DescriptionIn 1949 Simone de Beauvoir asked, “What does it mean to be a woman?” Her answer to that question inaugurated a radical transformation of the meaning of “woman” that defined the direction of subsequent feminist theory. What Beauvoir discovered is that it is impossible to define “woman” as an equal human being in our philosophical and political tradition. Her effort to redefine “woman” outside these parameters set feminist theory on a path of radical transformation. The feminist theorists who wrote in the wake of Beauvoir’s work followed that path.
Susan Hekman’s original and highly engaging new book traces the evolution of “woman” from Beauvoir to the present. In a comprehensive synthesis of a number of feminist theorists she covers French feminist thinkers Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous as well as theorists such as Carol Gilligan, Carole Pateman and Judith Butler. The book examines the relational self, feminist liberalism and Marxism, as well as feminist theories of race and ethnicity, radical feminism, postmodern feminism and material feminism. Hekman argues that the effort to redefine “woman” in the course of feminist theory is a cumulative process in which each approach builds on that which has gone before. Although they have approached “woman” from different perspectives, feminist theorists has moved beyond the negative definition of our tradition to a new concept that continues to evolve.
The Feminine Subject is a remarkably succinct yet wide-ranging analysis which will appeal to all feminist scholars and students as well as anyone interested in the changing nature of feminism since the 1950s.
Chapter 1: Simone De Beauvoir and the Beginnings of The Feminine Subject
Chapter 2: Difference I: The “French Feminists”
Chapter 3: Difference Ii: Radical Feminism and the Relational Self
Chapter 4: Continuing the Tradition: Liberalism and Marxism
Chapter 5: From Difference to Differences: Postmodernism, Race, Ethnicity, and Intersectionality
Chapter 6: The Material Subject
Susan Hekman has written a brilliant and much needed book. She encourages contemporary scholars to pursue the radical, boundary-breaking project of bringing ‘woman’ into philosophical traditions and offers a shrewd analysis of what has impeded this project. This accessible book will be of great value to students of feminist philosophy, feminist theory, gender studies, and in fact, anyone who recognizes that the search for ‘woman’ is on-going and continues to evolve
Carol Gilligan, New York University
Feminist theorists are fortunate that Susan Hekman has written this well-argued book. It will no doubt be read with interest and delight and assigned to students for classes. It is a pleasure to see a mature scholar take account of the field with an engaging thesis.
Eloise Buker, Saint Louis University
In The Feminine Subject, Susan Hekman has crafted an original account of feminist theory as a positive cumulative enterprise with discernible lineages to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. The intriguing result of this approach, which treats feminist theory as an ‘evolving tradition,’ is a feminism that embraces its differences within, rather than being undone by them.
Christine Di Stefano, University of Washington