The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

The Heterosexual Matrix

Reading Judith’s Butler’s excerpt from Gender Trouble opened up my eyes and mind to theories I was not even aware of. In the excerpt, Butler introduces Monique Wittig’s views, and begins by stating her beliefs that the terms “male” and “female” and “masculine” and “feminine” are only existent within the heterosexual matrix, and are just common terms that keeps the matrix concealed, protecting it from radical critique (141).

This view is interesting because it challenges terms and language that have been existent in the minds and mouths of people for centuries. Where did these terms come from, and, more interestingly, are they serving some agenda?

Butlergoes on to highlight Simone de Beauvoir’s idea that “One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one.” Beauvoir believes everyone is born with a sex in the anatomical sense, but a person acquires gender over time. Sex is a just a trait of being human, but sex does not determine what gender one can become (142).

            Wittig supports the de Beauvoir theory that “one is not born a woman,” but does not agree with Beauvoir’s theory that everyone is born with a sex. For Wittig, sex is a gendered category which serves a political purpose of reproductive sexuality. Sex then promotes heterosexuality and is not natural. Thus, a lesbian is not a woman, and that the term woman exists only to stabilize and consolidate an opposite relation to man—the relation being heterosexuality (143,144).

            This is the part of the text that just confused me. I was able to grasp the idea that gender could quite possibly be acquired throughout time, though even that notion is a little hard to understand, especially in the case of homosexuality—whether one is born gay, lesbian, or straight. Would the acquired gender argument refute that one is born a certain way?—Please feel free to chime in on this!

            But Wittig’s idea that sex is a gendered category was and is still hard for me to grasp, not because I don’t understand what she is saying, but because I don’t understand how she could think this is quite possible. It is clear that men and women are both human, but there are distinctions that separate the two—not only physically, but internally as well.  Butlersays, “That penis, vagina, breasts, and so forth are named sexual parts is both a restriction of the erogenous body to those parts and a fragmentation of the body as a whole.” Perhaps the names have become restrictions, but named or not, it does not change the fact these parts do exist. (146)

Wittig refuses to take part in these labels and wants to overthrow the vocabulary. She wants to change the description of bodies without referring to sex or gender.Butlersays that, “the political cultivation of intuition is precisely what she wants to elucidate, expose, and challenge” (145).

ButButleralso says that “it is unclear, however that these features could be named in a way that would not reproduce the reductive operation of the category of sex.” I don’t think that these features can be named without sex being involved.

 “‘Men’ and ‘women’ are political categories, not natural facts,” Wittig says (147). And that is where the agenda comes into play. Can sex really all just be some political ploy to keep men on top? Is this all really just serving the heterosexual matrix?

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Comments on: "The Heterosexual Matrix" (62)

  1. Hello,

    I wanted to make a comment about acquiring gender/the ‘born this way’ idea. I wrote this whole long elaborate explanation, then realized it was half the length of your post!

    So in short, I will say that people experience both gender and attraction and identity in different ways. For some, it has always been the same, and for others, it has changed or changes. I think even someone who feels they were born queer, straight, gay, or bi, had a process. Even if the process, was “I like this gender, therefore I identify this way.” And in many cases, they had a gender first. Even if their gender isn’t binary, it was constructed- unless of course their construction of gender is that it doesn’t exist for them. So I think its possible to both acquire gender and to be born gay/straight/queer/bi/etc. I don’t think one necessarily has to do with the other and I think that to pose a question about how gender can be acquired if some people (or all people) are born ________ (queer, gay, straight, bi etc) is to conflate sex and gender, when one doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other.

    Also, you don’t have to have a name for something, in order for it to exist. I always knew I was different than straight people, but I felt different than gay and bi people too. I was always queer. Just didn’t always have a name for it and this for me, is separate from the fact that I’m also a woman.

