Philosophy Faculty Centre, University of Oxford Feminism in Analytic Philosophy Reading Group Reading for Week 3

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25 October 2012 Thursday 10:30-12:30

Philosophy Faculty Centre, University of Oxford

Feminism in Analytic Philosophy Reading Group
Reading for Week 3 (with Dr Pamela Sue Anderson leading discussion)
Bubeck, Diemut (2000) ‘Feminism in political philosophy: Women’s Difference’, in Miranda Fricker and Jennifer Hornsby (eds), Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, pp. 185-204.
Preliminary matters

Central concepts and distinctions

  1. Are ‘politics’, ‘political philosophy’ and ‘political theory’ the same for Bubeck?

  2. ‘Feminist politics’ seems to mean ‘feminism’ but also covers ‘feminist theory’ as

i liberal (feminist) theory

ii Marxist (feminist) theory

iii radical or conservative (feminist) theory

iv socialist (feminist) theory

v but Bubeck leaves out progressive (feminist) theory or ‘poststructuralist’ politics.

  1. The imagery of ‘waves’ of feminism captures the going up and going down of feminist theory. Crucially, the ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third’ waves of feminist theory also come in and go out with the tide: always to return. Bubeck focuses on ‘second wave’ feminists which should be distinguished from

i first wave feminism (liberal theory?)

ii third wave feminism (difference theory?)

  1. Bubeck raises a central issue: ‘difference’

i is the difference of women to men socially constructed?

ii Bubeck points to confusion between social difference and theoretical difference.

iii but she fails to raise the question of ‘sexual difference’ or ‘difference feminism’

where ‘sex’ is constituted by discourses of either female or male desire.

iv what about intersectional differences?

  1. It is important to query what Bubeck assumes by ‘feminist standpoint theory’.

i what is standpoint epistemology?

ii what makes for a ‘feminist’ standpoint?

In the 1990s, my own definition of ‘a feminist standpoint’ was ‘an epistemologically informed perspective which is not given, but achieved’; and this achievement is ‘not without struggle’, since it is ‘a result of gaining awareness of particular positionings of women within relations of power, determined, but not definitively, by both material and social reality’ (2001, 145; cf. Hartsock 2001, 237). At the time I argued that the relation of knowledge to power is crucial to ‘a feminist standpoint’ within the context of a realist epistemology.

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