On the Gendered Subject: Queering Heteronormativity

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Bienstock, Julia
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The thinkers that I have chosen provide optimistic doctrines although it might not seem that way on the surface. They invite us to be more comfortable with the idea of gendered freedom and viewing our gender as more hypothetical and in line with Kantian reflective judgments. Queer visibility has been rapidly increasing in the West during the 21st Century, but it does not end there because, as Butler and others have noted, representation is not the end goal of identity-based political movements.2 The next task in the gender revolution, which is a term I use to summarize gendered existence understood in our contemporary and new visibility in the West, is queering heteronormativity. While that sounds oxymoronic, it simply means we ought to see that heteronormativity as just as strange as deviance from it. The title is inspired from the surrealist movement, which is inspired by psychoanalysis and makes the familiar seem strange. That is how I want us to view heteronormativity because it is rarely questioned. My research in Lacanian psychoanalysis and neo-Kantian aesthetic theory helps us play with our internalized and unconsciously registered gender norms. Lacanian psychoanalysis gives us insight into how we think about gender expression while inhabiting an increasingly polarized world. Lacan believes that “the agent of interest [is] the unconscious.”3 This differs from idealism or existentialism because it grapples with the non-empirical, unknown parts of ourselves. Psychoanalysis recognizes that transcendence and the liberal capitalist ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mentality is not the whole picture. Instead, it acknowledges the passive component to perception and how the Other co-creates us. Contemporary gender studies often analyze gender through a biological or cultural lens, while a structural analysis is in between the two. It is situated after biology and before culture. Lacan’s structural psychoanalytic framework explores social and individual development, much of which involves gendered processes. By examining his framework, we can understand gender development and associated emancipatory movements on a deeper level that fits in with our current socio-political circumstances regarding these issues. I have briefly outlined my philosophical approach to gender and how contemporary gender studies’ tendency to go the biological or cultural route does not question language nor desire. In the sections that follow, I will use psychoanalysis, critical social theory, and aesthetic theory to make claims about the gender revolution. Before that, I will provide a summary and analysis of some dominant feminist and queer movements and theories to then show why a philosophical analysis of gender is necessary. While these theories and practices have their advantages, my selection of philosophers invite us to be more open with the binaries that pervade us. We have to know what we are fighting for before we form coalitions for emancipatory change.
88 p.
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