Re: Judith Butler

>Judith Butler would vehemently disagree with you that sexuality occurs at the
>jucture of biology and social construction. The radicallness of Butler's
>account, is that sex is in no way biologically motivated. If it were, one
>has some grounds to label lesbians, gays, as abnormal, based upon thier
>bilogocal make-up, which because of X and Y chromosomes, dictates that
>females should behave like females and males should behave as males in
>the realm of sexuality. Butler's point, borrowed from Foucualt, is that we
>are to imagine sex as devoid of biological determiantions, to view it
>entirely as a social construction. In such a way, one's sex can not
>be construed as noraml or abnormal, it simply is what it is.

I can't follow this at all. Why can't a "social construction" be "normal"
or "abnormal"? I think we would all agree that being "the King" of a given
monarchical society is purely a "social construction" - I think we would
also all agree that it is a pretty "abnormal" state in which to find
oneself. To define sexuality as a (purely) "social construction" doesn't in
any way get us past the bind of normalcy/abnormalcy. If you want to burn
gays at the stake, you'll be just as happy to do it because their sexuality
is a "deviant social construct" as you will if it is "biologically aberrant".
The unstated premise of the argument above is that "what is biologically
normal must be discouraged, and what is biologically abnormal must be
discouraged." If we accept this premise, and if we accept that homosexuality
is "abnormal" (in the sense of statistical frequency) and if we don't think
homosexuality should be socially stigmatized, then we have to argue against
any form of biological determinism in sexual preference. I can see that:
what I can't see is why anybody but a cretin would ever accept the premise.
I'm over 1.9 metres tall. By any standards that is "biologically abnormal."
Clearly it is also to some extent "biologically determined" (at least, the
genetic *potential* for the phylogenetic *expression* . . .). Now it so
happens that in our culture there is no "social construction" which
stigmatizes tallness (though it isn't hard to imagine one - there have been
numerous cultures in which such apparently harmless - and "biologically
determined" - qualities as left-handedness, identical twinnedness, having a
hare-lip etc. are socially stigmatized - even to the extent of the
"afflicted" babies being put to death). If there *was* such a "social
construction" - and if the rationalization of that construction was that
extreme height was "biologically abnormal" and must therefore be discouraged
- I doubt I would think it a particularly clever piece of political rhetoric
to argue that height was purely a "social construction" and had no
"biological component". I'd prefer to attack the rationalization in order to
try to alter the "social construction", rather than weaken my own ground by
trying to defend a patently absurd hypothesis.

> Such a notion may
>appear ridiculous to you, since it avoids our obviously biological
>nature as organisms (we are clearly creatures composed of genes, etc.), but
it is what Butler would like you to imagine
>when you conceive of sexuality, and when you attempt to critique
>contempoary controls and limitations on human sexuality. It is a theoretical
>vantage point from which to conceive of sexuality, perhaps not to be taken
>literally, but to be taken quite seriously in the realm of the political.

I think that entertaining political fictions you *know* to be fictions is
unlikely to be politically effective.

Hugh Roberts

  • Re: Judith Butler
    • From: Gregory A. Coolidge
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