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Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  12,335 ratings  ·  713 reviews
Since its publication in 1990, Gender Trouble has become one of the key works of contemporary feminist theory, and an essential work for anyone interested in the study of gender, queer theory, or the politics of sexuality in culture. This is the text where Judith Butler began to advance the ideas that would go on to take life as "performativity theory," as well as some of ...more
Paperback, Routledge Classics, 236 pages
Published 2006 by Routledge (first published 1989)
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Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, gender-stuff

Some very interesting ideas here imprisoned in a lot of opaque, tortuous sentences. Postmodern ‘academese’ remains the only major European language that I am completely incapable of understanding. I am also sick to death of seeing intelligent friends, both here and in real life, make apologetic comments about how they weren't quite up to the task of fully engaging with texts like this – as if it were their fault!

You know what? If a series of highly educated, intelligent and well-read adults do n
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Thrilling new vocabulary with which to alienate friends and offend family
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-theory
You know, the problem with troubling gender is that gender isn’t the only thing that is going to be troubled. When I was doing my first degree my lecturer in the editing subject said that you should pay attention to the things people generally skip over in books – the titles of chapters for one, but much more importantly, epigraphs. The example he gave was Watership Down, which he claimed that if you read all of at the start of each of the chapters and said rabbits a couple of times you could pl ...more
Craig Werner
Aug 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: womens-lit
Badly written and destructive in its impact on academic discourse. Butler is a darling of the theory crowd, one of the required citations. I found nothing in it that went beyond the standard cliches concerning the inadequacy of essentialist definitions. That wouldn't earn it the one star; what does is Butler's centrality to the infinite regression school of literary/cultural theory. By the time Butler's acolytes--apparently oblivious to the fact that every third sentence is borderline ungrammati ...more
Lit Bug
This was a woefully dense text, meant primarily for those who have read enough feminism to have at least a basic idea of the major concepts of feminist theory as well a basic idea of the theorists from whom Butler draws her arguments. I was aware of what Foucault, Beauvoir, Lacan, Freud and Levi-Strauss stood for, could never get into Kristeva, and had read little or nothing of Wittig, Reviere, Cixous and Mary Douglas. On that account, this seemed to be a quite difficult text, but I suppose some ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Judith Butler
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990; second edition 1999) is a book by the philosopher Judith Butler, in which the author argues that gender is a kind of improvised performance. The work is influential in feminism, women's studies, and lesbian and gay studies, and has also enjoyed widespread popularity outside of traditional academic circles.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه آوریل سال 2007 میلادی
عنوان: آشفتگی
Sep 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
Butler's writing is some of the worst I've encountered in academia. A few of her ideas are novel, but they are so buried in unnecessarily convoluted reasoning and unexplained references to vaguely related work that they are hardly worth the effort. The book also abuses trans people's identities for political purposes. ...more
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory, gender, nonfiction
'Gender Trouble' is an extremely thought-provoking, dense, and erudite book. In it, Butler expounds the idea of gender as something performed, rather than an innate and unchangeable quality. She also emphasises that the often-assumed differentiation of gender as social construction and sex as biological is both deeply problematic and vastly oversimplified. The exploration and critique of compulsory heterosexuality is likewise excellent.

That said, 'Gender Trouble' is a challenging book to read. T
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
One of the reasons why theory remains theoretical and largely confined to the ivory tower of academia is that it is grossly inaccessible to most people, especially to those who could benefit the most from what it reveals. Judith Butler's Gender Trouble is one of those endlessly frustrating books that not only exemplifies this habit amongst academics, but also aggressively defends it.

Gender Trouble is a radical, founding text of queer theory which exposes gender as a performative construct,
Alan McKenna
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I like my language esoteric and my discourse inaccesible
I mark this book read somewhat disingenuously, since it was so far over my head much of the time I was merely skimming it inattentively. However, there were moments when even I experienced a feeling of awesome revelation

The mark of gender appears to qualify bodies as human bodies; the moment at which an infant becomes humanised is when the question 'is it a boy or a girl?' is answered...

Strategies of exclusion and hierarchy are shown to persist in the formulation of the sex/gender distinction an
May 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Butler has numerous loud detractors, and faces a variety of underhanded compliments, even on this very website, along the lines of comments such as: "oh, she's smart, but *only* when she's not talking about gender." OR "Butler would be great if she wasn't such an impenetrable writer."

Well, I'll say it outright. I love Butler. I love Gender Trouble. I love Bodies that Matter. I love Giving an Account of Oneself. I love basically everything I've read by her, and I'm always excited to have the opp
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
As someone researching and working with the performativity of gender and its connection to social power on a daily basis, this book is a foundational pillar. These days, Judith Butler is the most important theorist on the topic of gender, at least in my personal opinion.

Aside from the unfortunate fact that it is written to be almost incomprehensibly academic, making it atrociously difficult for non-academics to tackle, Gender Trouble is arguably the most remarkable achievement in the field of ge
David Michael
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All of us
Shelves: favorites
True, it is a bit dated today, and I would distance myself from her strong emphasis on psychoanalysis and performativity, but it was a radical turning point in my life, and is close to perfect as a theory text.
Its impact on contemporary feminism and critical practices can not be underestimated. This book will always be close to my heart.
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reassessed: Outworks here mark out the conceptual lineage of the title: “Contemporary feminist debates over the meanings of gender lead time and again to a certain sense of trouble, as if the indeterminacy of gender might eventually culminate in the failure of feminism” (vii). (view spoiler) ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This work is a tedious theoretical inquiry, based on the nuances of cultural, psychological, philosophical understanding, which attempts to locate the 'signified political' in the very signifying practices that establish, regulate, and deregulate gender identity. Beware of field jargonic balderdash that follows.

