I distinguish two ways that a cultural practice may be inherently objectionable. I reject the claim that polygamy is inherently "vicious" because asymmetric marriages are inevitably inegalitarian. I argue that there is good reason to think polygamy is inherently "bankrupt" insofar as a cultural ideal of asymmetric marriage presupposes stereotypical gender roles.
This paper highlights John Stuart Mill’s views on the problem of gender equality as expressed in The Subjection of Women, which is commonly regarded as one of the core texts of Enlightenment liberalfeminism of the 19th century. In this paper, the author outlines the historical context of both Mill’s views and his personal biography, which influenced his argumentation for the emancipation of women, and considers Mill’s utilitarianism and liberalism, as the main philosophical background for his criticism of (...) social conditions that subordinated women. She reflects on some of the philosopher’s ideas and arguments for equality and friendship between women and men which may still be considered noteworthy and relevant. Attention is also given to the main lines of contemporary reception of Mill’s liberalfeminism from the perspective of current feminist philosophy, within which certain critical views predominate. Despite some problematic points in Mill’s considerations, his essay on women’s subjection may be regarded as one of the philosophically most interesting conceptions of liberal feminist thinking. (shrink)
: This essay explores how early approaches in feminist aesthetics drew on concepts honed in the field of feminist legal theory, especially conceptions of oppression and equality. I argue that by importing these feminist legal concepts, many early feminist accounts of how art is political depended largely on a distinctly liberal version of politics. I offer a critique of liberal feminist aesthetics, indicating ways recent work in the field also turns toward critical feminist aesthetics as an alternative.
Liberalfeminism is not committed to a number of philosophical positions for which it is frequently criticized, including abstract individualism, certain individualistic approaches to morality and society, valuing the mental/rational over the physical/emotional, and the traditional liberal way of drawing the line between the public and the private. Moreover, liberalfeminism's clearest political commitments, including equality of opportunity, are important to women's liberation and not necessarily incompatible with the goals of socialist and radical feminism.
I am interested in exploring the usefulness and limits of traditional categories of feminist theory, such as those laid out by Alison Jaggar (1977; 1983). I begin the analysis by critically comparing various treatments of liberalfeminism. I focus throughout this investigation on uncovering ways that current frameworks privilege white authors and concerns, recreate the split between theory and activism, and obscure long histories of theoretical and practical coalition and alliance work.
This paper analyses the relations between feminism and its various ideological cores. Three tendancies are discussed here: acceptance of the ideological core, criticism and rejection of this core and, more intricately, acceptance of one core and rejection of the other. The emphasis is placed on Anglo- American second-wave liberalfeminism, whose ideological nature is almost unanomously accepted, in all the meanings of the term – positive, negative, and neutral. The author adopts Christine di Stefano’s idea, that a (...) qualified use of the word „ideology” is preferable to the neglect (that never- theless must accept the presence) of the term. (shrink)
the issue of liberal neutrality, a topic suggested by the work of Catharine MacKinnon. I discuss two kinds of neutrality: neutrality at the level of justifying liberalism itself, and state neutrality in political decision-making. Both kinds are contentious within liberal theory. Rawlss argument for justice as fairness has been criticized for non-neutrality at the justificatory level, a problem noted by Rawls himself in Political Liberalism . I will defend a qualified account of neutrality at the justificatory level, taking (...) an epistemic approach to argue for the exclusion of certain doctrines from the justificatory process. I then argue that the justification process I describe offers a justificatory stance supportive of the feminist rejection of state-sponsored gender hierarchy. Further, I argue that liberal neutrality at the level of political decision-making will have surprising implications for gender equality. Once the extent of the states involvement in the apparently private spheres of family and civil society is recognized, and the disproportionate influence of a sexist conception of the good on those structuresand concomitant promotion of that idealis seen, state neutrality implies substantive change. Whileas Susan Moller Okin avowedRawls himself may have remained ambiguous on how to address gender inequality, his theory implies that the state must seek to create substantive, not merely formal, equality. I suggest that those substantive changes will not conflict with liberal neutrality but instead be required by it. (shrink)
: Liberal rights theory can be used either to challenge or to support social hierarchies of power. Focusing on Ronald Dworkin's theory of rights and Catharine MacKinnon's feminist critique of liberalism, I identify a number of problems with the way that liberal theorists conceptualize rights. I argue that rights can be used to chal-lenge oppressive practices and structures only if they are defined and employed with an awareness and critique of social relations of power.
