Cluster 6: Neither nor: Queering the hetero

by kajsakorner

Only by reading Luce Irigaray’s title This sex is not one I assume she questions the notion of women being a homogenous group. My next thought is: these sexes are not two. The silent assumption of a dichotomy: man or woman. Presumed. The truth. A fact. Just there. Very tiresome. The essentialist argument.

Applying Irigaray’s thoughts of how the femininity is defined in terms of supporting masculinity, Grosz arguments for how the concept chora is applied to sustain an order of gender power (Rendell et al., 2000). Grosz (in Rendell et al., 2000) shows how Plato’s chora concept for space/place is described/defined in terms of passivity coupled with femininity. Chora is a container without agency to act and Form is its active masculine counterpoint. Therefore, women cannot inhabit space, but men can. Grosz (in Rendell et al., 2000) arguments for how these constant descriptions of women as passive deprive them of their possibility to act or take power of their own lives. Together form and chora forms an unequal dichotomy. The definition of men as being in charge and active hinder women from being active, and this reinforces a patriarchal structure that suppresses women; the reproduction of an equal order of gender power (Grosz in Rendell et al., 2000).

I think that Grosz misses the point that Sofia (2000) makes when questioning the idea of the container as a definite passive object. Instead, Sofia (2000) suggests that it can be both: passive and active.

“The distinction between tool or machine and utensil or apparatus hangs on the dynamic/static distinction, but it could be debated              whether holding or containing is simply to be considered as a passively inhering property of a shaped space, or whether containing is rather to be thought of as a form of action itself.” (2000:190)

Further on, I consider that Plato and his supporters are applying circular reasoning when constructing the chora concept, i.e. they want to prove that women are passive by saying that passivity is a part of the female “nature”, which they (men) have defined as passive. So, what else could women be according to their definition? Femininity/women have been decided to incorporate and embody what is weak and passive, and therefore everything linked to this gender will be considered as without power to act. Giving birth, nurture, motherhood, domestic work etc have all been defined in terms of none action. I cannot see that Grosz’ argumentation is questioning the overall dichotomic structure where chora and form is only one out of many binary suppressing mechanisms. I consider this structure as being built upon a heterosexist binary division of sexes into two opposite and contradictory categories: men and women. According to the matrix these categories cannot be transgressed. Either you are a woman or a man. You have to choose side. I think that the heterosexist matrix will not and cannot let you be part of two categories at the same time, because it will be the beginning of its own collapse. A transgressing of sexual boundaries within the heterosexual matrix will dissolves the fundament for its very own existence.

Butler (2011) questions the feministic idea founded on a binary thinking of sex (body) and gender (mind) as separated, where the latter is constructed and the former is assumed as a biological fact. This feministic idea departs from a critic of essentialism of sexes, where masculinity is considered as active and femininity as passive. Instead, the gender is a construction, where the female role has been constructed in order to suppress women and boost male supremacy. However, this critic does not question the division of a human separated into body and mind. Butler (2011)argues for that materiality, as everything else, can/might be constructed. The body is not a neutral surface for projections. She, therefore, claims that it is necessary to question the division between materiality and constructedness in order to articulate the “matrix of power” behind “the scenography and topography of construction.” (Butler, 2011:28). The materiality of bodies (the notion of matter) cannot be taken for granted or as irreducible. Butler (2011:54) suggests that it does not exist “a materiality of sex that is not already burdened by the sex of materiality.”, and if we do not acknowledge this “we run the risk of reproducing the very injury for which we seek redress.”. My reading of Butler is that if we do not question the very Cartesian dualism of what a human “is” we will continue to reproduce the inequality we want to reveal, fight and overbridge. The binarity of body and mind, sex and gender, is the mechanism that produces and reproduces an unequal dichotomy between sexes.


BUTLER, J. 2011. Bodies that matter : on the discursive limits of “sex”, Abingdon, Oxon ;, Routledge.

RENDELL, J., PENNER, B. & BORDEN, I. 2000. Gender, space, architecture : an interdisciplinary introduction, London, Routledge.