Diana Tietjens Meyers examines the political underpinnings of psychoanalytic feminism, analyzing the relation between the nature of the self and the structure of good societies. She argues that impartial reason--the approach to moral reflection which has dominated 20th-century Anglo-American philosophy--is inadequate for addressing real world injustices. ____Subjection and Subjectivity__ is central to feminist thought across a wide range of disciplines.
How is women’s conception of self affected by the caregiving responsibilities traditionally assigned to them and by the personal vulnerabilities imposed on them? If institutions of male dominance profoundly influence women’s lives and minds, how can women form judgments about their own best interests and overcome oppression? Can feminist politics survive in face of the diversity of women’s experience, which is shaped by race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, as well as by gender? Exploring such questions, leading feminist thinkers have (...) reinvigorated work on the concept of self and personal identity, as demonstrated by the discussions in this insightful volume.The concerns that animate feminist scholarship have prompted feminist philosophers to sideline the theme of individualism and to focus on the theme of intersubjectivity. In conceptualizing the self, the contributors to this volume highlight emotional bonds among people, the stories people tell one another, and the systems of categories and behavioral norms that unite and divide groups of people. Topics addressed include sexual violence and the self, the social self and autonomy, the narrative self and integrity, self-ownership and the body, forgetting yourself and your race, group membership and personal identity, grief and gender, sympathy and women’s diversity, emotion and emancipatory epistemology, and dependency and justice. This volume will be important reading for students of feminist theory, ethics, and social and political philosophy. (shrink)
The cultural imagery of women is deeply ingrained in our consciousness. So deeply, in fact, that feminists see this as a fundamental threat to female autonomy because it enshrines procreative heterosexuality as well as the relations of domination and subordination between men and women. Diana Meyers' book is about this cultural imagery - and how, once it is internalized, it shapes perception, reflection, judgement, and desire. These intergral images have a deep impact not only on the individual psyche, but also (...) on the social, political, and cultural syntax of society as a whole. Meyer's argues for the necessity of crafting a dissident, empowering, and 'emancipatory counter-imagery' for women. Rigorous, well written, and accessible, the reach of Gender in the mirror is arguably catholic, and addresses the interests or readers across an impressive range of intellectual disciplines. (shrink)
Ever since Freud pioneered the “talking cure,” psychologists of various stripes have explored how autobiographical narrative bears on self-understanding and psychic wellbeing. Recently, there has been a wave of philosophical speculation as to whether autobiographical narrative plays an essential or important role in the constitution of agentic selves. However, embodiment has received little attention from philosophers who defend some version of the narrative self. Catriona Mackenzie is an important exception to this pattern of neglect, and this paper explores Mackenzie’s work (...) on embodiment and self-narrative with the aim of better understanding the adequacy of autobiographical narrative as an account of the agentic self. I argue that Mackenzie’s narrative account of embodied subjectivity and agency is incomplete, for it over-estimates the reach of narrative and underestimates the cognitive and agentic powers of the lived body. (shrink)
The idea that the self is in need of rethinking, as the title to this collection of essays suggests, presupposes that the self has already been “thought.” And indeed it has—both explicitly, by philosophers, and implicitly, in the practices of everyday life. For philosophers, this thinking about the self has taken place largely in abstract terms; persons have been treated as metaphysical-cum-moral subjects, disembodied minds that could plausibly be split from or melded with other such minds, or as rational agents, (...) capable of choosing a plan in terms of which to live their lives. In everyday life, in contrast, we “think” one another as selves by making assumptions about how the people we encounter fit into the social landscape and about how we ourselves have a place in the world. As the essays in this collection demonstrate, feminists have challenged both ways of thinking of selfhood in various, sometimes contradictory, ways. (shrink)
