Judith Butler transformed philosophy’s understanding of gender and queer studies with her theory that gender is not an inherent quality, it is a repeated performance based on social codes. Butler began taking special ethics courses in Hebrew school at age fourteen and graduated from Bennington College in 1978 with a degree in philosophy. She earned her PhD from Yale in 1984. She taught at Wesleyan, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins before joining the faculty of UC Berkeley in 1993, where she continues to teach as of 2016. Drawn to question social norms in part through her identity as a lesbian, Butler published Gender Trouble in 1990, arguing that gays, transvestites, and others who choose not to perform their assumed gender roles force us to acknowledge the fact that gender is a construct. Her 2004 book Undoing Gender took this concept further by discussing the medical and psychological treatment of intersex people, who are usually assigned a gender at birth and pressured to conform. Beyond her groundbreaking work in critical theory, she has chaired the board of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, served as an executive member of Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, and been involved with Occupy Wall Street.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Judith Butler." (Viewed on February 20, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/butler-judith>.