Butler starts with the critique of traditional feminism is wrong to looking for a common unifying ground for political representation without much of a comprehensive understanding of inte
Nov 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: gender studies, queer studies
It's incredibly difficult to get past Butler's writing style, which is notoriously dense. (We're talking Ghengis Khan levels of "notorious".) Ultimately this makes the reading experience so frustrating that it's hard to appreciate or understand the theory.

I also found Butler's writing to be extremely repetitive. She tends to restate the same concept in a variety of ways, without really doing anything further with it. Ultimately, I think she could benefit from an editor, but many academics seem
OK, so gender is chiefly performative. This seems reasonable. And at the beginning of the book, I was on her side-- hell, "androgyny is a cultural imperative" was a mantra to me in my college days. But I think Butler goes a bit overboard with the idea, attributing a degree of fluidity to gender that seems more prescriptive than descriptive. I agree that mid-century French feminists were more essentialist than they cared to admit, and I'm impressed with the way that Butler cleaned house in regard ...more
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Given all the hype that surrounds it, Gender Trouble ended up being a very underwhelming read. Maybe this book hasn’t aged well because this kind of social constructivist argument at this point is pretty passé and honestly completely pointless, but all I found was a not particularly innovative application of basic concepts from French structuralism/post-structuralism onto sex/gender.

But before addressing the arguments themselves, a preliminary comment on the supposed difficulty of Butler’s prose
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Finally read this all as I am interested in /inversion/ as critical reading practice. Butler asks us to examine the body as a situation, a site that is continually renewed every day, and remade, which should resist dictation by prediscursive, cultural presumptions. I am haunted/driven(?) by this particular quote: "Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal[s] over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a nat ...more
Feb 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
The opening sentence of this Butler classic and feminist (if it can be called as such at all) reference, says what's happening of late. The definition of gender is the crumbling point for feminism, as gender theorists and radical feminists have this rivalry that endangers the theorical unity of the movement, and maybe it's very purpose. Why call it feminism at all if now it can be about every single gender expression out there? Why would its concern be women, when gender minorities might be some ...more
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More than anything, I'm impressed with the scope of Gender Trouble. Having a basic keyword understanding of Butler's theory, but no primary exposure, I was fully expecting her to stay in the realm of abstract poststructuralist "il n'y a pas de hors-texte" performativity of gender, so when she dipped into the reification of biological sex by means of gender restrictions, I was thoroughly impressed. Part of that impression was the realization that rather than being a ridiculous over-stepping of bo ...more
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who know their 20th C. French philosophy
Recommended to Kira by: a friend from college
Shelves: gender
First let me say that this is a thorough, well-argued treatment of the relationship between gender, sex, and sexual behavior, as they have been conceived in the past. By treating this relationship as it does, Gender Trouble reconfigures the nexus of these binaries and multiplies them to infinity: the "et cetera" (and others), an embarrassed catch-all, becomes something more like "et differentia," expanding along all dimensions.
If you're into French feminists (Kristeva, Irigaray, Wittig, are ci
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Clearly, this book is, or was at the time it was published, revolutionary. Even as a "woke feminist" whose knowledge is, I found out, for a large part based on a lot of Butler's theory, this was delightfully enlightening and makes me want to know SO MUCH MORE about feminist and gender theory.

I just wish it wasn't so awfully dry and hard to follow. I was really struggling to understand a lot of Butler's theories and explanations and I found myself drifting off a lot. What I did understand was ve
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
What's a woman? What's a woman, what's a what's a what's a woman, w-w-woman, wooooooman. ...more
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
In this book, Butler exposes the problems resulting from the identification of gender based on the biological difference between men and women. This classification is constructed by discourse with the objective of recreating hegemonic paradigms and perpetuating current power relations. Defining Women and Men as universal categories disguises the interests it serves. Therefore, anything that is defined as natural or universal should be studied critically. She writes, “Signification is not a foun ...more
Apr 05, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a tough read for sure. I have some thinking to do on the topic. I had always thought that 'sex' came from biology and 'gender' came from society. There's a strong correlation between Male and Masculine - Female and Feminine; but not an absolute connection by any means. Butler, I think, questions the foundation of 'sex' coming from biology - which is fair enough since humans are, ultimately, the ones that are slicing reality in that way - there are examples of humans that don't adequatel ...more
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is famous both for its importance and the difficulty of its prose. Butler's idea that gender is fundamentally performative (i.e. it's something you 'do', not something you 'are') is a potent observation that helped clear out a lot of tedious, essentialist thinking.

This was published in the early 1990's, during the apex (or depending on your perspective, the nadir) of what's called critical theory. Butler's prose is unapologetically dense, but this seems like a work that's trying to fundame
Dec 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
From my critique for women's theory class. Judith Butler challenges her readers with her suggestion that not only is gender a social construct, but so also is sexuality. She challenges the heterosexual matrix and its "compulsion" toward moving females to becoming women. I found this book deeply difficult to read, nearly incomprehensible in its circuarity of writing and totally frustrating. ...more
Nadosia Grey
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Using theory as teleology
It definitely seems that Butler is using theory—specifically Derrida’s deconstruction—for a goal. Some critics have argued that theory shouldn’t be used in this manner, i.e., theory shouldn’t be used for a specific political or teleological goal. While I agree to an extent, it’s clear that the goal in this work is to disrupt the gender binary system that has been naturalized. That’s all the deconstruction is for: simply establishing the free-play that was not once there
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Judith Butler is an American post-structuralist and feminist philosopher who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy and ethics. She is currently a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley.

Butler received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University in 1984, for a dissertation subsequently publi

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