Victim's Stories and the Advancement of Human Rights takes on a set of questions suggested by the worldwide persistence of human rights abuse and the prevalence of victims' stories in human rights campaigns, truth commissions, and international criminal tribunals: What conceptions of victims are presumed in contemporary human rights discourse? How do conventional narrative templates fail victims of human rights abuse and resist raising novel human rights issues? What is empathy, and how can victims frame their stories to overcome empathetic (...) obstacles and promote commitment to human rights? How can victims' stories be used ethically in the service of human rights? The book addresses these concerns by analyzing the rhetorical resources for and constraints on victims' ability to articulate their stories and by clarifying how their stories can contribute to enlarged understandings of human rights protections and deepened commitments to realizing human rights. It theorizes the normative content that victims' stories can convey and the bearing of that normative content on human rights. Throughout the book, published victims' stories-including stories of torture, slavery, genocide, rape in wartime, and child soldiering-are analyzed in conjunction with philosophical arguments. This book mobilizes philosophical theory to illuminate victims' stories and appeals to victims' stories to enrich the philosophy of human rights. (shrink)
This paper argues that potential cases of oppression, such as sex trafficking, can sometimes comprise autonomous choices by the trafficked individuals. This issue still divides radical from liberal feminists, with the former wanting to ‘rescue’ the ‘victims’ and the latter insisting that there might be good reasons for ‘hiding from the rescuers.’ This article presents new arguments for the liberal approach and raises two demands: first, help organizations should be run by affected women and be open-minded about whether or not (...) the trafficked individuals should remain in the sex industry. Second, the career choices of trafficked individuals should be expanded by the introduction of an opportunity-extending right to asylum. (shrink)
This paper addresses three commentaries on Victims' Stories and the Advancement of Human Rights. In response to Vittorio Bufacchi, it argues that asking victims to tell their stories needn't be coercive or unjust and that victims are entitled to decide whether and under what conditions to tell their stories. In response to Serene Khader, it argues that empathy with victims' stories can contribute to building a culture of human rights provided that measures are taken to overcome the implicit biases and (...) colonialist interpellations she identifies. In response to Andrea Westlund, it proposes a taxonomy of types of narrative closure and offers some arguments to strengthen her view that empathy with victims' stories endows audience members with a new reason and new motivation to support human rights. (shrink)
It is often said that human rights are the rights that people possess simply in virtue of being human – that is, in virtue of their intrinsic, dignity-defining common humanity. Yet, on closer inspection the human rights landscape doesn’t look so even. Once we bring perpetrators of human rights abuse and their victims into the picture, attributions of humanity to persons become unstable. In this essay, I trace the ways in which rights discourse ascribes variable humanity to certain categories of (...) people. I set the stage for my discussion of the human in relation to human rights by examining John Locke’s account of the justification for punishment. For Locke, in committing a crime one abrogates one’s humanity and forfeits one’s rights. Likewise, I argue, human rights discourse takes a scalar view of humanity. I consider victims of genocide who are dehumanized as helpless and passive, victims of state persecution who are super-humanized as righteously agentic, and perpetrators of genocide who are dehumanized as out-of-control beasts. In each case I use relevant testimony to argue that the scalar view of humanity is factually incorrect and morally deplorable. For genocide victims, I discuss testimony that Selma Leydesdorff gathered from women who survived the Srebrenica massacre. For a victim of persecution, I discuss Liao Yiwu’s memoire of his detention and imprisonment in China because of his artwork protesting the Tiananmen Square massacre. For perpetrators of genocide, I discuss testimony Jean Hatzfeld gathered from Hutu men who systematically murdered Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide. Finally, I apply my critique of dehumanized and super-humanized victims and dehumanized perpetrators to the problem of transnational trafficking in persons and argue that the view I advocate necessitates reforming immigration policy with respect to persons trafficked into forced labor. (shrink)
