Masculine domination and radical feminism

Feminists are starting to look to the work of Pierre Bourdieu, in the hope that it might provide a useful framework for conceptualising the tension between structure and agency in questions of gender. This paper argues that Bourdieu’s analysis of gender can indeed be useful to feminists, but that the options Bourdieu offers for change are problematic. The paper suggests that Bourdieu’s analysis of gender echoes the work of earlier radical feminists, particularly Catharine MacKinnon, in important ways. Consciousness-raising, one of MacKinnon’s strategies for change, sits well with Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, despite Bourdieu’s own scepticism. The paper argues that recasting the role of consciousness-raising in Bourdieu’s theory helps to undermine the deterministic elements of his work. It concludes that a feminist turn to Bourdieu as an attempt to understand gender’s entrenchment-andmalleability can be fruitful, and that such a turn might find a re-engagement with the idea of consciousness-raising helpful.
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