One of the most talked-about scholarly works of the past fifty years, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble is as celebrated as it is controversial.
Arguing that traditional feminism is wrong to look to a natural, 'essential' notion of the female, or indeed of sex or gender, Butler starts by questioning the category 'woman' and continues in this vein with examinations of 'the masculine' and 'the feminine'. Best known however, but also most often misinterpreted, is Butler's concept of gender as a reiterated social performance rather than the expression of a prior reality.
Thrilling and provocative, few other academic works have roused passions to the same extent.
In a new introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition of Gender Trouble--among the two or three most influential books (and by far the most popular) in the field of gender studies--Judith Butler explains the complicated critical response to her groundbreaking arguments and the ways her ideas have evolved as a result. Nevertheless, she has resisted the urge to revise what has become a feminist classic (as well as an elegant defense of drag, given Butler's emphasis on the performative nature of gender). The book was produced, according to Butler, "as part of the cultural life of a collective struggle that has had, and will continue to have, some success in increasing the possibilities for a livable life for those who live, or try to live, on the sexual margins." An attack on the essentialism of French feminist theory and its basis in structuralist anthropology, Gender Trouble expands to address the cultural prejudices at play in genetic studies of sex determination, as well as the uses of gender parody, and also provides a critical genealogy of the naturalization of sex. A primer in gender studies--and sexy reading for college cafés. --Regina Marler