Friday, December 2, 2016
Judith Butler, Her Contemporaries, and the LGBT Movement
In my first installment, I discussed the life and theories of gender theorist and philosopher Judith Butler. For my second installment, I am examining a few other modern-day gender theorists with ideas similar to Butler’s. I would also like to elaborate on some of the influential movements happening in our lifetime that are directly related to the open-mindedness regarding gender.
Kate Bornstein, a transgender gender theorist, is one of the most celebrated thinkers of our time. Bornstein attended Brown University to study Theatre Arts, and has gone on to write books and plays, perform, and theorize. She was originally born as Albert Bornstein in 1948, but knew from a young age that she was not a boy. She felt that she was merely performing the role of being a male, and constantly searched for ways to prove her sexuality to the rest of the world. Shortly after her time at Brown, she finally went through the sex-change that she had desired her whole life. However, in her words, it “didn’t work.” She still felt the need to “perform” the role of a woman, and felt no more comfortable in her body that she did as a man. Eventually, she realized that she just didn’t fit into the binary mold that society had created. She is neither man or woman, just somewhere in between. Judith Butler would appreciate Bornstein’s confession that she doesn’t find her identity in the pre-constructed, binary definitions of gender that society has created. Butler feels that humans should strive to live without these labels and discovery their sexual identities without limits. She has written four books so far, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, My new Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity, and A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is. Her work is taught in over 200 schools around the world, in five different languages. She is currently a regular cast member on the TV show “I Am Cait,” starring Caitlyn Jenner (who I talked about in my last report). Her bright spirit, sense of humor, and progressive theories are why she is such a loved figure in the world of gender theory.
Sara Ahmed was born in England in 1969, and later emigrated to Adelaide, Australia, with her family. She attended Adelaide University for her undergraduate degree, and finished her doctoral research at Cardiff University. From 1994-2004, she was an institute director at Lancaster University, and was based in their Women’s Studies program. From 2004-2016, she was a professor of Race and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, but recently resigned this May. Among other topics, her work focuses on orientation, identity, and differences. Her works include Differences that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in post-Coloniality, The cultural Politics of Emotion, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, The Promise of Happiness, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, and Willful Subjects. She recently completed a new book, Living a Feminist Life, and expects it to be out for the public in 2017. When Ahmet began writing this book, she also started a blog called Feminist Killjoys, where she blogs about feminist ideals and current social issues. She plans on continuing the blog despite the completion of her book. Her book, Queer Phenomenology, discusses the meaning of orientation, and how society has created a definition for which orientations are acceptable and which are not. Butler would agree with these theories, but most likely disapprove her Ahmet’s feminist doctrines. If you remember from my last post, Butler feels as though the whole idea of feminism undermines its own mission. Nevertheless, Ahmet remains an influential leader in the realm of gender studies and progressive ideals.
Because Butler focused so heavily on the theory that humans are not necessarily designed to be sexual attracted to the opposite gender, and may in fact find themselves somewhere in the middle, I decided to look into some celebrities that have come out as bisexual. The first, most obvious celebrity I will mention is Miley Cyrus. Her stark change in public appearance and performance in 2012 raised many questions about her sexuality. In an interview for Paper Magazine, Miley told sources that she loves girls the way she loves boys, and had known this since age fourteen. Meghan Fox has been quoted saying that she has “no question in [her] mind about being bisexual.” Other notable stars, such as Billie Joe Armstrong, Angelina Jolie, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Bella Thorne (former Disney star), Vanessa Carlton (yeah, the singer of “A Thousand Miles”), and Kesha, have all come out as bisexual to the media. Personally, I am glad that we live in a time where people feel comfortable and supported enough to publicize their sexualities (especially since there has been such a stigma associated with being anything but heterosexual). I think it’s important for those who are struggling with finding their sexuality to see that others have dealt with the same conflictions.
I find it funny when people claim that homosexuality is a new phenomenon happening only in this generation, when in reality, homosexuality and bisexuality have been seen in humanity for centuries. We are living in the LGBT Rights Movement, which has been going on since 1972. Before this, there was the Gay Liberation Movement (1969-1974) and the Homophile Movement (1945-1969). LGBT Movements have been emerging since the late 1800s. These movements have encompassed the voices of all who feel they do not fit into the gender molds that we have constructed. They are fighting the prejudices against homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender people, and all anyone who does not naturally conform to the heterosexual label. They have done an excellent job of spreading awareness of the matter at hand, and implementing the issue into all forms of media. You see many more TV shows, movies, ads, etc. with homosexual couples. The Disney show “Good Luck Charlie” even featured a gay couple on an episode recently. In my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to see the gay community finally receive the right to get married. This was largely due to these movements and the incorporation of the LGBT community into mainstream media.
Awareness and education is key to change. Judith Butler, Kate Bornstein, Sara Ahmet, and others who speak up about gender problems are the vital in the movement for LGBT knowledge and equality. As I said in my last post, I feel that we are on a very positive and accepting path towards this necessary awareness.
Links to Comments:
Links to Sources: