PHIL 242 - “Feeding Egos and Tending Wounds”
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THE CATEGORY “WOMAN”?
HOW MUCH FREEDOM DO PEOPLE HAVE WITHIN THE GENDER SYSTEM?
- Are our acts completely determined by the rules of the game? Can we refuse to play? Can we
change the rules?
THE LABEL ‘WOMEN’
- So what are ‘women’?
- • An extremely varied group of people playing roles within the gender system, using various
strategies to survive socially.
- • In many cases, there is no politically neutral way to determine how to apply the label.
- • And we can imagine a world in which it operated completely differently or not at all.
- The concept “woman” is used to control and coerce people to act in certain ways... ...and using
the category reinforces that set of rules.
CHALLENGE FOR FEMINISTS
- If the category woman is part of an oppressive system, is it self-defeating to fight for the rights
- Should feminists stop thinking about women altogether?
- Butler thinks that feminists should be extremely cautious about fighting for women, but allows
that it may be okay to provisionally or tactically use it....
- ...though it may be even better to challenge and undermine it.
PATRIARCHYAND HAPPINESS REVISITED
- Akey feminist belief is that sexism harms or wrongs women...
- ...but (as we have seen) many claim that this harm can be hidden or ambiguous in various
- ...so that women may be complicit in their own oppression.
- This week’s readings focus on particularly troubling versions of that claim, according to which
romantic relationships in which women (and people occupying feminine roles) take themselves
to be happy, but are supporting patriarchy.
- “My point is a familiar one: In order to develop an effective politics of everyday life, we need
to understand better than we do now not only the processes of personality development, but the
‘micropolitics’of our most ordinary transactions, the ways in which we inscribe and re-inscribe
our subjection in the fabric of the ordinary....
- We need to locate our subordination not only in the hidden recesses of the psyche but in the
duties we are happy to perform and in what we thought were the innocent pleasures of
- • Listening attentively to the problems of others
- • Expressing sympathy and understanding - • Finding ways to endorse the person, along with his or her projects and values.
- Bartky thinks that this practice is feminine—it is often performed by women (or by those who
occupy feminine roles) in jobs, in the everyday social world, and especially in romantic
- ...and it is taken by men (or people in masculine roles) and not reciprocated.
ARE HER ASSUMPTIONS INACCURATE? DO THEY PAY ENOUGHATTENTION TO
INTERSECTIONS WITH OTHER KINDS OF OPPRESSION?
- She admits of variety from one class and ethnic group to another, but soon drops this
assumption. Is this a problem for her argument?
- Does the division of emotional labour apply to present-day heterosexual relationships?
- Do the masculine and feminine roles she describes helpful in understanding other kinds of
AFAMILIAR WAY OF THINKING ABOUT EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
- Can we understand the kinds of relationship she describes as exploitation... ...where women do
work and create value for the benefit of others but not
- ...(i.e. a violation of a right to benefit from one’s own work, and to have an equal role in social
- No (or not entirely)! After all,
- (i) men don’t benefit much from women’s emotional labour,