity then they are by definition no longer exactly the same person.

>Butler saying that gender is performative is kind of a scream; it’d be like me telling my doctor — “you’re not really a doctor, medicine is performative”. Of a prisoner. — you’re not really a prisoner — Incarceration is performative

Butler doesn't contrast reality and performativity. Their theory of performativity only contrasts a certain kind of reality (that of original and stable reality) to performativity. A closer analogy would be saying "you are not essentially a doctor, but have become one through your training".

>Finally if her theory of intersectionality means that Beyoncé lacks something I have because despite being fabulously wealthy Beyoncé also intersects with being black. — that’s a bunch of non-sense

Intersectionality generally analyzes the way that various social statuses come to affect the way people are seen and treated. You're right that Beyonce is wealthy, but intersectionality would precisely address her wealth. What kind of social privileges do people get for being wealthy? How are black people perceived? How are black, wealthy people perceived and treated? One major misunderstanding that people have about intersectional analyses is that they tend to think "privilege" means "a property which makes a person's life always easy and good", and really all it means is "the lack of some kind of social barrier or source of detrimental treatment", which may be rather trivial or may be very important, but is always to be analyzed contextually.


InterminableAnalysis t1_j4czh60 wrote

I think there's a good sense in which philosophy drives the gear for the explanation, in that the big bang theory eventually comes, at least partly, from a metaphysical consideration of the universe (e.g., importantly, a consideration of the nature of space).


InterminableAnalysis t1_j3xyoe9 wrote

This whole thread is basically an equivocation of the term "disinterested". I absolutely acknowledge the fact that knowledge, and the pursuit of knowledge (or truth, let's say), is always finite and situated within some given medium. But this thread seems to be taking "disinterested" to mean "absolutely without motivation", and taking "motivation" to mean "one's entirely subjective reason". There is of course a good sense in which we should be on guard against this kind of stuff, but I don't think it's at all as widespread in philosophy as this thread is making it out to be. It seems to me obvious enough that we must have our own commitments to what things like "truth", "knowledge", etc. mean in order for us to be able to pursue them, but I'm getting the impression that what this thread is devolving into is a discussion about how those interested in these kinds of pursuits are really just rationalizing their beliefs instead of presenting reasoned views that respond to other views in a critical way (and of course it's devolving into other things as well, good ol' r/philosophy for ya!).