Ed Team

Judith Butler on Cultural Discourse & the LGBT Community

Filed By Ed Team | August 08, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: You Gotta See This
Tags: Big Think, Judith Butler, queer theory

Philosopher Judith Butler is speaking out in a new Big Think video about the importance of cultural discourse in normalizing the LGBT community. In the video, she says: "The more cultural acceptance, the more cultural discourse, the more media presentation, the more proximity that people have to gay, lesbian, bi, trans people, the more that life becomes thinkable. It becomes a cultural possibility that one can consider because it's already in the world."


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I've never been a fan of Judith Butler's writing, and while her video, as her writing, does provide some food for thought, I find myself appalled by some of her thoughts.

The idea that "the more we're 'out there' the more 'that life becomes thinkable" may just mean that people will be less afraid to come out, or to transition, the more they hear a positive message, rather then internalizing heterosexism, or internalizing cissexism.

If that;s the cae, kudos.

But "becoming a cultural possibllity that one can consider" seems to me to be implying more of an element of choice. Butler's language in her writing is so often pedantically obfuscatory, that it's perhaps not a surprise that she actually forms thoughts in that style and speaks it, too!

"The discourse . . . makes it more possible to *become* gay or lesbian."

This, again, is more clearly implying a choice that goes beyond choosing whether to come out or remain in the closet, or to transition or continue to try desperately to assimilate.

To that implication, I strongly disagree - only someone with a natural bi inclination has the option of "choosing" and sometimes that requires a suppression of a part of their nature, too.

She seems to redeem herself at the end - the cultural improvements "do not produce homosexuals." That is a relief.

But it is dense as her writing, an unnecessarily so.

I wish one day she would make it clear that when she writes about gender as performance she is referring solely to gender expression, and not at all to gender identity, which is biologically based. Who knows, though, there may be something already in the tea leaves that she has already written that allow the conclusion to be made.

Anyway, thanks for sharing the short video.