Recent defenses of same-sex marriage and polygamy have invoked the liberal doctrines of neutrality and public reason. Such reasoning is generally sound but does not go far enough. This paper traces the full implications of political liberalism for marriage. I argue that the constraints of public reason, applied to marriage law, entail ‘minimal marriage’, the most extensive set of state-determined restrictions on marriage compatible with political liberalism. Minimal marriage sets no principled restrictions on the sex or number of spouses (...) and the nature and purpose of their caring relationships, nor on which marital rights are exchanged, and whether they are exchanged reciprocally or asymmetrically. Minimal marriage supports adult care networks, urban tribes, friendships, and other forms of relationships as well as ‘traditional’ marriages. I provide a publically justifiable rationale for a legal framework supporting non-dependent caring relationships between adults. The argument is that caring relationships are primary goods, and that liberal justice accordingly requires legal frameworks supporting caring relationships. Minimal marriage is one such framework. (shrink)
Most feminist theorists over the last forty years have held that a basic tenet of feminism is that women as a group are oppressed. The concept of oppression has never had a very broad meaning in liberal discourse, however, and with the rise of neo-liberalism since 1980 it has even less currency in public debate. This article argues that, while we may still believe women are oppressed, for pragmatic purposes Michel Foucault’s concept of practices of freedom is a (...) more effective way to characterize feminist theory and politics. (shrink)
From the historical roots of second-wave feminism to current debates about feminist theory and politics. This introduction to Anglo-American feminist thought provides a critical and panoramic survey of dominant trends in feminism since 1968. Feminism is too often considered a monolithic movement, consisting of an enormous range of women and ideologies, with both similar and different perspectives and approaches. The book is divided into two parts, the first of which takes a close look at the most influential (...) strands of feminism: liberalfeminism, Marxist/socialist feminism, radical feminism, lesbian feminism, and black feminism. In later chapters, Whelehan ties these complexities of, and conflicts within, feminism. The role and relationship of men to feminism, and feminism's often thorny relationship to postmodernism, are also the subject of chapter length treatment. Concluding with a provocative discussion of the much-heralded advent of post-feminism and the rise of the new feminist superstars such as Camille Paglia, Naomi Wolf, Susan Faludi, and Katie Roiphe, Modern Feminist thought is an ideal text for students and a book no feminist teacher or activist should be without. (shrink)
Womens Liberation and the Sublime is a passionate report on the state of feminist thinking and practice after the linguistic turn. A critical assessment of masculinist notions of the sublime in modern and postmodern accounts grounds the author's positive and constructive recuperation of sublime experience in a feminist voice.
