Exam 4: Tea Time with Judith Butler and Jasbir Puar

Tea Time with Judith Butler and Jasbir Puar


Big thanks to theorists Butler and Puar for being with us today. I think we can see from both these women’s works that discourse has a huge influence on how we think and in turn function in our society. Both these theorists would agree that discourse can be restrictive, just like ideology or our own personal assimilations into gender. Puar and Butler would both also agree that though discourse can be bad, we should do more than abandon it, we should twist and contort it to fit ourselves; create our own. 


For Butler, the human subject is an important aspect of changing the discourse around gender since gender is an epistemological idea created by the human world, it is only fitting that the subjects of that world be used in the process of its changing. In expanding the discourse, Butler is putting the human (individual if you will) at the center of all social relations so that we remove the association of sex organs to socially constructed gender roles as our identity realization. Rather, Butler believes that our identity is a performance and more simply, because gender is an epistemological creation, let’s only associate other epistemological traits of identity to it like our language and our speech and our gestures (all as individuals) and later on the idea of sex because that can also be epistemological. These things are what create our gender, our identity. Through this way, Butler believes that sex is gendered and gender doesn’t need to be fixed like the discourse proclaims.


Puar takes everything Butler theorizes and expands on it, like Butler’s expanding of the old discourse. She focuses more on assemblage and ontology rather than intersectionality and epistemology. While Butler is saying that your identity is a performance of many other epistemological and human realm-ish things like the way you talk and walk, Puar wants to go deeper than that look beneath the speech and gesture that materialize into identity. Puar aims to go back to the organization of the body (not always human) and the small events and matter that happen to create the speech and the gesture. Simply, Puar is looking for the agents that created the actor. If Butler believes that drags are important to the obstruction of gender because of the way they perform their gender, Puar believes that the events that occurred in the drag’s system (of life) are what led them to perform their identity that way. In this we see a shift in priority for these two theorists: for Butler it’s the individual, for Puar it’s the surroundings, the agents. Puar’s method requires a deeper analysis of the forces at work in a system that create matter.


In short, the discourse said “this is this person’s identity because s/he looks a this way;” Butler is saying “no, blah blah is her identity because she speaks and acts a this way;” Puar takes this further and says ” this and this happened, she was exposed to that and that and all those things together assemble her identity. 


Q for Puar; You say categories are events but how so? No two events are the same, most  can’t be recreated, yet categories are supposed to be shared by many, supposed to cover a lot of ground. Shouldn’t categories be an effect of events?

Exam 4

Hello everyone! Welcome to the Feminist Theory Conference here Hunter College. I thank Judith Butler and Jasbir Puar for giving us insight on their views of feminism and gender. Both of our guests have brought up some great points.

Judith Butler critiques feminism, something that many have come to know as a movement that sought to bring equality to women (and homosexuals, transgenders…), is doing the exact opposite of what it intends to. The identity of the women has long existed long before feminism. However, feminism is what created the gender/identity of the women as the oppressed group. Women are then the byproduct of feminism. Similarly with Puar’s critique feminism, a category of the “Other” is created. Intersectionality, the idea that oppressive powers/issues (racism, sexism) are linked and must be looked at together, ironically re-centralizes the White woman. The Women of Color, the “Other” is viewed as the one suffering from grievances. Both Butler and Puar have issues with feminism. Their papers chose to look at identities and how they are formed within specific contexts.

Butler takes an epistemological approach in which the knowledge/discourse is most important. Gender is socially constructed. Gender is what determines how we act in society and what responsibilities we hold.  At the same time, sex is just as culturally determined as gender. Sex, but especially gender, do not have to be fixed. The human body is moldable. Gender performativity is what everyone has been taking a part of. Our actions are merely a pattern of repeated acts that have been determined through our cultural definitions. How we dress and what we say are all acts. Butler has given us the example of drag as gender performing. Drag queens often dress up in exaggerated manners. They wear heavy makeup, glammed up costumes, and perform exaggerated actions of the opposite gender. The body is used as medium for performance. It is malleable. Couldn’t we agree that come drag queens are quite successful in displaying the opposite gender? In performing gender, drag reveals the “imitative structure” of gender. Drag blurs the distinction between the identities. Butler quoted Esther Newton. Drag reveals the outside (appearance) as feminine, but the inside (body) is male. At the same time, the outside of the performer is masculine, and the inside (thoughts) at the time is feminine.

Puar has taken more of an ontological approach in explaining gender. For her, it was more important that on the being/becoming process. Gender is socially constructed, but through discourse-as mentioned by Butler. It is the body that creates discourse. Puar mentions assemblages, the relations between things,  in her paper. She talks about the relationships and organizations of bodies. Like Butler, she also believes that identity is not fixed. However, we need more than epistemology to understand the body. Bodies does not just have to relate to humans. There are bodies of water and institutions. We can understand them in many ways, such as through language or discourse. Lastly, there are categories. Categories are ontological events(discourse) of of matter. We can look at racism as a category. Racism has always existed. As a result of racism (act), it created race (discourse), not the other way around.