Philosophers have had surprisingly little to say about the concept of a victim although it is presupposed by the extensive philosophical literature on rights. Proceeding in four stages, I seek to remedy this deficiency and to offer an alternative to the two current paradigms that eliminates the Othering of victims. First, I analyze two victim paradigms that emerged in the late 20th century along with the initial iteration of the international human rights regime – the pathetic victim paradigm and the (...) heroic victim paradigm. Holocaust victims are quintessential instances of the pathetic victim paradigm. They are marked by passivity and innocence in the face of overpowering force and unspeakable humanly inflicted suffering. Aung San Suu Kyi is an exemplar of the heroic victim paradigm – prisoners of conscience, in Amnesty International’s terms. Because heroic victims face off against the repressive power of the state to fight injustice, they are by no means passive, but they must be innocent of wrongdoing – that is, they must use nonviolent means of dissent – to qualify as heroic victims. Second, I problematize the asymmetrical conceptions of innocence that underwrite the two victim paradigms. Whereas the pathetic victim paradigm identifies innocence with passivity, the heroic victim paradigm countenances agentic victims and adverts to a universalist, absolutist stance on the limits of the legitimate use of state power to ascribe innocence to heroic victims. Both conceptions of innocence are out of keeping with well established social and legal practices regarding what constitutes coercive force and innocent victimhood. Consequently, there is reason to be skeptical of the two victim paradigms. Third, I identify two kinds of human rights violations and two categories of victims that AI defends despite their failure to fit the two paradigms – women trafficked into sex work and prisoners on death row. In many cases, women forced to do sex work are not innocent girls who are ignorant of the trafficking system and who helplessly fall prey to smugglers. They are desperately poor women who for that reason are willing to take enormous risks to try to relieve their own and often their families’ deprivation and suffering. Although these women act nonviolently for irreproachable reasons, they lack the public political agendas that characterize heroic victims. Unless non-fulfillment of subsistence rights is recognized as a form of overpowering force that inflicts severe, avoidable suffering, these women do not qualify as pathetic victims either. The victim paradigms pose an even greater obstacle to recognizing that the death penalty is a human rights violation and that death row prisoners are victims. Because a jury concluded that these individuals committed heinous, violent crimes, they are excluded by the heroic victim paradigm. Only if death row prisoners can be proven (usually through DNA evidence) not to have committed the crimes for which they were convicted can these individuals qualify as pathetic victims. In the absence of any reason to believe that they are innocent and especially if they are unrepentant, they are widely regarded as brutal victimizers of others who deserve no sympathy for, let along relief from, the suffering they “brought on themselves.” Finally, I confront the Othering of victims that results from the two victim paradigms, which leads many victims to eschew the label, thereby opting out of human right discourse. I propose revisions in the victim paradigms that eliminate the real-world exclusions they sponsor as well as the Othering of victims of human rights abuses. In particular, I endorse greater attention to what people and the institutions they create do to other people, and I favor a presumption that unnecessary and severe humanly inflicted suffering is a human rights violation. Moreover, I reject the innocence criterion embedded in the two paradigms and urge that it be replaced by a burdened agency criterion. These modifications better align the concept of a victim with a realistic understanding of human subjectivity and agency and allow for a more capacious understanding of who is a bearer of human rights and under what conditions right-holders become victims of rights violations. (shrink)
This book examines in great detail the different aspects of dominant individualistic ideas about persons. It tries to argue that an alternative conception of persons, favored by many feminist thinkers, is more complicated than is often thought but can be shown to be a reasonable and plausible conception.