Changing the Wor(l)d draws on feminist publishing, postmodern theory and feminist autobiography to powerfully critique both liberalfeminism and scholarship on the women's movement, arguing that both ignore feminism's unique contributions to social analysis and politics. These contributions recognize the power of discourse, the diversity of women's experiences, and the importance of changing the world through changing consciousness. Young critiques social movement theory and five key studies of the women's movement, arguing that gender oppression can be understood (...) only in relation to race, sexuality, class and ethnicity; and that feminist activism has always gone beyond the realm of public policy to emphasize improving women's circumstances through transforming discourse and consciousness. Young examines feminist discursive politics, critiques social science methodology, and proposes an alternative approach to understanding the women's movement. This approach explores feminist publishing and feminist autobiographical writing as examples of discursive activism with broadly subversive potential. (shrink)
In Feminism and the Power of Law Carol Smart argued that feminists should use non-legal strategies rather than looking to law to bring about women’s liberation. This article seeks to demonstrate that, as far as marriage is concerned, she was right. Statistics and contemporary commentary show how marriage, once the ultimate and only acceptable status for women, has declined in social significance to such an extent that today it is a mere lifestyle choice. This is due to many factors, (...) including the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s, improved education and job opportunities for women, and divorce law reform, but the catalyst for change was the feminist critique that called for the abandonment (rather than the reform) of the institution and made the unmarried state possible for women. I conclude that this loss of significance has been more beneficial to British women in terms of the possibility of ‘liberation’ than appeals for legal change and recognition, and that we should continue to be wary of looking to law to solve women’s problems. (shrink)
The SlutWalk campaigns around the world have triggered a furious debate on whether they advance or limit feminist legal politics. This article examines the location of campaigns such as the SlutWalk marches in the context of feminist legal advocacy in postcolonial India, and discusses whether their emergence signifies the demise of feminism or its incarnation in a different guise. The author argues that the SlutWalks, much like the Pink Chaddi (panty) campaign in India, provide an important normative and discursive (...) challenge to a specific strand of feminism based on male domination and female subordination in the area of sexuality and also speaks to the emergence of consumer agency in the very heart of pleasure in the neo-liberal moment. It serves as a space clearing gesture, a form of feminism ‘lite’, rather than offering a transformative or revolutionary politics, and thus enables the possibility of feminist theoretical positions in a postcolonial context that have hitherto been marginalised or ignored in feminist legal advocacy in India to emerge. (shrink)
So what is feminism anyway? Why are all the experts so reluctant to give us a clear definition? Is it possible to make sense of the complex and often contradictory debates? In this concise and accessible introduction to feminist theory, Chris Beasley provides clear explanations of the many types of feminism. She outlines the development of liberal, radical and Marxist//socialist feminism, and reviews the more contemporary influences of psychoanalysis, postmodernism, theories of the body, queer theory, and (...) attends to the ongoing significance of race and ethnicity. Given the diversity of feminist ideas, Chris Beasley a number of ways of looking at feminist theory and offer an open-ended approach which allows for variety and change. What is Feminism? is a clear and up-to-date guide to Western feminist theory for students, their teachers, researchers and anyone else who wants to understand and engage in current feminist debates. `Over the last three decades feminist theories and methodologies have become an increasingly complex as well as somewhat fraught terrain where ideas and egos alternately clash productively and destructively. This is an up-to-date and intelligent introduction to a field which remains a vital component of contemporary sociopolitical issues and debates' - Sneja Gunew, Professor of English and Women’s Studies, University of British Columbia. (shrink)
This collection of essays, first published two decades ago, presents central feminist critiques and analyses of natural and social sciences and their philosophies. Unfortunately, in spite of the brilliant body of research and scholarship in these fields in subsequent decades, the insights of these essays remain as timely now as they were then: philosophy and the sciences still presume kinds of social innocence to which they are not entitled. The essays focus on Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx; on (...) the 'adversary method' model of philosophic reasoning; on principles of individuation on philosophical ontology and philosophy of language; on individualistic assumptions in psychology; functionalism in sociological and biological theory; evolutionary theory; the methodology of political science; and conceptions of objective inquiry in the sciences. In taking insights of both Liberal and Marxian women's movements into the purportedly most abstract and value-free areas of Western thought, these essays chart sexist and androcentric assumptions, claims and practices in the cognitive, technical cores of Western sciences and their philosophies. They begin to identify the distinctive aspects of women's experiences and locations in male-supremacist social structures which can provide resources needed for the creation of post-androcentric thinking in research, scholarship, and public policy. Such uses of feminist insights remain controversial today, and even among some feminists. These authors were all junior researchers and scholars two decades ago; today many are among the most distinguished senior scholars in their fields. Their work here provides a splendid opportunity for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in philosophy and the social sciences to explore some of the most intriguing and controversial challenges to disciplinary projects and to public policy today. (shrink)
