letters

Must-reads: Different views

In response to: ON BOOKS: Read these books

Published on March 21, 2012

In “Read these books,” Jill S. Dolan, professor of English and director of the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, described Gender Trouble by Judith Butler as “tops on my list of important books.” According to Dolan, “Butler argues from poststructuralist theory that gender (and by extrapolation sexuality, race, and ethnicity) is not innate and that gender doesn’t even exist, except as a cultural construction created by history and ideology.” Dolan further relates that “Butler introduced the notion of gender as performance” that we learn through a “stylized repetition of acts,” rather than, as Dolan paraphrases her, “through the fulfillment of pre-existing biological destiny.”

I am familiar with feminist theory and have read Butler. When I first encountered her work, I thought she was writing some sort of parody of theory. Her analysis of gender as some sort of construct in the culture created by history and ideology is patently ludicrous, as is her dismissal of biology and anatomy. And while it is true that someone might attempt to switch genders through surgery and hormones, men who do this can never bear children, and women who do it can never impregnate a woman and are still capable of giving birth.

I see what Dolan is doing by her elevation of Butler as an attempt to totally feminize Princeton. As someone who supported coeducation, the hiring of women faculty and administrators, and the appointment of a woman as University president, I object to this attempt to denigrate masculinity by reducing it to a “cultural construction.” Butler is a hoax, and I am mortified that Professor Dolan foists this nonsense on her students. Princeton does not need Judith Butler. What it needs is a winning football team.

RICHARD CUMMINGS ’59
Sag Harbor, N.Y.

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2 Responses to Must-reads: Different views

Nicholas Gotten Jr. '61 Says:

2012-03-19 14:08:05

Could not agree more. Thanks for writing a very good letter.

Alan Ryan p'98 Says:

2012-03-26 10:04:19

I too think that it is a terrific letter. It is difficult to radicalize the young without a good deal of help from the reactionary elderly. I was only sorry not to see any reference to femininazis - perhaps in a follow-up?
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