  2. […] led to some serious craziness, but if I’d started babbling about the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix, or ranting that “destruction of the incest taboo is essential to the development of […]

  3. […] encounter working-class women reading Judith Butler and ranting about the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix. Whatever the normal woman’s complaints about her relationships with men, she does not […]

  4. […] encounter working-class women reading Judith Butler and ranting about the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix. Whatever the normal woman’s complaints about her relationships with men, she does not construe […]

  5. […] encounter working-class women reading Judith Butler and ranting about the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix. Whatever the normal woman’s complaints about her relationships with men, she does not construe […]

  6. […] offering 31 flavors of abnormal perversion to those seeking escape from the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix that define oppression under […]

  7. […] offering 31 flavors of abnormal perversion to those seeking escape from the gender binary and theheterosexual matrix that define oppression under […]

  8. […] of humanity into male and female is an artificial illusion, the gender binary produced by the heterosexual matrix. Therefore, those characteristics we think of as naturally male (masculine) and female (feminine) […]

  9. […] understands feminist theory, e.g., the “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. To translate this to plain English, if you are a normal (feminine) woman who feels normal […]

  10. […] Whether they are speaking of “male supremacy” or “sexism,” whether the immediate object of their indignation is “rape culture,” “harassment” or the “objectification” of women in media, always the fundamental premise of the feminist argument is this systemic, historical and universal oppression of women. What we might call the Patriarchal Thesis is really an extraordinary assertion, requiring us to believe that there are no natural differences between men and women. Rather, everything we consider to be “natural” in terms of human traits and behavior — the masculinity of males and the femininity of females — is socially constructed by the gender binary of the heterosexual matrix. […]

  11. […] True Believer must believe — e.g., the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix – is not subject to debate within academia. Yet these ideas are so seldom discussed outside […]

  12. […] the True Believer must believe — e.g., the social construction of thegender binary within the heterosexual matrix — is not subject to debate within academia. Yet these ideas are so seldom discussed […]

  13. […] of gender as a performative act,”i.e., the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. One wonders what would be the reaction to Professor Dimowitz’s recitation of all this academic […]

  14. […] by Professor Judith Butler) it’s the “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. I explained gender theory in “Feminists Against […]

  15. […] Professor Judith Butler) it’s the “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. I explained gender theory in “Feminists Against […]

  16. […] in feminist gender theory — the “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. — and anyone who does not accept this theory is subject to denunciation as a bigot, a […]

  17. […] in feminist gender theory — the “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. — and anyone who does not accept this theory is subject to denunciation as a bigot, a […]

  18. […] feminist gender theory — ” the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — and every student who pursues a minor in Gender Studies at Saint Joseph’s is […]

  19. […] feminist gender theory — the “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — after Larry Summers was purged at Harvard University merely for suggesting that there may […]

  20. […] Feminists believe marriage between men and women is a “relationship of slavery,” and call for a “revolutionary struggle” to end women’s “oppression” within “the institutions of male supremacy.” Feminist theory teaches that heterosexuality is not natural, that there is no biological basis for normal sexual traits and behaviors, and that there are no real meaningful differences between males and females. Instead, according to feminist theory, these differences are artificial, an illusion manufactured by the ideology of male supremacy, a “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. […]

  21. […] Feminists believe marriage between men and women is a “relationship of slavery,” and call for a “revolutionary struggle” to end women’s “oppression” within “the institutions of male supremacy.” Feminist theory teaches that heterosexuality is not natural, that there is no biological basis for normal sexual traits and behaviors, and that there are no real meaningful differences between males and females. Instead, according to feminist theory, these differences are artificial, an illusion manufactured by the ideology of male supremacy, a “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. […]

  22. […] is all about gender theory, i.e., the “social construction” of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. As a matter of fact, Mimi Marinucci — a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Eastern […]

  23. […] Feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — tends toward the conclusion that it’s wrong to be normal. These weird ideas, […]

  24. […] Feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — tends toward the conclusion that it’s wrong to be normal. These weird ideas, promulgated in […]

  25. […] to shield feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — from critical scrutiny. Whenever feminism begins one of its periodic resurgences, as in the […]

  26. […] to shield feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — from critical scrutiny. Whenever feminism begins one of its periodic resurgences, as in […]

  27. Unopologetically White Heterosexual Male said:

    Muddled and incoherent crap like this shows just what happens when all of the mental institutions are closed, and the denizens within released upon the same populace.