Drawing attention to the vexed relationship between feminist theory and philosophy, Is Feminist Philosophy Philosophy? demonstrates the spectrum of significant work being done at this contested boundary. The volume offers clear statements by seventeen distinguished scholars as well as a full range of philosophical approaches; it also presents feminist philosophers in conversation both as feminists and as philosophers, making the book accessible to a wide audience. -/- Table of Contents -/- Opening plenary: Drucilla Cornell, Jacques Derrida, and Teresa Brennan — (...) Discussion / Teresa Brennan ... et al. — Women, identity, and philosophy / Marjorie C. Miller — The personal is philosophical, or teaching a life and living the truth: philosophical pedagogy at the boundaries of self / Ruth Ginzberg — Musing as a feminist and as a philosopher on a postfeminist era / Patricia S. Mann — Essence against identity / Teresa Brennan — Feminist interpretations of social and political thought / Virginia Held — Mothers, citizenship, and independence: a critique of pure family values / Iris Marion Young — Domestic abuse and Locke's liberal (mis)treatment of family / Matthew R. Silliman — Marx, Irigaray, and the politics of reproduction / Alys Eve Weinbaum — The very idea of feminist epistemology / Lynn Hankinson Nelson — Can there be a feminist logic? / Marjorie Hass — Feminism and mental representation: analytic philosophy, cultural studies, and narrow content / David Golumbia — Replies to Hass and Columbia / Nickolas Pappas — Leaping ahead: feminist theory without metaphysics / Leslie A. MacAvoy — Philosophy abandons women: gender, orality, and some literate pre-Socratics / Cornelia A. Tsakiridou. (shrink)
This paper draws upon contemporary feminist philosophy in order to consider the changing meaning of privacy and its relationship to identity, both online and offline. For example, privacy is now viewed by European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as a right, which when breached can harm us by undermining our ability to maintain social relations. I briefly outline the meaning of privacy in common law and under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to show the relevance of (...) contemporary feminist thought, in particular the image of selfhood that stresses its relationality. I argue that the meaning of privacy is in the process of altering as a result of a number of contingent factors including both changes in technology, particularly computer mediated communication (CMC), and changes in the status of women. This latter point can be illustrated by the feminist critique of the traditional reluctance of the liberal state to interfere with violence and injustice within the “privacy” of the home. In asking the question: “how is the meaning of “privacy” changing?” I consider not only contemporary legal case law but also Thomas Nagel’s influential philosophical analysis of privacy. Nagel’s position is useful because of the detail with which he outlines what privacy used to mean, whilst bemoaning its passing. I agree with his view that its meaning is changing but am critical of his perspective. In particular, I challenge his claim regarding the traditional “neutrality of language” and consider it in the context of online identity. (shrink)
Feminist Amnesia is an important challenge to contemporary academic feminism. Jean Curthoys argues that the intellectual decline of university arts education and the loss of a deep moral commitment in feminism are related phenomena. The contradiction set up by the radical ideas of the 1960s, and institutionalised life of many of its protagonists in the academy, has produced a special kind of intellectual distortion. This book criticizes current trends in feminist theory from the perspective of forgotten and allegedly (...) outdated feminist ideas. (shrink)
The relationship between feminist theory and traditionally feminine activities like mothering and caring is complex, especially because of the current diversity of feminist scholarship. There are many different kinds of feminist theory, and each approaches the issue of women's oppression from its own angle. The statement, "feminist ethics is about mothering and caring," can be critically evaluated by outlining specific feminist approaches to ethics and showing what role mothering and caring play in each particular view. In this paper, feminine and (...) feminist perspectives are delineated, and the four classic feminist approaches (liberal, Marxist, radical, and socialist) are summarized. I argue that to some extent all of the examples of feminist ethics are "about" mothering and caring. In some cases this is because the particular view describes mothering and caring as features of the roots of women's oppression, or as a positive force in changing the prevailing social order to do away with oppression. I include a discussion of an additional role mothering might play in the socialist feminist framework. (shrink)
This authoritative and lively exploration of the theories of contemporary feminism covers all the major variants of feminist political thought from the "traditional" schools of the women's movement-particularly radical, liberal, and socialist-to today's postmodern texts. Feminist Theory Today examines the epistemological challenge from critical legal theory and postmodernist thought; the divergences within, as well as between, feminist schools; and the protests from women marginalized by the feminist movement, including those who are lesbian and those who are black. It (...) also interrogates the dialectic equality and difference and reconceptualizes this pervasive tenet of feminist thought. Author Judith Evans documents the changes in socialist feminism from its revolutionary origins to its current focus on modifying liberal democratic forms. Students and teachers of women's studies, sociology, and political theory will find this an authoritative and lively exploration of the theories of contemporary feminism. It is also essential reading for anyone seeking to understand why the women's movement is as it is today. (shrink)
This book examines Australian spaces in feminist terms. Each chapter uses a different key feminist theoretical framework--liberal, socialist, radical, postmodern, and postcolonial--to generate a range of Australian feminist geographies.
