Butler & Swift on Gender Roles

Judith Bulter has a very revolutionary and complex view on gender and the roles that it plays in our society. According to Butler, having homosexual identity categories cannot be secure and constant because if they became this way they would become unappealing to her because she is attracted by their instability and the always-changing opinion of them. For example, early in her piece “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” she states that, “Drag constitutes the mundane way in which genders are appropriated theatricalized, worn, and done; it implies that all gendering is a kind of impersonation ad approximation.  If this is true, it seems, there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself.”  Drag is usually thought of as the way that a person of one gender uses the mannerism, appearance, clothing, and aesthetics of another gender.  People perform drag by coping a different gender than their own.  Butler challenges this notion by redefining who owns a specific gender role. Gender is not something one can own, it is something one can become if they wish.

In Jonathan Swift’s poem “A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed” he shares the story of a prostitute and everything she has to do to undress and go to bed at night. He is exploiting on the idea of how women basically sell themselves with their bodies. He emphasizes on the fakeness and the amount of time and concern it takes to make a woman look presentable on the outside. Although Swift does not directly attack women, he is simply pointing out the things they feel like they need to cover to be presentable. In another poem by Swift, “A Lady’s Dressing Room” he is again describing another idea dealing with women and their vain tendencies. The topic of the poem is revealed to us in the title. Basically, what is actually happening in a woman’s dressing room. He explains how much work it is to make women beautiful, and how disgusting the work behind the scenes is. At the end he writes, “Such Order from Confusion sprung, Such gaudy Tulips rais’d from Dung” basically summing up how amazing it is that how we consider beauty coming from something so ugly and how achieving it can be so confusing and such a process.

Both writers would agree that how society views women is outrageous and wrong. Swift outright satirizes women and how they feel like they have to put on such a mask to be considered feminine and beautiful. Bulter would be absolutely disguised to see the work a woman has to put into getting ready just to consider herself beautiful to the rest of the world. I believe that times and views have changed greatly since the 1700s but obviously society’s yearning of outside beauty is still valued greatly. Of course what beauty is has obviously changed since then, but the desire to be seen as lovely and beautiful is still evident. Butler’s essay helps us to understand how people have transformed since then though. Even though women still yearn for beauty, they also strive towards originality too. Swift would agree with this too, he clearly sees a problem in the way women perceive themselves and if he were to hear Butler’s ideas I believe he would eventually agree with her.

Works Cited:

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/00-previous-readings/1024-jonathan-swift-a-beautiful-young-nymph-going-to-bed-1734/

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/00-previous-readings/1024-swift-the-ladys-dressing-room-1732/

 

https://engl382fall2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/butler-imitation-and-gender-insubordination.pdf

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