A Genderless Life: Or How Autism Challenges Butler’s Theory of Gender

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Gender is a performance according to Judith Butler . All bodies, she claims, are gendered from birth; sometimes even earlier now we can determine sex in the womb . For Butler society dictates ones gender and the individual reinforces that gender through performance . “The deeds make the doer” in Butler’s words; there is no subject prior to performance. Butler’s concept of gender, however, leads us to question: what of those who are incapable of performing the gender ascribed to them? If one is unable to perform are they left genderless, lacking subjectivity and social identity? If no human is without gender , as Butler claims, then where does this leave her theory? Either gender is more than simply performance or one can exist without …show more content…
I hope Laura’s case will highlight how autism challenges Butler’s theory, calling for a need to both expand our concept of gender and accept that one can live a genderless life.
Autism was first written about, on an academic level, by Leo Kanner and Hans Aspergers in 1943 . These early diagnostic writings have since developed into concepts of cognitive diversity and the wide spectrum of cases and severity that is Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD . Autism is defined as a neurological and developmental disorder, which impacts on ones social functioning . The disorder is usually manifest in an unresponsiveness and resistance to physical affection, obtrusiveness, inability to communicate, repetitive behavior, obsessive-compulsive personality types and extreme anxiety that often results in aggressive behavior or tantrums .
Being on a spectrum the severity of these symptoms varies . For those at the severe or low-functioning end of the spectrum, that is the cases I am focusing on, these symptoms are generally all not only present, but extreme. The individual is often rendered incapable of entering or understanding society or their place within that society . These cases are usually deemed as having the mental capacity of a toddler or young child , leaving them as what one may call a pre-discursive subject . Existing prior to discourse autistics escape the influence of
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