The current feminist debate over ecology raises important and timely issues about the theoretical adequacy of the four leading versions of feminism-liberalfeminism, traditional Marxist feminism, radical feminism, and socialist feminism. In this paper I present a minimal condition account of ecological feminism, or ecofeminism. I argue that if eco-feminism is true or at least plausible, then each of the four leading versions of feminism is inadequate, incomplete, or problematic as a (...) theoretical grounding for eco-feminism. I conclude that, if eco-feminism is to be taken seriously, then a transformative feminism is needed that will move us beyond the four familiar feminist frameworks and make an eco-feminist perspective central to feminist theory and practice. (shrink)
Emphasizing the relevance of celibate singleness for the French women's movement, Ly affirmed that "more and more, we will recruit the elite of our adepts and militants from these noble freethinkers, these inspiring rebels" who were not legally "under their husbands' authority" or otherwise restricted by familial obligations.1 Given the early twentieth-century context of heightened national fears about France's flagging birth rate and the degeneration of the French "race," Ly's argument for political spinsterhood hardly encountered a popular reception, either within (...)liberal or feminist circles. Citing passionate fears of female political activism and the New Woman against an anxious background of nationalistic and conservative revival, scholars have underscored the French movement's need to present a nonviolent and "feminine" image to the public, one that did not openly challenge women's primary sexual, marital, or reproductive roles.5 Historian Karen Offen has most notably argued that the majority of feminists in France emphasized women's "maternal and nurturant functions" and stressed the notion of "equality-in-difference" rather than espousing a more individualistic Anglo-American philosophy.6 Although maternity and sexual difference were certainly dominant tropes in French feminist discourse, focusing on the question of single women allows us to view the French movement from a different angle. (shrink)
_In the mainstream culture to identify oneself as a "feminist" has been a fashion. Feminism covers all issues degrading and depriving women of their due in society vis-à-vis male members and it has started a crusade against atrocities on women across the globe. It is therefore regarded as synonymous with a movement and revolution to defend and promote issues involving women. However, the concerns that feminism raises do seem alien to tribal inhabitants in the Koraput district of Orissa, (...) because, unknowingly, they are its champions. Its principles are ingrained in their very culture. They practice and follow feminism as a matter of habit that has come to them down the ages. They do not follow it out of fear, compassion, enlightenment, education or compulsion; it is a necessity that comes quite naturally to them. It has been spontaneous and indigenous._. (shrink)
Debates in India following on from the Shah Bano case highlight the extent to which gender equality may be compromised by yielding to the dominant voices within a particular religion or cultural tradition. As the Indian Supreme Court noted in Danial Latifi & Anr v Union of India, the pursuit of gender justice raises questions of a universal magnitude. Responding to those questions requires an appeal to norms that claim a universal legitimacy. Liberal feminist demands for a uniform civil (...) code, however, have pitted feminist movements against proponents of minority rights and claims for greater autonomy for minority groups. Against the background of growing communal tensions, many feminists have argued for more complex strategies—strategies that encompass the diversity of women's lives and create a sense of belonging amongst women with diverse religious-cultural affiliations. Liberal theories of rights that abstract from the concrete realities of women's daily lives have not always addressed the institutions and procedures necessary to build that sense of belonging. This article examines the contribution made by discourse ethics theorists to debates on models of multicultural arrangements. It argues that deliberative models of democracy recognize the need for ‘difference-sensitive’ processes of inclusion, potentially assisting feminism in resolving the apparent conflict between the politics of multiculturalism and the pursuit of gender equality. (shrink)