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Judith Butler & Gender Trouble

If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps this construct called "sex" is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed, perhaps it was always already gender, with the consequence that the distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distinction at all.

Butler lead into this sentence by questioning how we assign 'actual' genders and sexes, and how we define 'sex' in the first place--"natural, anatomical, chromosomal, hormonal?" She also questions the scientific discourses that establish these sexes, suggesting that they may be equally constructed on historical, political and social interests. While I completely agree that the gender binary mimics actual biological sexes and that no one body can represent the extreme of one end of the scale, I DO think there's a point at which biological sex can be determined regardless of political and social influences. Of course there are babies who will display physical characteristics typical of the opposite sex, like larger female babies or timid male babies, but all babies (except for intersex babies, and you can't really claim that all babies are just a variation on an intersex baby) will fall on one side or the other. Male babies will have the natural, anatomical, chromosomal and hormonal markers of male babies, and female babies will have the natural, anatomical, chromosomal and hormonal markers of female babies. I applaud Butler's line of thinking, but I'm leery of questioning something as clearly 'immutable' as biological gender. Just looking around at the binary represented in instances that are untouched by our cultural discourses, other species that necessitate a biological binary distinction--wolves, trees, fish, bees and on and on--demonstrate to me that there really IS a distinction, and that distinction is clearly applicable to human beings as well.