PHIL 242 - “Toward a Phenomenology of Feminist Consciousness”
EXPERIENCEAND KNOWLEDGE I: THE FEMINIST STANDPOINT
- Intro to new unit
- “Thus, liberal, Marxist, neo-Marxist, and what are called ‘radical’feminists differ from one
another in that they have differing sets of beliefs about the origin and nature of sexism and thus
quite different prescriptions for the proper way of eliminating it...[but] something crucial to an
understanding of feminism is overlooked if the definition is so restricted.”
- Ontology studies what things exist (and basic concepts about them)...
- ...while phenomenology studies how they appear.
- Notice that appearance presupposes a perspective: an object’s mass may be completely
independent of any observer...
- ...but when we describe how an object appears, we must describe how it appears to some
DIALECTICAL STRUCTURE OF FEMINIST THOUGHT
BELIEF VS. CONSCIOUSNESS SUPERFICIALVS. DEEP UNDERSTANDING
- It’s one thing to accept (believe) a set of facts that you could read in a book...
- ...and another to take on a new perspective, which involves: • acting in certain ways •
perceiving the world in certain ways • evaluating
- (compare to difference between learning an instrument and reading a book about it)
BECOMING AFEMINIST IS PARTLYAN INTERNAL CHANGE...
- “Women workers who are not feminists know that they receive unequal pay for equal work, but
they may think the arrangement is just; the feminist sees the situation as an instance of
...BUTALSO OBJECTIVE: GROUNDED IN THE PRESENT...
- Recognizing contradictions: Technological/sociological facts conflict with old fashioned social
- E.g. Women participate in egalitarian, liberatory movements... but they are subordinated
- Women join the workforce... but are expected to do all domestic work.
- Under these circumstances, political critique is a rational response, not just empty moralizing or
a grab for power.
...AND DIRECTED TOWARDAPOSSIBLE FUTURE
- We see situations as contradictions in light of a better, not-yet-realized future: “We understand
who we are and where we are in light of what we are not yet.”
- (But if feminism is to be a responsible political attitude, it must be based on real possibilities,
not mere fantasy.) THE DIALECTICAL STRUCTURE
- So a feminist consciousness involves recognizing contradictions...
- ...finding them bad or unjust... ...refusing to accept them... ....and thereby moving beyond them.
FEMINIST CONSCIOUSNESS MAKES EVERYTHING AMBIGUOUS
- How to categorize things: Which criticisms are tools for keeping women in their place? Which
are genuine reactions to the flaws of individuals?
- How to communicate to others: How to explain the patronizing tone of an article or the
threatening character of a conversation?