‘Gender and Identity as theoretical concepts’ “The term gender is part of the attempt by contemporary feminists to stake claim to certain definitional ground, to insist on the inadequacy of existing bodies of theory for explaining persistent inequalities between women and men”. (Joan W. Scott, Gender: A useful category of historical analysis)
Feminist politics has enabled the rethinking of the previously taken –for-granted understandings of gender and its place in the social and the symbolic world. The interventions in thinking about gender have overturned previous certainties about the fixed order and meanings of gender. But before that we need to ask some crucial questions to lay out the field which later in the paper will be questioned, challenged and expanded. What is gender? What is identity? What helps in its formation? How does gender contributes to the identity formation? Why do we need identity? Why do people see themselves in terms of gender identity? Why the idea of masculinity and femininity is central to the self? These are some important questions that the title of the paper encapsulates. The difficulties with the application of the concept ‘gender’ are theoretical and political at the same time. It creates a boundary that hinders in the way of its proper utilization. Theory posits certain beliefs including gender roles that not notify women and men, how they behave, but rather sets certain code of conduct that tells them how should the behave. The foundation of the research paper (gender and identity as theoretical concepts) and the perception discussed is based on the pillars of Joan W. Scott’ essays ‘Gender: A useful category of Historical analysis’, Denise Riley’s, “Does sex have a history”, Susie Tharu and Tejaswini Niranjana’s, “problem for a contemporary theory of gender” and Judith Butler’s, ‘subjects of sex/gender/desire’. The premises laid by them are taken into consideration, in order to explore the ‘intersectionality of gender and identity’. These essays raise the argument of identity of ‘woman, which has often been accepted and rejected by feminist theorist. The rejection or sometimes even replacement of the term ‘woman’ creates the situation of identity crisis. However gender remains the centre of focus. Gender is a complex term as it simply does not mean masculinity and femininity. Certain difficulties in the application of the concept ‘gender’ in feminist politics create hindrances in its proper utilization. This paper tries to show the theoretical plurality and diversity of gender and also demonstrates the political thinking. The paper attempts to focus the research on the theories that have developed around women and more recently gender as encompassing women and men in relation to each other. The paper starts with the arguments laid by Butler and further shows how these conceptions that Butler refuses is being used in feminist politics. She opens up with the claim stating that feminist theories, without posing any question have assumed that there is an already existing identity called ‘women’. We cannot consider ‘women’ as a ‘fixed homogenous category’ without taking into account the differences. The other argument that she raises is that, gender and sex are two different concepts. They should not be used as the synonym of each other. They need to be looked in a new way as opposed to masculine/feminine gender binary. Gender roles are maintained because of the regular performance. Deconstruction of gender will open up new possibilities. Gender is not the only identity but it is rather a performance i.e. how we perform our roles. She critiques the binary in every possible sense and opposes the idea of fitting individuals into the two categories of gender. Scott in her essay takes forward her imposition of problem with the term ‘women’. She proposes the use of gender as a category of analysis. She...
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