‘Am I That Name?’: Feminism and the Category of ‘Women’ in by Denise Riley

By Denise Riley

Writing approximately alterations within the thought of womanhood, Denise Riley examines, within the demeanour of Foucault, moving ancient buildings of the class of "women" in terms of different different types relevant to suggestions of personhood: the soul, the brain, the physique, nature, the social. Feminist routine, Riley argues, have had no selection yet to play out this indeterminacy of ladies. this is often made simple of their oscillations, because the 1790s, among recommendations of equality and of distinction. to completely realize the paradox of the class of "women" is, she contends, an important for an efficient feminist political philosophy.

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Or, as the Cartesian reformer, Poulain de la Barre, had suggested in 1673, no innate Progresses of the Soul 31 inferiority could sensibly be deduced from the past performances of women who lacked education. Successive nineteenth-century feminisms made similar propositions - John Stuart Mill would echo them in his The Subjection of Women of 1869. - but the particular vexation and spur of seventeenth-century feminism is the status of the soul as it relates to the increasingly sexed self. If woman -who is not known -becomes more and more assigned to the natural order in which human custom merely follows instinct, then that indeterminate self, which education might prove and clarify, also suffers a trivialising contraction.

At the same time, it could deal with the tarnished associations of 'women' by affecting a bland redistribution and dilution of the sexual onto the familial. Or it could settle the irresistibly sexualised elements of 'women' onto new categories of immiseration and delinquency, which then became sociological problems. This new production of 'the social' offered a magnificent occasion for the rehabilitation of 'women'. In its very founding conceptions, it was feminised; in its detail, it provided the chances for some women to enter upon the work of restoring other, more damaged, women to a newly conceived sphere of grace.

Indeed an anonymous work of 1595 enquired as to whether women are or are not human. ' was voiced, its tone was always satirical or facetious. The very imperative of difference for the continuation of the species saved woman from the serious attribution of monstrosity. She must be a creature which accorded with 'the general tendency of nature (intentio naturae universalis)' whereas monsters had to be created by some truly unnatural disposition. 13 Aristotle's own Metaphysics, moreover, held that men and women could not be assigned to different species.

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‘Am I That Name?’: Feminism and the Category of ‘Women’ in by Denise Riley
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