Jenny Saville is a leading contemporary painter of female nudes. This paper explores her work in light of theories of gender and embodied agency. Recent work on the phenomenology of embodiment draws a distinction between the body image and the body schema. The body image is your representation of your own body, including your visual image of it and your emotional attitudes towards it. The body schema is comprised of your proprioceptive knowledge, your corporeally encoded memories, and your corporeal proficiency (...) with respect to various environments and activities. Saville is concerned with body image issues, and I discuss how she reconfigures representational practices with respect to feminine body images. However, the most exciting potential for feminist analysis of the state of the female nude derives from the concept of the body schema, for this concept endows the human body with subjectivity and agency. My key question, then, is by what pictorial means and to what extent Saville succeeds in representing agentic womanhood. I argue that interpreting Saville’s paintings from the standpoint of the body schema demonstrates the radicality of her remaking of the female nude and the rapport between her imagery and feminist values. (shrink)
This essay examines ‘The Mapping Journey Project’, an installation artwork by Bouchra Khalili. It consists of eight large video screens and headsets. In each video, a migrant draws a map of her/his journey to and in Europe and narrates her/his route. In collaboration with Khalili, I argue, these storyteller/draftspersons create a dissident cartography that superimposes their lived geography on the background of legal geography. Thus, ‘The Mapping Journey Project’ is a work of art that is also a work of advocacy (...) and provocation. Rather than advocating particular policies, however, it advocates in the sense of affirming the dignity of the subjects of the videos and their right to speak the truth of their lives. Moreover, it provokes by elucidating the moral stakes of the current political and economic order and by issuing a pointed demand for humane solutions. So long as vast global disparities of wealth and political power persist, it is no wonder that people who are excluded from the elite privilege of belonging to a prosperous society are burning the borders that protect this unjust regime. (shrink)
Recent liberal moral and political philosophy has placed great emphasis on the good of self-respect. But it is not always evident what is involved in self-respect, nor is it evident how societies can promote it. Assuming that self-respect is highly desirable, I begin by considering how people can live in a self-respecting fashion, and I argue that autonomous envisaging and fulfillment of one's own life plans is necessary for self-respect. I next turn to the question of how societal implementation of (...) rights may affect self-respect, and I urge that discretionary rights, which allow people to decline the benefits they confer, support self-respect more effectively than mandatory rights, which forbid people to refuse the benefits they confer. I conclude by examining the import of these contentions for feminist theory. I believe that my arguments are of particular concern to women because women have traditionally been victimized by a mandatory right to play a distinctively "feminine" role which has undermined their self-respect. (shrink)
A response to Susan Hekman's article "Reconstituting the Subject: Feminism, Modernism, and Postmodernism" and to her review of Diana T. Meyers' book Self, Society, and Personal Choice both of which appeared in Hypatia 6.
Twenty distinguished philosophers and social theorists have contributed original papers to this stimulating investigation into the nature of the economically just society. Collectively, and in a remarkably coherent fashion, these papers set out the problems of contemporary social theory within the context of the distributive justice vs. property rights debate initiated by the works of John Rawls and Robert Nozick.
In this paper I shall offer an account of the authentic self that is compatible with human intrapsychic, interpersonal, and social experience. I begin by examiningHarry Frankfurt’s influential treatment of authenticity as a form of personal integration, and argue that his conception of the integrated self is too restrictive. I then offer an alternative processual account that views integration as the intelligibility of the self that emerges when a person exercises autonomy skills.
This paper considers two accounts of the self that have gained prominence in contemporary feminist psychoanalytic theory and draws out the implications of these views with respect to the problem of moral reflection. I argue that our account of moral reflection will be impoverished unless it mobilizes the capacity to empathize with others and the rhetoric of figurative language. To make my case for this claim, I argue that John Rawls's account of reflective equilibrium suffers from his exclusive reliance on (...) impartial reason. (shrink)
In this collection, contributors refashion essays from the international conference on feminist ethics, Feminist Ethics Revisited, with an aim to critique social practice and develop an ethics of universal justice. The essays in this exciting volume explore the intricacies and impact of reasoned moral action, the virtues of character, and the empowering responsibility that morality generates. Feminists Doing Ethics brings to light concepts and ideas that are intended to extend our understanding of morality and of ourselves.
J. David Velleman develops a canny, albeit mentalistic, theory of selfhood that furnishes some insights feminist philosophers should heed but that does not adequately heed some of the insights feminist philosophers have developed about the embodiment and relationality of the self. In my view, reflenvity cannot do the whole job of accounting for selfhood, for it rests on an unduly sharp distinction between reflexive loci of understanding and value, on the one hand, and embodiment and relationality, on the other. 1 (...) conclude that what is missing from Velleman's account is an appreciation of the psycho-corporeal attributes and capabilities embedded in the embodied self and the relational self. (shrink)