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Gender identity and the theory of performativity

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  1. Introduction
  2. McDowell's argument on gender
  3. Judith Butler's argument
  4. Creation of gender identity
  5. Criticisms
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography

In her book Gender, Identity and Place, Linda McDowell addresses the question of how gender, identity and geography are intertwined in a shared struggle for power, and how they are reciprocal and interdependent? Her main argument throughout the book is that the notion of gender and identity, that is, what it means to be a woman is heavily influenced by place, and the elements that go with this place. She makes the strong argument that ?explicit and implicit rules and regulations about whose bodies are permitted in which spaces between them and their internal divisions.? (McDowell, 1999: 166). he ensures that notions of power and resistance be used to help understand what it means to be a women. The argument that she tries to defend throughout her book is that gender must be considered a facet of geography, and by doing this we are able to conceptualize a new past and a new present. It also opens the door to the possibility that power relations are a variable force, and therefore they can be changed in the future.

[...] The more that little girls play with Barbie dolls, the more that it will become attached to the gender identity of little girls, the more it will become what they are ?supposed' to do. Butler does not believe that there is a distinction between personal and private acts when it comes to following the script of gender. Even those acts which we do in the most private of ways are still apart of the script. For example, women that share the same characteristics (geography, time, race, class) will likely have the same bathing routine. [...]


[...] Her argument is that gendered bodies are created as such, from the perspective of previously separated genders, meaning that there is clearly a distinction between the sexes, and this is how they come to be identified. She credits this identification and the way it develops over time as the product of gender performance, in which the socially developed norms of how a man and a woman should act work to cause the majority of people to act in this way. But she also argues that this framework is bound to be challenged. This is her theory of performativity. (McDowell, 1999: 23). [...]

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