A Quick look at Butler & Foucault

I wanted to share my thoughts after reading Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions and Truth and Power. Posts like this one are basically summaries, however, I hope my thoughts makes sense to anyone struggling to read both works. I will post more like this later.

Philosopher Judith Butler’s Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions explores the idea of creating labels on bodies as sex by the effects of the politics, from compulsory heterosexuality and Phallocentrism, or if noticing the differences of bodies themselves influence people to create labels for them, resulting in compulsory heterosexuality and Phallocentrism. Butler discusses drag performances to explain the complexity of gender itself; drag makes us question what it means for an object, a person, to become a parody versus natural. Gender depends on stylized repetition of acts, gestures, and desires, defined as performativity. The line between authentic and fabricated depends on its risk of deformity, failure to repeat precisely, or even a parody. If a person wears mostly pink, either people interpreted them as feminine or risk interpreted as too feminine. The parody depends on onlookers’ knowledge of history to understand its representation, such as associating pink with femininity and youth. An object like pink is subjective by nature as it is merely a color we use, consciously or unconsciously, to communicate. Dualism between real and parody reflects the history of culture and internal; we internalized ideas generally accepted by the public, such as accepting pink as a symbol for femininity or even childish by distancing oneself from it. Philosopher Julia Kristeva’s Abjection comes into play as it helps explain the aspect of our inner self, as it refers to the rejection of an object from within self by deeming it as other. An example is a person abhorring the queer community as it reminds the person of the loss of distinction between self and other. As the other is deemed deviant in culture, the person disdains to question that they may not be entirely heterosexual nor cisgender. Philosopher Michel Foucault’s notion of sexuality comes into play as he expounds on how the body becomes a canvas of culture and history. Suppose we accepted a notion of gender and sexuality. In that case, it becomes real, such as the power of compulsory heterosexuality in a micro-perspective and macro-perspective, from doubting one’s sexuality and gender identity to people’s lack of acceptance of the one’s coming out as queer.

Foucault’s History of Sexuality explains further about his previous works, especially The History of Sexuality, to analyze power’s negative effects, such as its exclusion, rejection, denial, obstruction, occultation. The idea of madness perceives as a rejection of systemic power, as it requires us to question the dualism between deviant or deviant. The body functions as a tool to communicate political beliefs by what we internalize ideology, such as deeming sexuality relating it to morals, whereas other cultures are apathetic to sexuality. Through works of naturalizing ideology as the truth through repeated actions of people, through a culture that normalizes ideology as part of nature, it reinforces people not to question their social reality.

Foucault’s Truth and Power expound on the notion of power, as he explains that power is found in language, social customs, and institutions. As power and knowledge co-exist with each other as a discourse, he notes how power is not the only repression. It is also generative; it is historical, on its forces us to internalize ideology given to us by culture. An example is how we follow institutions’ rules. Many people do not question its origin and how we can still give in to institutional power by violating the rules, such as stealing products from stores to rebel corporations without realizing it harms employees instead. Foucault disagrees with the Marxist perspective on ideology, as he interprets that the truth has no dualism nor order in history. The truth focuses on a form of scientistic discourse, relying on constant economic and political incitement, requiring people to share and listen to these discourses as it is produced under the control of those in power, ranging from media to university, and confronts with ideology struggles by political arguments and social hostility. Foucault proclaims that truth requires us to question its existence, as it is part of undoing its power by procedures and its relation to other forms of power.