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Butler And Foucault's Relationship To Sexuality And Gender

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Both Foucault and Butler orient their respective philosophies towards the idea of the body, and its relationship to sexuality and gender. Foucault, in his book, “History and Sexuality, Vol. I” asserts that bodies are constituted within a specific network of cultural influences. Whereas Butler, in her book, “Gender Trouble”, agrees with Foucault that the body is only understandable within the context of gender and sexuality, she argues that Foucault’s theory implies that there is a materiality (or ontological independence) of the body outside of those specific cultural regimes; while the body is shaped and determined by cultural influences, its concrete substance is continued in, and outside of, that connection. While Foucault provides the basis…show more content…
In “History and Sexuality Vol. I”, Foucault concerns himself primarily with the idea of sex, and how sex is influenced by, and influencing society and individuals. Sex is traditionally viewed as a real, biological entity from which we conclude that there is such a thing as sexuality. Foucault disagrees, arguing that sex is an “imaginary thing” produced by the idea of sexuality in order to maintain a coherent image (Foucault, 155-156). The body is a conglomerate of culturally constituted meanings, and sex is an “imaginary point” (CITE)- the mere result of a materiality. Nonetheless, sex and gender are primary ways in which societies organize and police people’s bodies. The body is constituted through sex and gender- there is no core self that isn’t constructed by power and social relations. We discipline ourselves into outwardly performing our gender. When we are born we become a “docile body” (CITE) that takes on gender characteristics given by society; our bodies are produced through gender and sex…show more content…
Both Butler and Foucault believe that there is no interior truth to the self, and for Butler, gender identity. Gender is instead, “inscribed on the surface of bodies” through the repeated and ongoing performance of words and acts (Butler, 136), and discourses on power and culture. Butler explicates Foucault’s arguments and concludes that he takes for granted his assumption that the body is a stable entity before culture imposes on it. Foucault’s philosophies inadvertently surmise the existence of a body before discourses on power and performativity; that the body is its own entity, and culture acts upon that. If bodies are constituted within a specific network of cultural influencers (which Foucault argues that they are), this presupposes that there is a materiality -or ontological independence- of the body outside of those specific regimes. While the body is shaped and determined by cultural influencers, it maintains its concrete substance (a man’s penis, a woman’s vagina, etc) before, and outside of, that relationship. Foucault is supposed to assert that the body is a cultural construction, though his philosophies force him to commit to the denial of that claim, inadvertently “maintaining [that there is] a body prior to its cultural inscription” (Butler,
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