Gender Performativity Theory paper

Gender Performativity Theory

Gender identity is a sensitive topic in the private and public spaces. The difference between sex and gender has been a historical topic of discussion in the ancient sociolinguistic study. Gender, in most instances, has always been taken lightly. Research within historical sociolinguistic has been conducted, focusing heavily on gender performativity. The formation of gender social roles is evaluated through performance attributes. The studies conducted have been focusing on resolving the following main questions on gender; Can gender only be binary? Are there choices to make instead of the socially structured script of gender? Furthermore, are people acting a script from birth and conforming to the gender role? In order to understand the notion of performability in gender, let us have a review of early research studies on the topic.

What was the state-of-the-art linguistics in sociolinguistics? The study of language variation characterized the period between the 1970s to 1980s. The main concern was defining the correlation between gender, age, and ethnicity with language. The discussions on the correlation of the identity factors ignited more discussion and study on gender.

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According to the role theory (Biddle 1986), the society we live in dictates our social structure and individual behavior.The Role theory also confirms that social interactions additionally guide the behavior of a person. Therefore, from the theorem, Roles are a combination of existing social norms, the context of the individual, and the attitude of the participant. People take roles through interaction with society (socialization), thus defining his/her identity.

Performativity in gender research was first introduced by Judith Butler in her book: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. In the Performance Theory by Judith Butler (Butler 1990), gender is described as a process rather than something natural. Judith Butler, in her argument of gender, claims that “Identity is performatively constituted” rather than a fixed category. She defines gender as a social role taken by a person and accepted and validated by society. According to Butler, the meaning of gender varies depending on cultural upbringing. Therefore, gender is a continuous trait that can be enhanced through performance and acquiring new meaning.  In this meaning, Butler disagrees with stable identity and essentialist while shunning away from notions of authority, authenticity, objectivity, and universality.

Butler argues that being female is not naturally given to but culturally acquired. For example, in Languages, being female is recognized by how someone speaks. Speech is a culturally acquired human trait that is then used to define the gender role of an individual (Butler 1990). Therefore, Butler expresses his opinion defining gender as a doing but not self-identity of a person.

In addition, according to Beynon, Men are not conceived with masculinity. However, it is something they acculturate and compose as a result of social behavior (Beynon, 2002). The observation made by Beynon illustrates the performing gender trait. Concerning the masculinity aspect, people can acquire the trait through undergoing surgical processes. This concept has been proven by the increasing number of women undergoing surgical procedures to acquire the masculinity attribute.

West and Zimmerman’s study also highlighted interesting aspects of gender performance. According to the study conducted, West and Zimmerman acknowledge that society is organized around sex differences. “There is no time when we cannot do gender” ( West, Zimmerman, 1987). In addition, their study approves Goffman’s finding that gender performance is considered dependent on a series of the institutionalized framework. In this case, the institutionalized framework refers to the social framework.



Lastly, gender performativity is accountable. This implies that it is available for assessment in terms of conformity to feminism. Therefore, when we perform gender, we reproduce, sustain, and legitimate societal institutions based on the sex category. A person’s gender, fundamentally, is what one frequently does and how they interact with others in society. In summary, Butler’s concept of gender performativity provides the base for discussing gender and sex comprehensively with an open mind on various aspects. The world now has a wider view of gender because of the theory.

Butler’s (1990, 1993) study on gender and performativity has proven its importance in current language and gender research. According to her study, Butler describes gender as a repeated performance. Gender as a performative social construct, or the recurring performance of a series of actionsrelatedto a particular sex, is then, for Butler, a continuousprocedure, as it is with established gender customs that people negotiate. The move from a binary opposition to a more cultured conceptualization of gender has created more nuanced anxieties with the ways that peopleexchange with,reaffirm, and challenge what they theorize as proper behavior in specific contexts. The concept of a community of practice has been mainlysignificant for linguistic and gender scholars in discerning through the notion of peopleconveying, approving, and demonstrating practices and understandings in local settings, developing a sense of their own gendered identity.


GradesFixer. (2019, 4, 10) The Concept of Gender Performativity and its Role. Retrived February 20, 2020, from

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