Since its publication in 1990, Gender Trouble has become one of the key works of contemporary feminist theory, and an essential work for anyone interested in the study of gender, queer theory, or the politics of sexuality in culture.
The first three quarters of the book recapitulate the popular theoretical (and only popular if you read theory) underpinnings of Wittig, Freud, De Beauvoir, Feucault, and others. Even having read most of these other theories, I get lost in Butler's language. Further, her recapitulation offers her opportunity to spend too much of the book critiquing the works of others instead of explaining her own theory. This tactic gets old, and it gets old fast. The beauty of this book is not found until the FINAL subchapter of the FINAL chapter, where Butler explains her theory of "performativity." If it were not for this short subchapter, this book would be rubbish, and, quite honestly, I feel cheated by not having the knowledge to skip to the end. I give this important information to you. Please use it. I simply cannot believe this book is considered indispensable in feminist theory. Further, I wish writers like Butler would write for women and not at them.