The most influential queer theorist is Judith Butler an American philosopher who draws heavily upon Foucault and Derrida. Butler’s chief contribution to queer Theory was to question the links between sex – the biological categories of male and female – gender- the behaviours and traits commonly associated with one sex or the other – and sexuality – the nature of sexual desire. Butler claims gender is wholly socially constructed, and developed her most well-known concept: gender performativity. She claims gender roles are taught and learned unwittingly through socialisation – as sets of actions, behaviours, manners, and expectations and people perform these roles accordingly.
Articles by Daphna Whitmore
Queer theory sees the concepts of sex – male and female – and gender – masculine and feminine- as oppressive. The main objective of queer theory is to subvert these concepts and to break them down. Rejecting the possibility of there being a knowable objective reality, queer theory asserts that language creates the categories, enforces them, and scripts people into them. The boundaries are arbitrary and oppressive according to queer theory. These boundaries can be blurred into apparent absurdity and thus erased.
Under postmodernism many ideas that were seen as objectively true came to be seen as mere constructions of language. Foucault refers to them as ‘discourses’ that construct knowledge. Consequently, since discourses are believed to create and maintain oppression, they have to be carefully monitored and deconstructed. This is not some obscure academic issue, it is the outlook that is behind calls for laws to outlaw speech which may cause offense.