Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

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In her book titled “Gender Trouble” (1990), Judith Butler challenges (i) the distinction and the relationship between sex and gender; (ii) concepts of gender identity (i.e. socio-culturally formed); and, (iii) notions of gender as being performative; while simultaneously criticizing a number of so-called ‘white feminist thinkers’. These latter are, according to her, post-structuralist and psychoanalytic thinkers that are perpetuating wrong notions of feminism as they fail to recognize that the root of their projects often grew from an anti-feminist logic that is now embedded in their thinking. Butler primarily critiques and wants to change the system we all aim to live by, arguing that the only way to change ‘the system’ is to repeatedly challenge it by re-imagining its inside workings from both an emic and etic standpoint. That is, from both the perspective of the subject, and the perspective of the observer.

 

In her book, Butler takes her reasoning a step further, as when she explains the complexity patent in the distinction between the concepts of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, claiming that these are but totally arbitrary and random. ‘Sex’, she argues, is often seen as ‘natural category’ concept, whereas ‘gender’ has only emerged as a result of society’s social systems – or cultural beliefs – that have laid out in society a normative response and justification to anatomical differences. These, consequently, being used to “validate” or “condemn” certain behaviors from certain genders. Butler argues that sex itself is artificial – i.e. socially constructed from socio-cultural practices, with their own history discourse, often reflecting politicized social dynamics.

 

 In “Gender Trouble” Judith Butler writes about the notion of gender being performative (a new theory she developed while writing this book), and explains it by revealing how ‘gender identity’ is formed by pre-established notion of ‘ideal gender norms’, that is then imposed by society. ‘Gender’ is, therefore, a pure active manifestation of this ‘pre-designed’ essence – that results in a set of behaviors expected by individuals according to their gender – tangible given its performative nature as they require active action from the subject that so desperately wants to ‘fit the role’. Examples of this ‘performative’ aspect as reflective of gender in our everyday lives is visible in, for example, speech utterances, actions, behaviors, hand gestures, dress codes, etc. All of these are fashioned to be perceived by the other members of society, and serve to further segregate the genders, consequently exposing the fabrication behind that of female and male identity. Butler aim is to understand the “inner essence” of gender, by deconstructing “the illusion of the sexual body” as it can be endless and oppressive for all – most commonly believed to be two – genders

“Contemporary feminist debates over the meaning of gender lead time and again to a certain sense of trouble...”

 

 

 

 

KEYWORDS— Gender, behaviors, performance, illusion, oppression and identity 

 

 

The Sustainability Mirage by John Foster

The Sustainability Mirage: Illusion and Reality in the Coming War on Climate Change

In his book, The sustainability Mirage: Illusion and Reality in the Coming War on Climate Change (2008), John Foster confronts the relationship between the government and concepts of sustainability, focusing mainly on the logic behind the framework of action undertaken by governments and international corporations (one, he argues, is often dominated by orthodoxical understandings of the environment).

Foster argues that all steps must be taken towards sustainability. For him, it is crucial that we develop sustainable methods that do not collapse under pressure of present affairs – for example, an economic crisis or pandemic crisis, like the one we are living through now. This belief should not be just an illusion, but rather a universal ethical obligation, that focuses on “the deep needs of the present”. Like Foster, I believe we should not be looking for a short-term solution, but rather a long-term one.Additionally, John Foster claims governments should not be “trapping societies to inaction” (something he coins as being governmental ‘bad faith’), underlining that climate change, carbon emissions, and global warming, are all part of a war that ought not to be stopped or slowed down by political agendas. Nor because our generations feel personally ‘comfortable’ right now, as this entails no consideration for those populating Earth in the future. 

In his rather enlightening text, it quickly becomes clear that we are indeed all looking and living by this ‘mirage’, and shape our actions accordingly, something I deem quite controversial but simultaneously mind blowing. There is an urge to take a clear step forward from what is pulling us back from changing Earth.

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“All this, however, turns on the crucial issue of motivation. This lurks beneath all our attention to the climate issues”

 

 

 

 

KEYWORDS- sustainability, behaviors, manipulation, climate change, inaction and illusion

 

 

Sustainability, Feminist Visions, and the Utopian Tradition by Daphne Spain

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In her article, Sustainability, Feminist Visions, and the Utopian Tradition (1995), Daphne Spain explores and contests the relationship between sustainability and “feminist ideal communities” (within a professional historical context), to highlight the significance of utopian models and the revelations that can arise from these. As I see it, her point here being that utopias should not be merely regarded as a ‘dream’ but rather as a model we can look at when (re)designing our own world; in her words, to “improve the world” (Spain,1993:367p).

 

Her argument is centered around the idea that sustainable measures can be of importance to feminist theorists – or feminist communities – given their predominantly focus on interdependence and diversity; something we might learn from and apply on different areas of our social reality. According to Spain, what primarily connects the concepts of sustainability and feminism (in other words, the intersectional conceptual overlapping points) is the symbiotic “sense of caring” patent in both notions. More specifically, as both philosophies touch upon similar morals and values aiming to protect “the quality of life” of future generations (Spain,1995: 362p). 