  28. […] concept that male/female differences are socially constructed by the gender binarywithin the heterosexual matrix — was once known only to a comparative handful of Women’s Studies professors and their […]

  29. […] derived from Third Wave feminist theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix, to summarize the thesis of Judith Butler’s 1990 book Gender Trouble, now commonly assigned as […]

  30. […] derived from Third Wave feminist theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix, to summarize the thesis of Judith Butler’s 1990 book Gender Trouble, now commonly assigned as […]

  31. […] of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. — which denies the reality of human […]

  32. […] became alarmed. Feminist gender theory — the social construction of thegender binary within the heterosexual matrix — denies that there is any such thing as “human nature,” and feminists condemn […]

  33. […] of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — and one gathers that Ms. Fraser’s plan to end “rape culture” is simply to […]

  34. […] So when I summarize these theories — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — people look at me as if I’ve slipped a […]

  35. […] So when I summarize these theories — the social construction of the gender binary within theheterosexual matrix — people look at me as if I’ve slipped a […]

  36. […] dealt with feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within theheterosexual matrix — in the Sex Trouble project. To me this theory (a terse summary of Professor Judith Butler’s […]

  37. […] theories of crazy women — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — will predictably result in a society that produces even more craziness. Instead of […]

  38. […] deranged theories of crazy women — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — will predictably result in a society that produces even more craziness. Instead of lunatics […]

  39. […] is an artificial product of patriarchy, socially constructed by the gender binary within theheterosexual matrix. The male has no essential raison d’être in the feminist scheme of things. He is […]

  40. […] differences between men and women are socially constructed by the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix (see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 1990). Feminism seeks […]

  41. […] differences between men and women are socially constructed by the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix (see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 1990). Feminism seeks […]

  42. […] differences between men and women are socially constructed by the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix (see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 1990). Feminism seeks […]

  43. […] differences between men and women are socially constructed by the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix (see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 1990). Feminism seeks […]

  44. […] of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — it was immediately apparent to me that (a) Professor Judith Butler’s argument […]

  45. […] offering 31 flavors of abnormal perversion to those seeking escape from the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix that define oppression under patriarchy. Now everybody is an oppressed victim, except normal […]

  46. […] offering 31 flavors of abnormal perversion to those seeking escape from the gender binary and theheterosexual matrix that define oppression under patriarchy. Now everybody is an oppressed victim, except normal […]

  47. […] gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — has become Official Truth in academia, and no criticism of these lunatic ideas is […]

  48. […] gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within theheterosexual matrix — has become Official Truth in academia, and no criticism of these lunatic ideas is permitted on […]

  49. […] of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — which in turn leads to the idea that it is “discrimination” to keep boys out […]

  50. […] of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — which in turn leads to the idea that it is “discrimination” to keep boys out of the […]

  51. […] of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — which in turn leads to the idea that it is “discrimination” to keep boys out of the […]

  52. […] where feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — is protected from criticism by speech codes, and where its practitioners can avoid contact […]

  53. […] where feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — is protected from criticism by speech codes, and where its practitioners can avoid contact […]

  54. […] an eyebrow in profound skepticism is socially constructed along with the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix. Professors get paid to overthink everything, and after two years of researching radical feminism, […]

  55. […] an eyebrow in profound skepticism is socially constructed along with the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix. Professors get paid to overthink everything, and after two years of researching radical feminism, […]

  56. […] exploration of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — it was immediately apparent to me that (a) Professor Judith Butler’s argument assumed as its […]

  57. […] to Al Gore and Judith Butler — the  socially construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — we have kids in the throes of adolescent turmoil trying to make sense of themselves in a […]

  58. […] are no such things as men and women, only the gender binary, which is socially constructed by the heterosexual matrix. Feminists generally believe there is no such thing as “human nature.” According to […]

  59. […] are no such things as men and women, only the gender binary, which is socially constructed by theheterosexual matrix. Feminists generally believe there is no such thing as “human nature.” According to feminist […]

  60. […] of Professor Judith Butler, locates the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix . Well, most people are not hermaphrodites, such genetic anomalies are rare, and it is a fallacy […]

  61. […] it). Postmodern academic theory about the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix has made its way into the world of Hollywood, journalism and now, […]

  62. […] version of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix. This one book by a University of California professor, therefore, has had an enormous effect in […]

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