Both theorists have contributed a lot in regards to feminist theory and gender identification. I agree that gender is more than what’s determined by a biological trait. Some questions I have for the theorists and/or the audience are:

1. If gender is an act, couldn’t we say that all other aspects of our lives (race, language, religion) are all acts as well.

2. If feminism has been creating separations, then what is there that can be done to actually unify the groups, if possible?

3. Lastly, Puar stated that it was necessary to look at the underlying meaning behind the matter. What are some of the underlying meanings that can be used to push feminist movements forward?

Exam 2

Dear Diary,

I am enjoying this beautiful view on the seaside right now as I write this. There are many couples on their honeymoons walking on the beach. My mom came by earlier to “talk” with me. She gave me the “talk” again. She asked me when I would find myself someone like all the loving couples on the beach and get married.

  “Wouldn’t you want to be a happy housewife like me and live a simple lifestyle with your husband and kids?”

I told my mother, for the hundredth time, that this was not what I wanted to do now. I want to be an intellectual. Great, she thought. She assumed that I meant becoming an intelligent person that can share knowledge with others, such as teaching. I told her the intellectual does not have to be the one producing knowledge. The intellectual can be the one who is in an oppressed position and is struggling against the powerful system. Students and prisoners can be seen as intellectuals. The education/prison system can act as the oppressive power. The intellectual’s job working against themselves becoming those people in the oppressive system.

To clarify what I meant by this powerful system, we can look at Deleuze and Guatarri’s Body Without Organs. There is the organism which represents the system, like the government (or the overbearing mother). The organism is made up of organs. The organs represent those who are at the bottom of the hierarchy. They are the oppressed group. The two have a reciprocal relationship. Both need each other to survive. The organism/system provides the organs with the nutrients they need in order to support it. Society instills many ideologies onto its people. In order to maintain it, people continue to become subjects of these ideologies. They are the organs that are trapped inside this body. They hate every part of it, but at the same time, still crave for it. It gives us a sense of order and belonging.

To become an intellectual, I will have to acknowledge all these but also work against them.

My mother snorted at my explanation. She thought it was all an excuse to be an antisocial anarchist, just another phase I’m going through. Well, this is not some phase. I’m serious about becoming an intellectual. I will work on becoming the BWO by putting aside everything that I have been taught. I will free myself from the ideologies. My struggle against the powerful can hopefully create a horizontal distribution of power in society where everyone is equal.

   ‘What do you think?” I asked my mother, “Aren’t you proud to have a daughter like me/”

She looked at me with a worried face that read, “My daughter is going to be a poor struggling social outcast trying to achieve an unreachable reality.” She finally replied after a long pause. She tells me it’s a great idea. However, she still thinks I should find a man soon. After all, I won’t be twenty one forever. So in my long conversation with her, I failed to change her mind. Sometimes, you just can’t change a traditional Asian women’s beliefs. With that, I decided to sit back and relax. After all, I am twenty one, and have plenty of time.

Exam 1

I was at a high school reunion this past weekend with my good friend, Louis Althusser, from English class. We were chatting up on how things have been going until we heard a loud voice. This voice belonged to the class clown (at least he used to be).

“I’m so over this capitalism thing. I don’t follow itand I definitely won’t be fooled by them. I’m so much better off out of the public school system. Thanks goodness my kids are at a private Catholic school and not getting brainwashed by what the government wants.”

Upon hearing we cannot help but laugh. Religion is another part of the ideological state apparatuses. by Sending his children to a private Catholic school does not make things any more different than public school. He continues,

“My kids don’t wear those fancy Nike shoes and Abercrombie clothes, just uniforms. They are going to grow up to be independent individuals and not follow those so called trends.”

Althusser responds to him, “By purchasing them their uniforms, and paying tuition for their education at an institution, is that not contributing to capitalism? Surely, the uniforms have been produced in a factory somewhere. The school runs in accordance with the government regulations in order to teach children the required curriculum. You are doing exactly what you deny-buying into the ideology of capitalism. ”

Angry and embarrassed, he storms out of the room. Perhaps he is going to save his children from the evil brainwashing institutions,

Butler Reading Response

The reading was difficult for me to understand. I’m still a little bit confused but I am going to try to explain what Butler argument was about. Butler makes the argument that there is no clear division between sex and gender. She analyzes the power of representation in her opinion not all women are the same this includes men. Butler examines sexuality as socially constructed. That comes from the social and cultural practices. As discussed in class label / categories she doesn’t favor. She has a problem with the way feminism is structured. She discusses gender performativity. As mentioned in class gender is not fixed it is something that we do. Butler observes, “gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself…what they imitate is a phantasmic ideal of heterosexual identity…gay identities work neither to copy nor emulate heterosexuality, but rather, to expose heterosexuality as an incessant and panicked imitation of its own naturalized idealization. That heterosexuality is always in the act of elaborating itself is evidence that it is perpetually at risk, that it, that it ‘knows’ it’s own possibility of becoming undone”