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  • Published: 19 March 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241595824
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $55.00

Who's Afraid of Gender?

From a global icon, a bold, essential account of how a fear of gender is fuelling reactionary politics around the world

Judith Butler, the ground-breaking philosopher whose work has redefined how we think about gender and sexuality, confronts the attacks on gender that have become central to right-wing movements today. Global networks have formed ‘anti-gender ideology movements’ dedicated to circulating a fantasy that gender is a dangerous threat to families, local cultures, civilization – and even ‘man’ himself. Inflamed by the rhetoric of public figures, this movement has sought to abolish reproductive justice, undermine protections against violence, and strip trans and queer people of their rights.

But what, exactly, is so disturbing about gender? In this vital, courageous book, Butler carefully examines how ‘gender’ has become a phantasm for emerging authoritarian regimes, fascist formations and transexclusionary feminists, and the concrete ways in which this phantasm works. Operating in tandem with deceptive accounts of critical race theory and xenophobic panics about migration, the anti-gender movement demonizes struggles for equality and leaves millions of people vulnerable to subjugation.

An essential intervention into one of the most fraught issues of our moment, Who's Afraid of Gender? is a bold call to make a broad coalition with all those who struggle for equality and fight injustice. Imagining new possibilities for both freedom and solidarity, Butler offers us an essentially hopeful work that is both timely and timeless.

  • Published: 19 March 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241595824
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $55.00

Praise for Who's Afraid of Gender?

An international celebrity academic. . . Butler's influence is immense

Masha Gessen, New Yorker

The radical theorist who spawned a gender-queer nation - and became a pop celebrity in the process

The Cut

Judith Butler is the most important philosopher working in the United States today, and the one whose legacy is most likely to survive the test of time. Here, in clear, precise prose, and with devastatingly analytical precision, they dismantle the global attack on ‘Gender Ideology’, revealing it for what it is—an attack on democracy’s freedoms

Jason Stanley

Judith Butler’s big brain and big heart have consistently made other people’s lives more possible by grappling with and exposing how authoritarian ideas work. Here they show how anti-trans and anti-queer rhetoric are on rapid rise from global and domestic Nationalists, the Catholic Church and TERFS. And that these divergent groups all root their attacks in false accusations of harm, when they are the ones holding the power. By answering the question "Who is out to destroy whom?" Butler dissects the distorted claim that expanding gender systems, "hurts" people who identify with the status quo. Butler turns these manipulative arguments on their heads, revealing the trope of perpetrators claiming victimhood as central to anti-trans politics. A useful, helpful, and hopeful book

Sarah Schulman

Taking you by the hand and leading you through the phantasms, projections, inversions, and fascist passions of a world in economic and political turmoil, this book is remarkably empathetic towards those whose gruesome rights-stripping endeavors and moral panics it exhibits. Who’s Afraid of Gender? combines authority and humility, humor and horror, psychosocial inquiry and active political commitment, while also serving as an accessible primer on key debates in queer theory and gender studies around "nature/culture," performativity, blackness, and decolonial approaches, for example. Bravo. I am grateful and heartened that Judith Butler has so comprehensively assessed the scene and thrown down this antifascist gauntlet. Few could approach the task of an agnotology of present-day anti-genderism with such patient grace

Sophie Lewis

The global war against so-called 'gender ideology' is one of the most politically consequential and psychically intriguing phenomena of our present moment. Underneath it lies, Judith Butler argues in this powerful new book, a yearning for the restoration of a mythic patriarchal order in the face of mounting existential despair. As ever, Butler offers us a compelling diagnosis of the anxieties, fears and fantasies that structure our political present, pointing us towards both its darkest dimensions and its possible undoing

Amia Srinivasan

Only Judith Butler’s dazzling intellect and moral confidence could orient us inside the maze of projections, confessions, displacements, and co-optations that make up today’s wars over gender. It is the dream of a bygone, authoritarian masculinist power that unites the various fronts of this battle—and only solidarity between all who are in fascism’s crosshairs has a chance of saving us. A profoundly urgent intervention

Naomi Klein

Judith Butler's Who's Afraid of Gender? is more than a corrective and antidote to this corrosive time and to the terrible conjoining of the far right, conservatives, and liberals over meaning and mattering made manifest in the phantasms of "gender." It is also and urgently a call and an invitation to "new coalitions and new imaginaries" and "to help produce a world in which we can move and breathe and love without fear of violence." It is a call to reject "righteous sadism," to know the risk of making another world, and to act, anyway, collectively toward it

Christina Sharpe

Judith Butler has been brilliantly troubling the landscape of gender construction for over three decades. At a time when anti-Trans and anti-LGBTQIA rhetoric and ideology is creeping into every facet of our lives—from school boards and libraries to legislation and political campaigns—Who’s Afraid of Gender gives its reader a roadmap away from surprising oppositions within the progressive left. Their work calls for solidarity in the face of the weaponization of anti-gender ideology wielded by the political right. Butler makes us aware that there will be no freedom without gender freedom. A timely must-read for anyone actively invested in re-imagining collective futurity

