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Judith Butler’s Gender Identity and Lacan’s Theory on Aggressivity Essay

Words: 1249, Paragraphs: 2, Pages: 5

Paper type: Essay

This sample essay on Aggressivity provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

Butler’s theory of gender identification has acquired significant place in the contemporary psychology; the theory of aggressivity produced by Jacques Lacan is in many points connected with Butler’s ideas. This work is aimed at analyzing the major points in which both theories contact and interact.First of all, the terms of aggression and aggressivity should be differentiated: while aggression directly relates to the acts of violence, aggressivity is the much deeper implication for wider range of psychological responses (Lacan 10). In gender identification, aggressivity can be directly connected with what Butler calls ‘melancholy’ (Butler 137). Let’s elaborate on the parallels between these two categories.According to Freud, melancholy is the central aspect of ego formation (Butler 137); it is directly connected with the process of gender identification and accompanies it. The definition of Butler’s melancholy implies grief for the loss of an object (in this case, the object is expressed in gender attitudes and social conditions, which determine the so-called “proper” gender attitudes among people). The issues of rejecting homosexuality as socially undesirable cause the grief for losing it. This grief is the logical consequence of the fact that personal identity should be developed within strict social boundaries. These boundaries frequently urge a person to reject his (her) gender identification and accept it within his (her) identity without revealing it. This “non-revelation” is the melancholy itself, but how is it paralleled with aggressivity described by Lacan?Lacan’s aggressivity is expressed in the “dual relation between the ego and the counterpart” (Lacan 9). It is the relationship, similar to that found in Butler, where melancholy is grounded in relations between the personal identity and the rejection of object (homosexuality).The aggressivity, which the individual experiences on comparing the reality and the specular image, has its roots in melancholy, described by Butler. This disintegration of the human ego is another source of aggressivity (Lacan 11). It is possible to suggest, that rejecting homosexuality is the reason for this disintegration, thus the aspect of personal fragmentation/ disintegration is present in both theories.The heterosexual culture is the source and the cause of the discussed individual disintegration. Prohibiting homosexuality in Butler is connected with the loss of “homosexual objects and aims” (p. 139), and it is frequently foreclosed from the very beginning of the human gender identity formation. “When certain kinds of losses are compelled by a set of culturally prevalent prohibitions, we might expect a culturally prevalent form of melancholia, one which signals the internalization of the ungrieved and ungrievable sexial cathexis” (Butler 139). As long as there is no public form of expressing the sorrow and grief for losing (or better, rejecting) the desired form of gender identification, and as a result, the potential objects of sexual desire, melancholia remains the major determination of these experiences. This rejection is justified by external social requirements; it is directly connected with the notion, which Lacan described in his work – the notion of paranoic knowledge (Lacan 12). ‘”People are haunted by the sense of an “other” who influences our thoughts and actions”, and this is where the both Butler’s melancholia and Lacan’s aggressivity have their roots.When one has to “image” oneself to be identified with the culturally prevalent prohibitions (Butler 139), there is aggressivity for the fact, that homosexuality cannot be accepted as a norm. This aggressivity also stems from the fear, about which Butler speaks. This is another parallel line between Butler’s melancholy and Butler’s aggressivity. Butler relates to the panic fear of homosexual desire for both men and women. While the homosexual desire for a woman can be equaled to her not being feminine, the homosexual desire in men can be linked to the risk of not being “properly a man” (Butler 136). This panic fear can be transformed into either melancholy, or aggressivity. The term “organic insufficiency” , used by Lacan is equal to Butler’s fear, and is the link between the two parallel notions of aggressivity and melancholy – this insufficiency is either secretly grieved upon (through melancholy), or is treated with anger (through aggressivity).Butler relates to anger as the logical consequence of continuous gay melancholia (Butler 148). The author writes about political expression of homosexuality rejection, referring to the example of people with AIDS. Homosexuality here is directly connected with the death risks, and the discussed social prohibitions are emphasized here. “Insofar, as the grief remains unspeakable, the rage over the loss can redouble by virtue of remaining unavowed” (Butler 148). Melancholy is the instrument, through which individuals tend to over-dramatize death and to make it public. In case this rage is displayed publicly, it risks leading to “achieve suicidal proportions” (Lacan 17). It is a parallel line between Butler’s melancholy and Lacan’s aggresivity. Aggressivity according to Lacan is always mirrored by ego and is always directed at ego (Lacan 18). As a long as one’s ego is separated from gender identification, which is connected with “other objects”, the ego is threatened to be hurt or even eliminated. This elimination is the expression of death, or, literally, suicidal tendencies in the human gender identity. Both melancholy and aggressivity may grow beyond the boundaries of mere unspeakable grief, where suicidal intentions are grounded.Both melancholy and aggressivity are related to the notion of Narcissism. In her work, Butler referred to Freud’s ‘On Narcissism’ (Butler 141). The author spoke about the loss becoming the renewed scene of conflict, and as a result, the source of aggression, which logically follows the loss of homosexuality as an object. Narcissism is not only the consequence of this loss being unarticulated; it is the instrument of binding ego with the form of super-ego through the feeling of guilt. Thus, narcissism acquires pure social characteristics and is the expression of the personal homosexual libido (Butler 141). Narcissism in Lacan is expressed through the number of similar categories: “the erotic aggression continues as a fundamental ambivalence underlying all future forms of identification, and is an essential characteristic of narcissism” (Lacan 20). Narcissism and aggressivity are the two characteristics of one phenomenon – homosexuality rejection. The feeling of guilt, to which Butler refers through Freud’s works, is absent in Lacan, but his narcissism description is similar to that of Butler: Butler views Narcissism as a form, which risks being transformed into aggression; in the same manner, Lacan discusses the extreme self-love and the extreme “narcissistic suicidal aggression” as the two opposite sides of one notions, which can be mutually transformed.ConclusionAlthough Butler tends to assume, that aggressivity is the cause of melancholy and stems from it (p. 139), melancholy and aggressivity possess numerous similar features; as a result, they are more parallel than consequential. The major conjunctions between melancholy and aggressivity are found in the categories of individual – object relations, death (suicidal) attributes, and narcissism. Both melancholy and aggression are anchored in the must to reject homosexual gender identity according to the public social prohibitions; both aggressivity and melancholy risk being exaggerated to the boundaries of suicidal intentions, with death being over-dramatized; both melancholy and aggressivity are connected with narcissism as the form of expressing them. Thus, aggressivity may serve the identification of melancholy, but in a more sophisticated form. Lacan’s aggressivity and Butler’s gender melancholy are the two sides of one phenomenon, in which gender identification suffers rejection and the impossibility to publicly express the grief for losing the desired gender identity.

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This sample is completed by Emma with Health Care as a major. She is a student at Emory University, Atlanta. All the content of this paper is her own research and point of view on Judith Butler’s Gender Identity and Lacan’s Theory on Aggressivity and can be used only as an alternative perspective.

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