Unity and Difference: A Critical Appraisal of Polarizing Gender Identities
Version of Record online: 15 SEP 2011
© by Hypatia, Inc.
Volume 27, Issue 4, pages 847–863, November 2012
How to Cite
Adair, S. (2012), Unity and Difference: A Critical Appraisal of Polarizing Gender Identities. Hypatia, 27: 847–863. doi: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2011.01223.x
- Issue online: 2 OCT 2012
- Version of Record online: 15 SEP 2011
- Manuscript Accepted: 8 FEB 2011
- Manuscript Revised: 14 DEC 2010
- Manuscript Received: 12 JUL 2010
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.