In Bodies that Matter, Judith Butler presents the idea of the potential for performative subversions as gender performance

that subverts normative gender identities; drag is the example that comes closest to subversion, though she admits that

this identification is complicated and problematic. Through rather mundane mimicry, drag undermines binaries of gender

identity. She writes, however, that “there is no guarantee that exposing the naturalized status of heterosexuality will lead

to its subversion. Heterosexuality can augment its hegemony through its denaturalization, as when we see denaturalizing

parodies that reidealize heterosexual norms without calling them into question” (576). Here, Butler explains that while drag

sits on the edge of subversion, it may actually serve to reinscribe gender norms rather than subvert them.


Butler later explains that discourse, itself, can successfully subvert ideology. She explores this through the notion of

“queer” and its potential to at least partly redeploy an enactment of both “a prohibition and a degradation against itself,

spawning a different order of values, a political affirmation from and through the very term which in a prior usage had as it

final aim the eradication of precisely such an affirmation” (577). By owning, redefining and employing the word that was

once used pejoratively, at least some sense of agency is achieved. She notes that the “subject who is 'queered' into public

discourse through homophobic interpellations of various kinds takes up or cites that very term as the discursive basis for an

opposition” (578). Butler juxtaposes notions of queering and drag alongside J. L. Austin’s heterosexual “I do” in order to

explore the ways in which performativity reflects ideologies and possesses the potential to subvert them.

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