"Femininity is thus not the product of a choice, but the forcible citation of a norm, one whose complex historicity is inassociable from relations of discipline, regulation, punishment” (1993, Butler, 232)
Butlers theory addresses the problem of society controlling women in regard to how they perceive gender. Butler explores how women are taught to value the "regulatory schemas” “ which produce and vanquish bodies that matter" (1993, 14). Butler explores the way women undergo conditioning within society in search of a futile everchanging perfection. This essay will address a my own awareness, as a woman, of my external appearance as “Gender “ becomes an “ impersonation “ (1993, Butler) in relation to its biological definition.
The constant obsession and infatuation that women partake in in regard to their appearance and their responsibilities, indicates that society controls and manipulates the ideal gender identity. Butler’s theory on gender and performativity, explores how women desire to fit into the requested stereotypes dictated by society, and are willing to overrule their own self belief and behaviour in favour of these ideals.
There is an unspoken ‘imitation’ in regard to what gender is. Butler (1993) states “... that gender is a choice, or that gender is a role, or that gender is a construction that one puts on, as one puts on clothes in the morning, that there is a 'one' who is prior to this gender, a one who goes to the wardrobe of gender and decides with deliberation which gender it will be today.” The statement indicates that gender is created through the influence of societies, culture, media, religion, community and peers. It speaks of women who strive to achieve ‘coherent identification’ which is ‘cultivated, policed, and enforced’ (Butler , 1993). Butler also states that those who 'violate' 'the gender norm have to be punished, usually through shame” (interview with Liz Kotz in Artforum, 2002) which explains that if the stereotype is not met, within society's gender construction requirements, the women are instantly marginalised. This demand for equalisation forces woman to invest in gender norms,gaining society's recognition and approval in order to allow her to reinforce her own self affirmation.
There is a strong correlation between Butler’s theory on gender and performativity and my intervention.
In my intervention, when I adopted the identity of a woman with breast cancer, I opposed the “pre-discursive,” (Butler, 1990) rigid constructs found in the norms and ideals (according to society) that woman are meant to adopt. An awareness of my own self and behaviour became evident as society began to react to my change in being and I was forced to consider the true meaning of my identity.
Society is given power in creating the identity traits to which each gender should adhere to. However in my intervention, where I took on the role of battling cancer, society was reminded that it cannot control or escape the unpredictability of death . This created discomfort for society's individuals because the feeling of being exposed to someone who at any moment was to succumb to death, was a harsh reminder of the fate that they, and every one around them would one day have to succumb to too.
I therefore realised a person suffering from an illness in society would quite often be rejected in some way. Although any ill person may be disempowered physically, lacking the emotional capability to be a threat, the disease itself is threatening and is regarded as ‘contagious’ as the cause is incurable , which is why ultimately I as a person was regarded with wary disdain and avoided.This is because having an illness threatens a society that wishes to be (seen as) indestructible. It reminds society of its overall inability to fully control all aspects of the living. Illness is therefore seen as a threat towards society's desire to be strong. One unhealthy person could contaminate...
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