American philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler is one of the most challenging thinkers of our time. Since 1993, Butler is teaching at the University of California, Berkely, where she is now Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory. She is an author of several books and essays which are dealing with issues as feminism, gender role and identity. She is also active in a several human rights organizations. Currently at Center of Constitutional Rights in New York and Jewish Voice for peace. Her work influenced political philosophy, ethics and the fields of third-wave feminism, queer and literary theory.
Butler is best known as an author of her two most influential books Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) and Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (1993). She is challenging and deconstructing widely accepted social understanding of gender roles and gender identity. Butler argues that your gender identity is not constructed by you. The repeated actions that make up your gender are thaught and force to you. When baby is born, a performance of 'it's a boy' or 'it's a girl' happens. The baby is then expected to behave in certain ways according to definitions of female or male gender. Butler claims that gender should be seen as a fluid variable which freely shifts and changes in different contexts and different times. According to Butler, human beings shouldn't be divided into two clear-cut groups, women and men. She also said that feminism made a big mistake by establishing feminism as a group of 'women' with common characteristics and interests who want to have equal rights as men have.
“The misapprehension about gender performativity is this: that gender is a choice, or that gender is a role, or that gender is a construction that one puts on, as one puts on clothes in the morning, that there is a 'one' who is prior to this gender, a one who goes to the wardrobe of gender and decides with deliberation which gender it will be today.”
- Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter:On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex'
Gender performativism is a theory which Judith Butler developed in her books 'Gender Trouble' and 'Bodies That Matter'. The theory challenges conventional notions of gender. According to Butler gender performativity is not something false or a performance, when a person choose which clothes to put on and how to act as f.i. drag performers do. Performative is a term for an acts of speech which not just mean something but also do something and makes something comes true that wasn't true before the act happened. The classic example of performative is saying 'I do' at the wedding ceremony. Butler claims that gender is something that is made by doing. When woman wears a skirt, it is seen as feminine, not because the female body is anatomicaly made for wearing skirts but because female body belongs to a specific social category.