Foucault proposes that sexuality should not be perceived as a natural drive, but is shaped by our cultural context. Modern power subjects individuals, but it simultaneously creates them as subjects by subjecting them. the face of such omnipresent power, the question of resistance inevitably arises. Foucault proposes that we undermine the boundaries of pleasure delimited by discursive powers. In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler draws on Foucault’s conception of power to analyze normative femininity and masculinity for that matter. She argues, as I’ve mentioned in any earlier post, that gender norms govern gender identity. To undermine normative constraints, she proposes that one highlights, makes manifest, the constructions of gender. That is to say, to unravel gender performativity, either by exaggerating characteristics associated with being female for instance, or to take on traits that have been assigned to the other sex. In her preface to Bodies that Matter, Butler sums up a major criticism, or response, to her Gender Trouble: “What about the materiality of the body, Judy?...they eat and sleep...cannot be dismissed as a construction. ” She responds by presenting what she refers to as a “process of materialisation that stabilises over time to produce the effect of boundary.” In other words, sex is only posited epistemologically as prior to construction, but it is only language that allows for such a positing. In Bodies that Matter, Butler extends her analysis of subjection to underscore how it affects the materiality of the body and delineates what bodies matter on a social level. In fact she adapts Kristeva’s notion of the abject to analyze bodies that are expelled in society.
She argues that since language conditions the appearance of materiality, materiality remains mutable and contestation possible. So while she doesn’t dismiss the ontological reality of the body, she argues that the body is only understood through language which cannot reveal the body per se, but how we speak about the body, how subjectivity is manufactured.