Book: Gender Trouble (First Read)

What does this book say?

Judith Butler‘s complicated brain in prose. A conversation piece.
209 pages, ★★

I love women, but even I see Judith Butler’s brain as a incomprehensibly tangled mess.

As someone who persistently tried—and failed—to ‘fit in’, Judith Butler wrote Gender Trouble in an attempt to understand her own identity. She didn’t feel fully-accepted into any socially-constructed identity, so in Gender Trouble, she carved out her own.

I care less about what she writes than about why she writes it. Contemplating the differences between men and women on a philosophical level is pointless for most of us, but it would be of great inspiration to someone in similar shoes to the author. Actually, the author said in an interview, “Gender Trouble was an attempt to understand how my family and myself failed to comply with Hollywood norms”. Voilà.

“Gender Trouble was an attempt to understand how my family and myself failed to comply with Hollywood norms” — Judith Butler

My first impression was “this book is unintelligible”. I had a dictionary at hand for words like phantasma, cathexis, exogamy and phallogocentrism but not all of them were there. After 80 pages, I retreated to YouTube and Wikipedia in search of summaries and author interviews. I side-tracked onto Slavoj Žižek videos before going back to the book. Most of it still looks unintelligible to me.

Despite not really understanding this book, Gender Trouble made an excellent conversation piece. This book stimulated hours of discussion in my living room (even though nobody fully understood this book); we talked about sex, lesbians, equality, sexual identity, and most interestingly, why some people feel compelled to write books about it all.

One reading is clearly not enough. I missed 100% of the humour and 99% of the point. Maybe that’s because I’m a man. Or maybe it’s because I’m just stupid. I promise to read it again.

I prefer Slavoj Žižek as a philosopher. ★★

3 thoughts on “Book: Gender Trouble (First Read)

  1. Hmm…sounds like an interesting book, but not one I’d read. I can figure out for myself that there is so-called gender trouble, so I don’t really need a book to tell me that. As for not completely understanding it, don’t worry: we women are pretty complicated. In my opinion, we don’t understand ourselves half the time, so how can we expect men to?


  2. Exactly. I agree 100%. Women are complicated. But I need to understand feminist literature much better. Just look at the rest of my bookshelf—it’s incredibly “male-biassed”.

    I don’t need convoluted feminist theory to understand the questions raised in this book. I’m perfectly happy with the answers provided by biology, genetics and psychology.

    I’m going to re-read this after completing MIT’s Introductory Psychology lecture series from iTunes U.


    1. It’s good that you’re expanding your horizons. Now that you mention it, your bookshelf does look pretty biased towards men. But really, what’s wrong with that? My bookshelf is pretty biased towards women.


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