From De Beauvoir to Butler : How gendered categories have been used in five classical texts on gender

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för samhällsvetenskaper, SV

Abstract: The focus of this thesis is to investigate how gender related concepts have used in practice from Simone De Beauvoir’s “The second sex”, to Judith Butler’s “Bodies that matters”. The other texts used are “the traffic in women” by Gayle Rubin, “Gender: an ethnomethodological approach” by Suzanne Kessler and Wendy McKenna and “Gender and power” by Robert Connell. In my theoretical part I use the idea that categories are human inventions, that no categories including those important to the gender issue are more correct than any other and that the usefulness of categories can only be measured by the usefulness of the theories attached to them. I am also inspired by the theory of critical realism that claims that research must focus on the internal mechanisms that causes the effects that we are observing. The method used is an adaptation of philosophical conceptual analysis where I have analyzed how gender related concepts such as “men” and “women” are used in my empirical material. The focus was to create an understanding of how gender categories where used in the texts that I where analyzing. There is also a metatheoretical approach where the empirical material is used in order to get an understanding on how to create new theories. The conclusions of this thesis is that the theoretical concept of gender has developed from a description of how social forces affected people in the category “women” different from those in the category “men” to a more and more intricate philosophical and theoretical discussion of how to understand and analyze this difference. The second conclusion is that all the authors of my material are struggling with how the relation between the sexed\gendered bodies and the social characteristics of men and women should be explained. This leads to a number of problematic conclusions that I claim can be solved by not using specific theories about gender but instead focusing on general social theories based on causality and internal relations that explains the phenomena that are studied.

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