 

Spain proposes what she calls an “utopian reconstruction”, although she is deeply aware of the challenges that might arise when trying to reach a consensus over what is a ‘perfect’ society.

 

 

The problem here lies with different visions and different approaches too, as concerns enacting (debatable) utopian measures. While some argue that these should be drafted by women with different socio-cultural backgrounds, social class, and ethnicity, others disagree and argue that these measures should instead centered around places, choices, and purpose. However, the main issues community planners, and policy-makers, have is that the private and public spheres of life continue to “reinforce a traditional division of labor” as regards women's participation in society. The sustainable ideal, on the other hand, focuses on improving the quality of life of women in these communities, by minimizing land consumption and exploitation, while reducing and protecting natural resources. The similarities between feminism and the environment – although up to each individual – are clear.

 

“Utopian, feminist and sustainability communities all rely to some degree on design to reinforce social goals”.

 

 

 

 

 

KEYWORDS- nature, woman, society, communities, change, reconstruction and consumption

 

 

​The sublime in Modern Philosophy Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature by Emily Brady

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Emily Brady’s The sublime in Modern Philosophy Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature (2013), analyses Kant’s and Burke’s concept of the sublime, that originated in the eighteenth-century from their aesthetic theories philosophies. Brady is interested in comprehending our “aesthetic experiences” and our use of “aesthetic concepts from art, nature and the everyday”, as she claims we are not noticing “the great things in nature and beyond” (Brady, 2013, page 2). Her main point being that of our experiences are quite different comtemporarily, even in philosophy, when compared the 18th century.

 

Brady argues that the sublime has now taken a completely different direction from its previous notion, even though the original aesthetic theory still resonates or resembles today’s take on it. The sublime in still relevant in contemporary as its significance is always evolving, while still drawing on negative emotions, and ties of solidarity that arise from tragedy – that artists still rely on quite often – finding its “place in environmental aesthetics and ethics”. 

 

In her book, Brady claims that the negativity of response to the forms of aesthetic and the response to greatness from emotion and imagination is “an attempt to distill the core meaning of the sublime in contemporary debates”. She argues that the natural sublime is very relevant and that has its conceptualization has expanded from different influential theories with a focus “on natural objects and phonemes”. Brady poses the question: is the value of the environment both aesthetical and ethical? As she claims:

 “...the role of the self in relation to feeling of admiration”.

“... deserving careful consideration for locating a new role for a sublime as a concept with aesthetic and moral significance for contemporary times...”

 

 

 

 

 

KEYWORDS- sublime, nature, philosophy, aesthetics, emotion and response

 

 

Preserve Beauty by Anya Gallacio

Anya Gallacio’s artwork, Preserve Beauty, both challenges and symbolizes the relationship between commodities and natural objects, in ways that highlight what she deems an inherent performative element of nature when commodified. According to her, cut flowers (which she often uses in her art) are part of what she calls mass-produced ‘disposable commodities’.

 

Her theatrical art installation is composed of more than 350 real (cut) flowers (Gerberas and Daisies) that when arranged together form a single layer of a ‘flower carpet’ that is, then, positioned against a wall. Once up on the wall, viewers can witness the process of flowers decaying until they ultimately ‘die’. Interestingly enough, I found out that daisies symbolize innocence and purity; perhaps the artist’s way of telling us that nature, like daisies, is innocent and pure even when commodified.

 

The fact that work itself is a natural performance, forces us to think about the world’s inevitable and natural decomposition where time and beauty transform to become but theoretical concepts; particularly in its decaying stages, as beauty and time as we know them get unrecognizable. The viewers experience the art installation through the visual changes and their sense of smell when encountering the artwork itself, which leaves a deep mark in their sensory nervous systems. Almost like a sudden ‘wake-up’ call to reality. 

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Anya Gallacio’s works, that have turned her into a well-known British conceptual artist, also include other organic materials besides real flowers, including real fruit and food (or ice) that all decompose (or melt away). The contract used by the artist really shows how these organic materials start off by been pleasant, and then quickly become very unpleasant or less interesting to look at. Here, Gallacio challenges previous traditional notions and understandings of art and sculpture. 

This work idea, or composition, was very interesting to read and learn about; particularly as I, unfortunately, did not have the opportunity to see it in person. I was not aware of this artist’s existence until I had my last tutorial before this assignment.

The ‘experience of life’ in an art installation can be extremely interesting as we are presented with three of its different components: the author, the nature, and the viewers, that ultimately bring together certain emotions that are often difficult to explain – here, the performance of the sublime is achieved through our sensory nervous systems, that is often is not used all.

 

“All this, however, turns on the crucial issue of motivation. This lurks beneath all our attention to the climate issues”

 

 

 

 

KEYWORDS- Flowers, life, died, installation, sensory senses, decomposition and performance