Post #9 Wilchins Queer Theory Gender Theory

In chapter 7, Wilchins writes, “At the margins, Science no longer asks but tells. Nature no longer speaks the truth, but is spoken to. Here, where our narrative of Sex breaks down, Knowledge finally bares its teeth.” What does Wilchins mean by knowledge’s “teeth”? Give an example of knowledge’s teeth from the text. (Be sure to cite it.) After explaining Wilchins’ idea and the example you chose, describe how you feel when you think about this.


Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

As Michel Foucault, Riki Wilchins maintains that our society is structured by a regime of power-knowledge.

Thus, by saying that “knowledge finally bares its teeth,” Wilchins means that the scientific discourses produce a knowledge about “the margins” which (in)directly justifies the oppression of non-heteronormative people. Indeed, the scientific discourse is supposed to give us an objective knowledge that, among other things, “tells” us what is normal (confusion between value-neutral and value-laden meaning of “normality.”)

The Norm ( = science), then, says: “those people are not normal. They are deformed. They need to be cured. They need to be fixed.” Let us remember that the norm paradoxically needs those margins to exist. The process of marginalization is, then, not only a consequence of the norm, but consubstantial with the Norm. (We can draw a parallel with Edelman’s figures of the Child and of the Child).

That’s why it is really difficult to contradict that scientific discourse that seems to be so normal, so evident.

One of the best examples of that is Wilchins’s conversation with the producer. The producer cannot imagine that there are other categories of gender than man and woman. That impossibility of thinking-the-Other generates a deep misunderstanding between Wilchins and the producer.

Producer: We’re looking for someone whose sex was mis-assigned and who was then raised in wrong sex, like John/Joan.

Me: How do we know if it was the wrong sex?

Producer: If they were really male but assigned female, or really female but assigned male.

Me: Okay. But what if they were really intersex?

Producer: Right. I get your point. But we’re looking for someone who was mis-assigned.

I think that situation is the trace of something which is deeply constitutive of the producer’s identity. S/he cannot think about the existence of a third gender because there is no third gender in his/her (linguistic) reality.

When I think about that story, I feel really pessimistic for gender rights. The striking thing is that that producer has internalized an unshakable knowledge that cannot be called into question. It simply does not make sense for him. As a large part of the population, s/he cannot see the difference (as white people don’t see racial oppression or as men don’t see the harassment of women). I wonder how we can make people see those oppressions.

I would not like to add something to this post.


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