On Fri, 26 Nov 1999, Katha Pollitt wrote:
[on Judy Butler:]
> I know that's what she SAYS. but I don't agree with her. i think she
> encodes her conclusion in her premiss. BECAUSE she has already decided
> that physical sex is discursive, any argument one makes to the contrary
> is part of that discursive system. But she never shows that physical sex
> is discursive in the first place. She merely asserts this. Again, it
> really is a lot like Freud, another great mental manipulator: yes means
> yes and so does no. Everything the patient says merely confirms the
> doctor's theory, because "there is no NO in the unconscious."
This is a straw man argument. Can you point out where she says that "physical sex is discursive"? You're dividing the world into reasonable people who believe in the reality of biology and postmodern weirdos who deny that obvious reality. Butler isn't interested in the question of the "true biological differences" between men and women; rather, she wants to understand how we use the idea of the biological, the physical, to create identities and maintain social relations. Carrol and Kelley have made this point recently elsewhere: biological facts don't speak for themselves. A complex array of social relations must exist in order for any biological difference to play an important role in human society.
And all of this is not a denial of biology; rather it's trying to highlight the importance of the social. Even when it comes to apparently "natural" categories.