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Judith Butler: Gender Trouble

'The feminist "we" is always and only a phantasmatic condition, one that has its purposes, but which denies the internal complexity and indeterminacy of the term and constitutes itself only through the exclusion of some part of the constituency that it simultaneously seeks to represent'.

Judith Butler's writings in Gender Trouble as summarised above, is mainly concerned with deconstructing the existence of feminism and its basis on an idea of binary sexes. She points out that the term feminism suggests that it is representative of the idea of the feminine and it is in identifying and describing who belongs to this group, that the troubles inherent in the system are realised. The main problems are the fact that the idea of 'woman' is often seen in the Western way as many believe major feminism movements began in the West. This supports the view of many writers we have read in this course such as Gandhi, Collins and Narayan, that show that those with the epistemic authority to describe feminism are often white feminists and this often leads to the exclusion of feminists of other colours and cultures. Another aspect to the description of women on which Butler focuses is the idea of sexes being only of two kinds, man and woman, and the description of feminism in terms of women makes it necessary to view feminist thought as representative of people who are considered by society to have feminine traits. This might exclude lesbians, transsexuals, women who are considered 'masculine' in some way based on their work or way of life and even unmarried women, who are seen as going against their inherent sexual natures and need for domestic stability. Butler suggests that a repetition of the ideas of feminism as it applies to all is necessary along with an understanding of all peoples' unique cultures rather than an attempt to identify a single meaning of feminism and apply it to the world which would be akin to cultural imperialism.