Unity and Difference: A Critical Appraisal of Polarizing Gender Identities


  • Stephanie Adair


In The Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel draws out the interdependency of unity and difference. In order to have a unity, there must be differences that compose it, as a unity unifies different elements. At the same time, in unifying these elements, they must not cease to be different from one another, as that would reduce the unity to a simple singularity.

In this paper, I take up this interdependency of unity and difference, applying it to gender identities. I follow the psychoanalytically oriented exchange between Judith Butler and Adam Phillips, in which they agree that gender identities are a farce, superimposed upon ungendered subjects, but disagree about the extent to which this artificial binary should be disassembled. Picking up their conversation at this point, I investigate how binary systems of identity can be both injurious and useful. Should they be cast off or does it make sense to keep them? Following this vein of thought, I end with a discussion of good and bad hate, arguing that there is an inescapable need for psychologically productive hate neutralized through empathy.