“One of the interpretations that has been made of Gender Trouble is that there is no sex, there is only gender, and gender is performative.” (Judith Butler interview 1993)
When approaching and investigating the discourse of gender roles, gender performance and gender trouble one will find that there have been different approaches over the centuries and that the connection made between sex and gender is one of change and development. The questions that are going to be answered in the following essay will concern some of those approaches, it will examine how gender roles are established and how they differ depending on time and culture.
According to Clarke and Lawson (1985) the relationship between sex and gender is certainly a difficult one as early research concentrated on biological differences and assumed that gender difference is natural meaning that biology equals destiny.
Mangan (2003) examines the same problem saying that the distinction between sex and gender leads to the result of sex being a description based on biological sciences and gender one based on social sciences which means that sex puts one into a biological category linked to having certain reproductive organs, having or not having the ability to give birth whereas gender refers to one’s social roles and behaviour that is considered male or female. He differentiates between the essentialist and the non-essentialist approach. Hereby the essentialists assume that gender is largely linked to biological traits of the sexes such as differences in physical development, brain functions and hormones. Which leads to female and male characteristics attributed with roles adapted to their biological and physical capabilities.
However, he continues that non-essentialists approaches base gender on the meaning given to them by different cultures, that it is the relationship between the categories of men and women and that this meaning differs from society to society. To give an
Bibliography: • Brod, H. (ed.)(1987), The Making of Masculinities, Allan and Unwin: London • Burr, V • Butler, J. (1995), Melancholy gender-refused identification in Dimen, M and Goldner, V. (2002), Gender in Psychoanalytic Space, Other Press LLC: New York • Butler, J • Clarke, L. and Lawson, T. (1995), Gender – An Introduction, University Tutorial Press: Slough • Cleaver, F • Mangan, M. (2003), Staging Masculinities, Palgrave Macmillan: New York • Shilling, C