From media to public education to social media campaigns, the American populace has been told from nearly every angle that the traditional distinction between male and female that is nearly universal in human cultural experience is mistaken. It did not take long for public conversation to move from a discussion of gender dysphoria, which refers to men experiencing confusion or distress about perceiving themselves as women and vice versa, to the contention that gender does not exist at all in any objective sense, and that, therefore, human persons can simply claim to be whatever gender they so desire. Further, it is asserted that there is a moral duty of all citizens to refer to people by their chosen pronouns, thereby affirming that gender identity is a matter of subjective social determination.

An activist, professor of both comparative literature and philosophy, and a widely read-author, Butler has impacted a variety of academic fields and activist organizations. Through her many writings (both books and essays), she has touched on a variety of topics related to LGBTQ studies, geopolitical events, and American civil policy. The idea for which she is most widely known is that of gender performativity, whereby she argues that gender differences are not metaphysically essential, but socially constituted, as they consist in a series of ritual actions and roles.

The writings of Butler may seem a bit esoteric for the average thinking Christian, and thus may seem to be of no significant concern. While these writings may indeed lack value in terms of academic rigor or logical coherence, the church must be ready to interact with someone who has such an impact upon the views of young people within our pews — even though most have not actually heard the name Judith Butler. What was once viewed as a radical fringe element within academia in the early 1990s became the accepted norm for social interaction within a period of thirty years. Had we been paying more attention earlier, perhaps the church could have done more to slow the tide.

This Postmodern Realities episode is a conversation with JOURNAL author Jordan B Cooper  about his online article, “Judith Butler’s Theory of Gender Performativity: A Christian Response.”