The Relation of Gender Theory and Semiological theory
Judith Butler's concept of ambivalence is closely related to Derrida's concept of differance. Judith Butler is interested in the concept of ambivalence because she sees it as a site of subversion. She defines it as the slippage between the call of the law and its articulation, from which one can reveal the false claim to naturalness and originality of hegemonic norms.
Butler cannot see a way to refuse the interpellating call, or chain of calls, outright, for it is through interpellation that the subject is constituted, and therefore, the 'I' who would oppose its construction is always in some sense drawing from that construction to articulate its opposition. Further, the 'I' draws what is called its 'agency' in part through being implicated in the very relations of power that it seals to oppose.
However, between the interpellating call and the articulation, between the ideal and the imitation, is ambivalence, a gap of understanding, a failure to reproduce faithfully. The call is not refused but confused, performed differently, in a way that exposes the failure and impossibility to realize its ideals completely. In the case of drag, what we perceive as real is shown to be performance. The produced effect of 'realness', the reflection of the imitation of compulsory heterosexuality reveals the performativity of race, class, and gender.
Butlers ideas refer back to Derrida's theories of the sign, origin and presence; indeed, Butler sees gender and sexuality in many ways as signification. Like Derrida, she questions the validity of concepts such as 'truth'. 'presence', and ' originality'. She comes to see them as effects; as a particular kind of signification or reiteration of ideals. Butler introduces differance, imitation, performativity, ambivalence, into the originary, compulsory heterosexuality, and by this logic, drag, or homosexuality, is no longer a secondary imitation , a copy of the 'real' and 'original' gender or sexuality; rather, these concepts become effects.
Butler writes that the ambivalence between the ideal and the norm makes compulsory heterosexuality forever unstable, forever needing to reinforce itself, to repeat imitations of its ideals. Compulsory heterosexuality is performative because it is an ideal which we fail to approximate, and because it is an identification which we exceed, and which we cannot define us completely. Ambivalence means that compulsory heterosexuality it is a performance requiring a reiteration of norms and the continued exclusion of that which exceeds certain definitions of sexuality, race, and gender.