Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

Gender Trouble Butterfly

Within Gender Trouble, written by Judith Butler, Newton gives a powerful message:

At its most complex, [drag] is a double inversion that says, “appearance is an illusion.” Drag says [Newtons curious personification] “my ‘outside’ appearance is feminine, but my essence ‘inside’ [the body] is masculine.” At the same time it symbolizes the opposite inversion; “my appearance ‘outside’ [my body, my gender] is masculine but my essence ‘inside’ [myself] is feminine” (Butler, 137).

From this, a very troubling and complex statement arises from the works of David Henry Wang in his play M. Butterfly, with Song stating that:

Like, I think the reason we fight wars is because we wear clothes (Wang, 55).

The “double inversion” proposed in Butler’s work stings true to the heart when Song gives the ultimate reason for gender/identity mayhem. Newton, through Butler, introduces the idea and separation between appearance and feeling along the lines of respective gender femininity and/or masculinity. The relation between Song’s position in M. Butterfly and the words of Newton within Butler’s work is that Song ‘plays’ the gender role of female, while standing as a biological male. In this situation, Newton would classify her as the first portion of his writing: “[her] ‘outside’ appearance is feminine, but [her] essence ‘inside’ [the body] is masculine.” Song believes that it is this binary between sex and gender that she encompasses as a whole, that creates issues in the world. It is this mere contradiction of appearance and biology that allow for disagreement, argument and ultimately disapproval of ‘differences.’

The very evident similarities between these two works and the gender binaries that exist and are explained within the words of the text suggest important, relevant as well as controversial binaries such as femininity versus masculinity, sex versus gender, male versus female and appearance versus feelings/emotions (‘inside’ versus ‘outside’). These binaries exposed in Gender Trouble allow one to clearly identify the important aspects of sexuality as well as gender identity within M. Butterfly and ultimately relate them to real world issues as a whole.

The suggestive material stating, “appearance is an illusion” in M. Butterfly needs the unambiguous explanation given in Gender TroubleGender Trouble is ultimately used as a lens to better understand the allusions, suggestions and binaries within M. Butterfly. These two texts are linked and intertwined ever so perfectly through meaning, connotation and annotation that they need one to understand the other. Allusion and illusion need definition to make things clear, yet definition needs allusion and illusion to make things interesting.

1 Comment

  1. The line that you used from M Butterfly was one of my favorite quotes from the entire play. The way you connect it back to Butler is very interesting. It also makes me wonder, how Song would decribe his/her ‘inside’. Does Song feel to have a feminine or masculine inside? And would he, too relate to his inside as his essence?

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