Queer Theory

An Overview/History of Queer Theory:

What is Queer Theory?

The word 'queer' according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal." The word 'theory' is defined as "the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another." Putting the two words together, we can conclude that Queer Theory is the study of the informal norm. Queer theory is not just the study of gays or lesbians, but also the study of transgender, hermaphroditism, and any other sexual orientation that goes against society's formal sexual norms.

Queer Theory uprooted from the studies of Feminism. Feminists viewed gender according to the colorado.edu website as a "social construct; something designed and implemented and perpetuated by social organizations and structures, rather than something merely "true," something innate to the ways bodies worked on a biological level." This meaning that gender is portrayed throughout society. Queer Theory took the studies of feminism a little further and began looking at gender in a very broad view.

According to the online Science Encyclopedia, the term queer theory came about in 1991 when Teresa de Lauretis edited a feminist studies journal entitled "Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities." She defines queer theory as containing three main points: "a refusal of heterosexuality as the benchmark for all sexual formations; an attentiveness to gender capable of interrogating the frequent assumptions that lesbian and gay studies is a single homogeneous object; and an insistence on the multiple ways in which race crucially shapes sexual subjectives." This quote means that the word "queer" is anything but ordinary. Queer Theory is a study in which traditonal sexual norms are rejected. The studies introduce the fact that there are more than just two types of sexuality.

Scholars within the Queer Theory:

Michel Foucault is a key scholar that deals with queer theory. His theory is that “sexuality is a discursive production, rather than an essential human attribute”. He believes that sexuality has been repressed since the Western society since the 17th century and also that sexuality is something hard to talk about. Michel sees sexuality in two different ways, one way is called “erotic art” indentified in Japan, China, as well as in India. The other way is called “science of sexuality” identified in the Western society. Foucault identified four major themes that kept occurring within sexuality. The four themes were: 1) Body of women were sexualized from the role of the child bearer. 2) Children should be banned from all dangers about sexuality including masturbation and other sexuality’s. 3) Sexuality is important for the role in reproduction. 4) Adults sexuality can become a danger in forms of perverse actions. Michel thought that it would be best if not to get rid of these themes but to embrace the health and procreation of it.

Eve Sedgwick was one of the founders of the queer theory in the early 90’s. In her most influential book “Epistemology of the Closet” she discussed the social meanings and violent force fields that were created by the hectic crisis of the homosexual and heterosexual definition. She was the leader of a debate that was held on whether sexual identity is inherent or socially constructed in 1990. Another one of Sedgwick’s important essays was “How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay” appearing in 1991 then reprinted by the Duke University Press in 1993 and then again in Routledge shortly after that.

Judith Butler is yet another theorist who analyzed effects of dominant understandings of sex and gender. Butler argues, “gender, like sexuality is not an essential truth derived from the body’s materiality but rather a regulatory fiction”. Butler looks within the cultural work and looks at the representation of gender and the natural expression of the body. She thinks that gender performativity is a “strategy of resistance” which includes drag and cross-dressing. Butler’s most influential book was “Gender Trouble” where she discussed that women were not just a group with common interests. In the book, she also talked about gender relations. Butler is known for her theory that sex should be between a man and a women so it can cause masculine and feminine which would cause desire for the other gender.

Analyzed Texts

Lady Gaga's song, Pokerface, is about a female initiated sexual game of cat and mouse. Traditionally the male is expected to take the lead when it comes to sexual relations, however; as referenced in the line 'And after he's been hooked I'll play the one that's on his heart,' Gaga implies that she's the one skilled in making the first move.

Notable Readings/Links


Resources Used/Works Cited

Klages, Mary. Queer Theory. University of Colorado at Boulder,1997. Web. 4 March 2011. <www.colorado.edu>