Claudia Rankine

If there is one scholar working today who has become strangely emblematic of right wing anxieties about gender and so-called "gender ideology" , it is Judith Butler. Here, Butler speaks back to that caricature with analysis that is calm and rigorous. Explaining carefully and critically the ways in which the spectre of "gender" contains all sorts of reactionary fears, Butler demonstrates how global this countermovement is, how it functions and how resisting it involves a better future for us all

Shon Faye

Who’s Afraid of Gender? offers a thoroughgoing answer to its titular question, a sweeping analysis of why it matters, and an inspiring counter-vision committed to freedom and equality for all. We desperately need this book - and Judith Butler - to teach us how and why anti-gender ideology partners with fascist passions, how and why we must resist such an alliance, and how and why we need to stand together "on the side of livable life, love, and freedom"

Maggie Nelson

A deeply informed critique of the malicious initiatives currently using gender as a political tool to arouse fear... This is a wonderfully thoughtful and impassioned book on a critically important centerpiece of contemporary authoritarianism and patriarchy. A master class in how gender has been weaponized in support of conservative values and authoritarian regimes

Kirkus Reviews

Thoughtful and powerfully assured, this is an essential take on an ongoing political battle

Publishers Weekly

One of America’s foremost theorists and philosophers, known for their influential work in gender studies, queer theory and third-wave feminism, has returned with an investigation into why gender has become one of the fraught issues of the moment

iNews, Best New Books, March 2024

Philosopher and gender studies scholar Judith Butler is back with Who’s Afraid of Gender?, an exploration into the dangers of anti-gender ideology, trans-exclusionary thinking and homophobic rhetoric... sure to be a pertinent, thought-provoking read

Country and Town House, Best New Books 2024

Timely… urgent… Butler’s work contributes to a long and rich history… they draw attention to the ways that the issue of gender can bring people together instead of driving them apart

Vicky Spratt, iNews

Both a clarifying exploration of how we got here and a clarion call for different, less fearful, less cramped ways of thinking about the world. With their signature critical focus on what we think of as ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’, Butler pins down the history behind the contemporary cultural battle over gender

Eli Cugini, Dazed

An appeal for gender diversity… this is the most accessible of Judith Butler’s books so far, an intervention meant for a wide audience… urgent

Finn Mackay, Guardian

An argument for how a fear of gender is fuelling reactionary politics around the world from one of the leading authorities on the subject

Financial Times, What to Read in 2024

This book is Judith Butler’s response to the demonisation and politicisation of gender theory… Across the globe, Butler claims, fascist passions are being stirred… Whatever political cause is being served by these passions, it is certainly not freedom… in order to have necessarily difficult debates about the right to bodily autonomy we need to identify what is a real threat to freedoms and what isn’t

Lyndsey Stonebridge, New Statesman

One of our foremost thinkers returns with an essential polemic on gender, an urgent frontline of the culture wars... Who’s Afraid of Gender? calls for gender expression to be recognized as a basic human right, and for radical solidarity across our differences. With masterful analysis of where we’ve been and an inspiring vision for where we must go next, this book resounds like an impassioned depth charge

Esquire, Best Books of 2024

Compelling… it is refreshing to see such a tribal issue interrogated with thoughtful research, as opposed to vicious fearmongering

Emma Loffhagen, Evening Standard

If we want to see the political temperature fall to something that might allow for progress, there are few thinkers better placed to guide us than Butler. Crucially, Butler sets out an ethical vision for how gender freedoms and rights might be better integrated within a collective "broader struggle for a social and economic world that eliminates precarity and provides health care, shelter, and food" for everyone everywhere

Angela Saini, Lancet

A cogent and deeply thoughtful case against the right’s attempts to limit ideas of gender to male and female, offering philosophical and historical evidence to support a fluid system in which all people might present authentically

Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times

In their first trade-press book, Butler makes a concerted effort to keep Who’s Afraid of Gender? accessible and jargon-free... the rigor of the thought and the work of accompanying the movement of that thought brings its own kind of pleasure

Dana Stevens, Slate

The philosopher turned pop celebrity dismantles how gender has been constructed as a threat throughout the modern world — to national security in Russia; to civilization, according to the Vatican; to the traditional family . . . In a single word, "gender" holds the power to seemingly drive people mad with fear

Jessica Bennett, New York Times

A vital read by one of the greatest living third-wave feminist philosophers, Judith Butler navigates the tumultuous realm of gender identity in order to reveal just how straightforward it really is. Butler questions what it is society finds so disturbing about gender, tracing the history of gender politics through their invaluable theoretical lens

Evening Standard

Judith Butler is no stranger to publishing groundbreaking works... Now, Butler’s latest work explores how fear and discomfort around [traditional gender roles and sexuality] is fuelling a global rise in reactionary politics — and offers solutions to combat the growing intolerance of individual differences

Claire Valentine, W Magazine, Best Books of 2024

I devoured [this book] ... Wide-reaching ... judicious ... Online dialogue is short, sharp, reactive and can be vituperative. Conversely, we may be living through a golden age of trans-adjacent literature

Evening Standard