Presentation on theme: "Is there such a thing as a woman or a man?"— Presentation transcript:
1 Is there such a thing as a woman or a man? lecture 7
2 lecture overview 1. ‘cultural turn’: shift from ‘things to words’ 2. is language masculine?: Luce Irigaray3. semiotics: Ferdinand Saussure4. poststructuralists and meaning5. decentered subject
3 lecture overview 6. discourse: Michel Foucault 7. gender as ‘performative’: Judith Butler8. criticisms of Judith Butler9. summary
4 ‘cultural/linguistic turn’ 1. shift from ‘things’ to ‘words’ (Barrett 1997)2. things (material) – e.g. housework; inequalities in the labour market; male violence3. words (symbolic) – e.g. focus on discourserepresentation and language
5 gender and the linguistic turn 1. feminists influenced by postuctructuralism/postmodernism2. language does not simply reflect but actively constructs reality3. misrecognise - take as ‘natural’ what is linguistically constructed?4. gender is shaped by social structures and by dominant discourses5. claim: language constructs what it means to be a man or a woman
6 e.g. identity (Hall cited in Abbott et al 2005: 358) ‘…instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished fact, which cultural practices then represent, we should think, instead, of identity as a ‘production’, which is never complete, always in process, and always constituted within, not outside representation’.
7 is language masculine? e.g. Luce Irigaray 1. New French feminist2. current language is patriarchal – contains masculinist assumptions3. need to develop truly feminine language4. so women can express themselves in non-patriarchal ways5. how possible is this?6. how plausible is it as a strategy?7. is it essentialist?
8 semiotics: basic points 1. a culture invests things with certain meanings2. meanings are arbitrary3. semiotics reveals the arbitrary nature of meanings4. semiotics reveals the power relations- disguised by meanings- reproduced in meanings
9 semiotics: Ferdinand Saussure (1) 1. ‘father of modern linguistics’2. linguistic structuralist3. culture is structured like a language and language is also structured in a particular way.e.g. meanings of masculinity and femininity differ – culturally, linguistically and historically4. langue – system of language; the whole language e.g. German, English5. parole – individual’s speech; individual’s use of langue
10 semiotics: Ferdinand Saussure (2) langue is a system of signssign – word (letters, noise)signified – the representation or meaning of a particular thing (but NOT the ‘real’ thing itself)signifier – points to the signified (e.g. word ‘sheep’ indicates the idea of an ovine farm animal)
11 words are not always translatable 1. e.g. in the English language ‘sheep’ just refers to the idea of the sheep as an animal2. In the French language the word ‘mouton’ refers to the idea of the sheep as an animal and meat (‘mutton’)
12 ‘woman’ THE SIGN signified signifier – idea of ‘woman’ – no such thing as ‘woman’purely linguistic constructvaries between languages‘woman’signifierTHE SIGN
13 semiotics: Ferdinand Saussure (3) 1. arbitrary nature of the sign – no natural or obvious link between the signifier and signified.2. signs do not have a fixed or essential meaning3. through social convention come to learn which signifier refers to which signifier4. meaning of signs is relational - constructed through difference:e.g. ‘whore’ – other signifiers of womanhood (‘virgin’ or ‘mother’)
14 poststructuralists and meaning 1. e.g. Jacques Derrida - claims that meaning is never fixed but is in constant flux2. so the meaning of the signifier ‘woman’ (and ‘man’?) – ‘always on the move’3. keen to explore how meanings become fixed and consider the effects of fixity4. power fixes meanings deconstruction refers to the process of releasing and keeping meanings in fluxe.g. category of ‘woman’(see also debate: Riley /Stanley 1997 in Kemp & Squires)
15 decentered subject self is constructed self is constructed by different languageeach language creates its own particular sense of selfa particular subject can be shaped by multiple languagesmultiple selves – contradictory self
16 discourse: Michel Foucault different professional groups (e.g. sexologists; psychiatrists; doctors)distinctive knowledge – claims to truthcategorises or labels people(e.g. sane/insane; hysterical woman/normal man)‘panoptic effect’ – shapes thinking and actions (self- regulate in light of norms)produces the subject- idea of the ‘hysterical woman’- and in practice person acts accordingly
17 gender as performative: Butler (1) representation like Saussure – language creates reality‘woman’ is not a biological category‘sex’ is socially constructed‘sex’ is a linguistic category – no such thing as biological sexsexuality – cultural resource to resist patriarchal oppression and heterosexual hegemony?
18 gender as performative: (2) using language: doing words J.L. Austin (Speech Act Theory) – when you use language it constitutes realitywhen use the term ‘woman’ it creates womane.g. ‘it’s a girl’
19 gender as performative: (3) everyday performances language regulates thought and actionslabelled a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ – perform according to norms (heterosexual matrix)gender is an ongoing everyday achievementmisrecognise: doing being a woman or a man as actually being a ‘real’ woman or ‘man’
20 gender as performative (4) “gender is an act that brings into being what it names: a ‘masculine’ man or ‘feminine’ woman” (Salih, 2002:64)language constitutes gendered identitiesno doer or ‘I’ outside language – gendered subjects are the effects of language‘gender trouble’ – attempts to reveal or upset the fictional fixity of gender – e.g. Drag
21 some criticisms of Butler universalising tendencies –e.g. heterosexual hegemony replaces patriarchy?‘girling’ seems like a socialisation thesisfail to keep ‘gender’ open as promised?does feminism need a stable subject?
22 summary no truth out there waiting to be discovered we construct theories and reality through representationpower/knowledge produces ‘material’ effects – e.g. produces gendered subjects, disciplines bodiesno power without resistancecan we trouble gendered power regimes by resisting binary classifications?
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